The Dagger’s CM Debut Is Pure Rock At Its Finest

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

The self-titled debut record from The Dagger is a solid first effort for the Stockholm, Sweden-based four-piece. The Dagger isn’t the first band to ever take listeners back to rock’s golden era. But it still has done something special on its debut that other bands of its ilk (E.g. Horisont, The Sword, Gypsyhawk) have not done. What it has done on its first full effort for Century Media Records is crafted an album that exhibits one of the widest swaths of influences to date from any band of its kind. That’s one part of what makes this record one that purist metal heads will appreciate about this album. Also noteworthy about the album is its overall production values. That, too will be discussed shortly. And last but far from least are the lyrical themes that run through the album. All three factors together make The Dagger an album that any purist rocker and metal head will enjoy just as much with each listen.

The Dagger’s debut record is a good addition to the library of anyone that is a fan of The Sword, Horisont and Gypsyhawk. Much like those bands, The Dagger takes listeners back to the golden era of rock on its Century Media Records debut. As much as it carries a sound similar to those bands, it actually takes things a step further on its self-titled debut. Instead of focusing primarily on one specific classic rock sound, the members of The Dagger—Jani Kataja (vocals), Fred Estby (drums), David Blomqvist (guitar), and Tobias Cristiansson (bass)—exhibit influences from a rather wide swatch of veteran bands. Those bands include the likes of Judas Priest, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and even Deep Purple among others. Such a wide array of influences having been exhibited here, it makes the album one of those rare albums that is actually worth listening through without skipping a single song. That’s truly saying something, especially in an era when audiences seem to be increasingly downloading single tracks from the likes of iTunes instead of purchasing entire albums. Taking this into consideration, it shows that The Dagger’s debut record could very well be one that older audiences will appreciate just as much as younger audiences. To that extent, it shows great potential for this record.

The sound crafted by the members of The Dagger on the band’s self-titled debut is the most important factor in the overall enjoyment of this record. The band doesn’t stick to just one influence, even in taking listeners on a trip back in time to the golden age of rock. It exhibits all of its many classic rock influences. Just as important to the album’s success as its sound is the album’s production. The separation that was formed between The Dagger and other “modern classic rock” bands thanks to The Dagger’s extensive background of influences is made even wider thanks to the album’s production values. Painstaking efforts were made to not only bring out the band’s veteran influences, but to make the band’s album sound like it was itself a product of rock’s golden era. From Blomqvist’s powerhouse guitar playing to the almost hollow sound of the drums made popular in the 1960s and 70s to Kataja’s own vocals, and even Cristiansson’s bass work, each part was given special attention. When all four parts came together, those behind the glass exhibited expert talent, crafting an album that sounded like it came right from the era of so many great garage rock style bands. Credit is most definitely to be given in that area. It wonderfully compliments a sound from the band that is already impressive on its own.

The songs that make up The Dagger and the production values that make the album even richer are both integral parts of the album’s success and enjoyment. They are but part of the whole, though. There is still one more factor to consider in the album’s enjoyment. That factor is the variety of lyrical themes that run through the album. As [Fred] Estby noted in an interview with Terrorizer magazine, the influences behind the songs’ lyrical themes come from a number of sources. Those sources include the news, novels, and even lyrics from contemporaries such as Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, and Blue Oyster Cult. That means that unlike so many rock bands out there, The Dagger tries its best to avoid the standard themes of relationships. Rather the themes on this album vary just as widely as the band’s musical influences. It’s a breath of fresh air, considering just how many bands even in today’s world of hard rock and heavy metal base their songs on that standard fare. That factor, alongside the album’s overall sound and production values make this record, once again, one that any purist rocker and metal head will enjoy just as much the fiftieth time around as the fifth.

The Dagger will be available in the U.S. Tuesday, July 22nd and June 30th in Europe.  It will be released both domestically and internationally via Century Media Records. The Dagger is currently scheduled to perform live September 18th and 19th in Stockholm Sweden as part of Close-Up Magazine’s Close-Up Baten Festival. Until then, audiences can keep up with the latest news and more from The Dagger through its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/daggerofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Announces Release Date, Track Listing For New Dio Live Recording

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Eagle Records

Eagle Rock Entertainment has announced the details for its latest release.

Dio: Live in London Hammersmith Apollo 1993 will be available for the first time ever on Tuesday, May 13th. The archived concert will be made available to audiences on DVD, SD Blu-ray, 2CD and digital formats. Audiences can get a sneak peek at what can be expected from this long-awaited release online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEFcFGJBQzA&list=UUp0uxdUViQ2LTAqRePby68g.

The upcoming release captures the final performance of Dio’s European tour in support of the band’s album Strange Highways. Dio was joined by band mates Vinny Appice (drums), Jeff Pilson (bass), Tracy G (guitar), and Scott Warren (keyboards) for the tour. The show covers Dio’s body of work from his days with Black Sabbath, Rainbow, and even in his own band. Those hits include: ‘Holy Diver’, ‘Rainbow in the Dark’, ‘Strange Highways’, ‘Stand Up An Shout’, ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’, ‘Heaven And Hell’, and ‘We Rock’ among others. The performance is presented in DTS Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital. The full track listing for the recording is listed below.

TRACK LISTING:

1) Stand Up And Shout

2) Strange Highways

3) Don’t Talk To Strangers

4) Evilution

5) Pain

6) The Mob Rules

7) Children Of The Sea

8) Holy Diver

9) Heaven And Hell

10) Man On The Silver Mountain

11) Drum Solo

12) Heaven And Hell (reprise)

13) Jesus, Mary & The Holy Ghost

14) Hollywood Black

15) The Last In Line

16) Rainbow In The Dark

17) We Rock

18) Here’s To You

 

As an added bonus for audiences, the DVD and SD Blu-ray presentations offer a special Behind-The-Scenes feature titled ‘Hangin’ With The Band.’

More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

This Is Your Life Is Not Just Another Throw-Away Tribute Album

Courtesy:  Rhino Records

Courtesy: Rhino Records

Tribute albums are a dime a dozen. So many tribute albums are released each year that one can’t help but feel that the labels that release them care more about their bottom line than about actually celebrating said artists being given tribute. That being the case, one can’t help but wonder why This Is Your Life, the new tribute album to iconic rock front man Ronnie James Dio, would be any different from those records. The answer to that is not a simple one. One reason that this tribute album stands out is the list of performers and bands that recorded songs for the compilation. It’s a who’s who of hard rock from the past, present, and even future of the genre. Another reason that this compilation stands out is its track listing. This record boasts some of the most beloved songs of RJD’s career. And last but definitely not least important to consider in this record is the fact that it isn’t just a means for the label distributing it to make money. It actually doubles as a fundraiser for RJD’s Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. So it’s actually a record crafted to essentially help give back. How many bands, artists, groups, etc. can say that they have crafted an entire album simply to raise funds for charity? That–along with the list of songs and performers, bands, etc. on this album–makes This Is Your Life an album that stands well above the rest of the otherwise throw-away albums claiming to be tribute albums.

Courtesy:  Rhino Records

Courtesy: Rhino Records

The primary aspect of This Is Your Life that makes it stand out against all of the other tribute albums out there is the list of performers drafted to record songs for the record. The list of performers drafted for this record is a who’s who of hard rock’s past, present, and even future. It wasn’t just a mish-mash of bands, artists and groups tossed together. Everybody tapped to record for this tribute record is either a counterpart to RJD or someone that grew up idolizing him and his talents. Veterans such as Anthrax, Motorhead, Scorpions, Biff Byford, and Rob Halford perform alongside younger acts such as Adrenaline Mob, Killswitch Engage, and Halestorm over the course of the record’s fourteen total tracks. That collection of bands and artists singing Dio’s hits is in itself a musical history lesson. It introduces younger audiences that might be more familiar with the latter grouping of bands and artists to the veterans and to the music of Dio. To that extent, This Is Your Life quickly earns major points. Even more points come from the sampling of Dio’s music in question chosen for this compilation.

The list of bands, artists, and groups tapped to record RJD’s music for This Is Your Life is in itself a major boon for the record. As noted, it isn’t just a mish-mash of bands, artists, and groups. It is a collection of bands, group, and artists that played alongside Dio during his career, and those that have come since, growing up with the music of Ronnie James Dio. In short, it’s a collection of individuals that have the utmost respect for Dio and his music. Speaking of that music, the songs chosen to be included on this record are another part of the whole that makes it so enjoyable for listeners. Every song on this record is a classic in its own way. From the more well-known pieces such as ‘The Mob Rules’, ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘Holy Diver’ to slightly lesser known songs such as ‘Straight Through The Heart’, Egypt (The Chains Are On’, and ‘Temple of the King’ This Is Your Life does quite the job of chronicling the career of a man that was and is still even in death, one of the greatest vocalists and performers in the history of hard rock.

The music and performers chosen for This Is Your Life are both key components of the success of the album. As important as they are to the success of the record, there is still one central aspect of the recording that makes it so worth picking up. That aspect is the fact that a certain portion of the sales of the album will go to benefit Dio’s Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, which was established by Dio’s wife Wendy Dio. Bands, groups and artists go out on tour every year or they take part in fundraising concerts. How many artists can say they were part of a recording project that was also meant as a way to pay tribute to one of their own, too? It’s just like bringing home a hard rock festival without having to pay the exorbitant prices for tickets, souvenirs, sodas and more. And at the same time, audiences that purchase the album will actually be helping to fund an organization that works to research and promote awareness of cancer, as well as educate people about early detection in hopes of one day stopping it.

This Is Your Life is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Ronnie-James-Dio-This-Your/dp/B00IACUO8S/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1396440364&sr=1-1&keywords=dio+this+is+your+life and can be downloaded via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ronnie-james-dio-this-is-your/id829325064.

More information on Ronnie James Dio, This Is Your Life and other RJD releases is available online at http://www.facebook.com/OfficialRonnieJamesDio and http://www.ronniejamesdio.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Sahg’s New LP Takes The Early Title Of The Year’s Most Original Rock Album

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records/Indie Recordings

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records/Indie Recordings

Concept albums are commonly considered among music aficionados to be very much a niche market of sorts.  This is really quite interesting considering that they are to music as serials are to television.  Yet audiences are more apt to pay attention to all of the serials that populate the television spectrum than any concept album ever crafted.  However with the release of its fourth album Delusions of Grandeur, Bergen, Sweden’s Sahg has proven that the concept album is deserving of far more respect than it gets.  As front man Olav Iversen explains of Delusions of Grandeur, “It’s an album about how desire for power and property can distort and destroy who we are.”  He explains in more depth that the album follows a figure that becomes so wrapped up in his own belief of his greatness that it ultimately destroys him.  It goes without saying that taking into account both this explanation and the album’s musical and lyrical side, Delusions of Grandeur is the band’s best work to date.

Right from the album’s outset, the members of Sahg show why this album is its best yet.  Guitarist Thomas Tofthagen’s opening chords and drummer Thomas Lonnheim’s solid work excellently complement Iversen’s vocals in ‘Slip Off The Edge Of The Universe.’  Iversen sets the stage for the band’s story as he sings, “Master of Astropolis/Verging on the black abyss/Conquered all the eye can see/Hunger rages endlessly.”  Iversen seems to be setting the stage for the album’s story here, with the subject in question standing on that proverbial edge, about to fall.  The tone in Iversen’s voice serve’s to add to the emotion established by Tofthagen and Lonnheim.  It is almost a tone of desperation.  That strained tone paints a picture of a man that really is at the breaking point.  One could almost argue that if this is indeed the case, the band has painted a sort of Faulknerian musical story with this setup.  Sure, such story-telling method is used a lot.  But Sahg has shown from this song alone that it has done quite the job of using that story-telling method.  And it doesn’t stop here, either.

The band really steps things up when it reaches ‘Walls of Delusion.’  Yet again, Iversen and company have captured the emotion established by the song’s lyrical side within the context of their own roles in the song.  The bombastic opening followed by the more subdued first verse is almost a musical foreshadowing of sorts.  The song’s chorus proves that true as the band really pours it on.  Iversen screams maniacally, “I own the air you breath/The ground beneath your feet/The things that make you be/They all belong to me.” As the song proceeds, listeners come to realize that this song is the point at which the album’s subject has finally gone mad.  And the band expertly captures that madness.  It proves to be one of the most impactful of moments throughout the course of the album, too.

Delusions of Grandeur proves throughout the course of its eight tracks why it is not just another standard concept album.  The story told through the album’s lyrical side is one that few if any other band has ever told.  And the manner in which it is told is just as original.  The album’s lyrical side is just part of the equation.  Its musical side does just as well in advancing the album’s story.  That has already been noted with the songs noted here.  However, there is one song in particular that holds its own advancing the story solely through musical means.  That song is ‘Odium Delirium.’  The album’s penultimate song, it does an impressive job of setting up the story’s final movement.  Its full throttle energy is a complete contradiction to the more subdued thoughts of the story’s subject in ‘Sleeper’s Gate to the Galaxy.’  The influences of the likes of Opeth and Mastodon are evident in this instrumental piece.  And they are certain to impress fans of those bands just as much as any “chapter” of this concept album.

Audiences can experience the entire story that is Delusions of Grandeur now as it is available in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Metal Blade online store at http://www.metalblade.com/us/releases/sahg-delusions-of-grandeur/.  It can also be downloaded via iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/album/id766150620.  Sahg’s fans in Norway will get the chance to experience the band’s new music live as it will perform live in its hometown this Friday.  That performance will be followed by performances in Bo, Norway and Asker, Norway on March 6th and 7th respectively.  More tour dates are likely to be announced in the near future.  To keep up with those tour announcements, fans can follow Sahg online at http://www.facebook.com/SahgBand and http://www.sahg.no.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hard Rock Supergroup’s Sophomore Record A Solid Second Effort

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Kill Devil Hill released in its second full length album last year, what proved to be one of 2013’s best Hard Rock/Metal albums.  The hard rock supergroup’s sophomore album is, as the old adage states, all killer and no filler.  What really makes this album so enjoyable for any purist metal head and hard rocker is that it is another of those albums that both new audiences and those that are more familiar with the band’s music will enjoy.  It is one of those albums that eventually will lead listeners to find their own favorite songs over time.  And over time, none of the eleven tracks from which listeners are offered ever lose their luster.  This is obvious right from the album’s opener, ‘No Way Out,’

‘No Way Out’ opens Kill Devil Hill’s second full length studio effort.  This song is a straight forward radio-ready rock song that any open-minded radio programmer will appreciate.  Guitarist Mark Zavon and drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven & Hell) drive the song with their full throttle attack.  And bassist Rex Brown’s (Down, Pantera) grinding bass line late in the song gives the song even more depth.  It gives it more of a punch for lack of better wording.  Vocalist Dewey Bragg (Pissing Razors) can’t be ignored here, either.   His vocal style could easily be compared to a number of other well-known rock vocalists as he sings, “Infected by the power of corruption/Put out your fires with gasoline/No respect for the trust you’ve betrayed/You’re headed for the end of the line/Step by step…Justice will be served/The house of cards comes crashing down/Salvation at the end of the line.”  Bragg and company make no bones as to the message being sent here.  Here, audiences get a song about those that let power get the better of themselves.  This is made increasingly clear as Bragg sings in the song’s first verse, “Blinded by the fog of deception/Can’t you see that they’re selling you lies/Getting rich off the profits of others/Freedom’s well runs dry.”  This illustrates even more the topic covered in this song.  And it’s only the beginning from Kill Devil Hill on this album, too.

Another of the interesting points of Revolution Rise comes in the form of ‘Long Way From Home.’  This semi-acoustic song bears quite the Black Label Society.  As a matter of fact, it sounds like it could have come from the recording sessions for Hangover Music Vol. VI.  It obviously didn’t.  But its more reserved sound and introspective lyrics make for a welcome momentary break from the rest of the high octane songs that precede it on this record.  Bragg sings on this song, “Seems like only yesterday/How did I drift so far away/A prisoner of the distant sands of time/The damage done from days gone by/A tangled knot/We can’t untie/Memories we left so far behind/I’m a long way from home now/I’ve been gone so long/Will I ever find a way back to where I belong.” The song crafted here is obviously one of looking back on the past.  This is increasingly obvious in the song’s second verse as he sings, “Would the past forgive me now/If I could travel back somehow/Across the miles/Down that old familiar road/Chasing the stars with no regret/A darkened heart I still can’t forget/The little things we loved so long ago.”  There are those that might instantly say of this song that it’s just a standard song of self-loathing.  But the reality is that everybody has had a moment quite similar to the one (or ones) portrayed in this song.  Some will deny it.  But we have all had at least one such moment.  That ability of the song to reach so many listeners makes it one more of the many great songs that make up Revolution Rise.

Kill Devil Hill offers its fans plenty of reasons to be happy on its new album.  That has already been evidenced in just two examples of the album’s tracks.  For all of its commentary and personal, even Kill Devil Hill isn’t exempt from the standard songs based in issues of personal relationships.  In ‘Endless Static’, Bragg seemingly sings about the kind of lying backstabber that so many listeners have encountered at one point or another in life.  Again, here audiences get another song to which they can easily relate.  And the song’s energy only makes it that much more hard-hitting.  He sings, “Lately I’ve been hearing/You’ve been talkin’ smack/And smilin’ to my face all the while/You’re tellin’ stories like a common crook/As if it all rings true/But I see right through it/Screaming is so dramatic/Dreaming is in the static/All this make-believing makes me laugh out loud/Hiding behind your smile/Drowning in sweet denial…Why can’t you find the guts to say it to my face/Instead of hiding out behind the lies/The truth is I don’t even give a damn/The face of your deception/It’s your reflection.”  No one can deny that they have ever encountered such a person as the one described here.  And everyone can agree that they, too have felt the same kind of anger and aggression toward said person that is presented here.  It’s one more of so many songs that make Revolution Rise a record that any purist hard rock fan will appreciate.

Kill Devil Hill recently finished off a busy tour to finish off 2013.  But fans can always keep up with the latest tour announcements, news, and more from the band on its official website, http://www.killdevilhillmusic.com.  Fans can also go here to order the band’s new album while they wait on the next announcement of new tour dates from the band.  Fans can also get the latest tour dates, news, and more from the band on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/killdevilhillmusic.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.comm.

The Power Of Three Has Potential Staying “Power”

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

2014 is only a week or so old.  Despite the infancy of the year, things are already picking up within the music industry.  If the many lists of the year’s most anticipated albums are any indication, there is a lot to look forward to this year.  That’s especially the case in the world of rock and metal.  Albums from Slipknot, Tool, Earth Crisis, Corrosion of Conformity, Foo Fighters, Mastadon, Black Label Society, and so many others are already making purist rockers and metal heads the world over excited about the months to come.  Now, yet another performer has added his name that already extensive list of bands and artists whose albums are highly anticipated this year.  The performer in question is Monte Pittman.  Pittman will release his new album The Power of Three.

The Power of Three is quite the interesting listen for those that might be unfamiliar with his body of work.  While Pittman has had the honor of recording and touring with veteran New York based metal band Prong, he is most well-known for his work with none other than Madonna and former American Idol contestant Adam Lambert.  He has also recorded with former Spice Girl Melanie C. on her 2003 album Reason.  Considering that he has spent more time recording and touring with pop artists, Pittman’s new record, which will be released via Metal Blade Records on January 21st, will shock audiences.  That’s because it is anything but a pop record.  Rather, he and his band mates—Kane Richotte (drums) and Max Whipple (bass)—have crafted a ten-track record that is an early contender for a slot on this critic’s list of the year’s best hard rock records.  The album’s second song, ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ is a pummeling song that hints at influences from the likes of thrash pioneers Pantera.  This is the case at least in terms of the song’s musical side.  Pittman’s guitar work, alongside Kane Richotte’s solid drumming, make this an excellent first impression from Pittman and company.  Pittman shreds with the best of them.  And his vocal style may even lead some to compare it to that of Fireball Ministry front man James A. Rota III.  Whipple adds just enough low-end to bring everything together in this song.

Just as interesting to take in on this record is the album’s opener and lead single, ‘A Dark Horse.’  What makes the song so interesting is that there almost seems to be an old school Black Sabbath influence mixed into the song’s more prominent modern metal sound throughout its bridge and verses.  One wouldn’t think the two sounds would gel.  Low and behold, they work quite well together.  As a matter of fact, there’s no doubt that Pittman and company will have listeners putting their horns high with pride.  Yet again, all three members of the band work together here to make a song that will leave listeners breathless by the end of its near five-and-a-half-minute run time. And as with the album’s other songs, the production is just as solid as the music itself.  Not one member of the three-man organization overpowers the other at any one point throughout the song.

For all of the heavier material that comprises this record’s body, Pittman also proves that he can hold back even if only a little bit.  That’s evident in the almost Alice in Chains style ‘Everything’s Undone.’  Even more intriguing about the song is that the setup in the song’s opening moments may even conjure thoughts of Aerosmith’s ‘Back in The Saddle Again.’  It’s only momentary.  But it’s there.  On its lyrical side, it comes across as being rooted in the standard relationship issues that make up so many songs.  He sings, “Driving faster/getting closer/But I feel farther from you/Here we go again/Who’s to blame/Am I gonna get closure from you/Now you’re gone/Is there something I’ve done wrong…Now everything’s undone.”  It’s pretty obvious that Pittman is delving into a personal realm here.  The catch is that unlike so many songs that are rooted in relationship issues, this one takes that lesser travelled road, opting for a less “oh, woe is me” vibe and more for something with energy about it.  This is the case even in the song’s chorus. The song as a whole is just one more that makes this upcoming album well worth the listen and a definite early contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new hard rock/metal albums.  Fans will get to hear even more music from Pittman and his band mates when they perform February 22nd at Los Angeles’ famed Whisky A Go Go.  Tickets for that show can be purchased via Pittman’s official website, http://montepittman.com. Fans can keep up with the latest addition to Pittman’s tour schedule and all of his latest news online at http://montepittman.com, http://www.facebook.com/MontePittman, http://www.myspace.com/montepittman, and http://twitter.com/montepittman.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Sabbath Live Is 2013’s Last Great Live Recording

Courtesy:  Universal Republic/Vertigo Records

Courtesy: Universal Republic/Vertigo Records

It’s getting ever more expensive to attend a live concert nowadays.  The cost of a pair of tickets alone can run a person well over a hundred dollars.  Factor in the cost of gas, food, souvenirs, and potentially even lodging, and a person can spend quite a bit on just one concert.  The cost of tickets alone is about to go up even more in 2014 for residents of one state thanks to a new tax law that will go into effect in 2014.  Taking all of this into account, it becomes increasingly wise to just pick up a live recording of one’s favorite band, musician, or musical group.  The question is which live releases are well worth the one-time cost for audiences that would rather save some money while enjoying a great concert?  One recommendation is Black Sabbath’s new live Blu-ray and DVD, Black Sabbath Live..Gathered in their Masses.  The first live recording from the band in many years, this live concert recording is one of the best live recordings of 2013. It is so worthwhile first and foremost because of its set list.  The show’s set list more than lives up to the oft-used term, career-spanning.  Just as important to note in this concert is the band’s very performance.  While one band member is noticeably absent, he is replaced quite effectively by another individual.  And his frenetic energy combined with that of the remaining original members exudes something almost magical.  Last but not least important to consider in this concert is the audio and video mix.  Both the audio and video are expertly mixed.  The camera crews take viewers up close with the band throughout the near two-hour concert.  It only adds to that magical sense, completing the overall presentation and making this new recording one that fans both of Black Sabbath and hard rock in general will enjoy time and again.

The term “career-defining” is far too often tossed around for live performances.  Far too many of those recordings are in fact anything but career defining.  In the case of Black Sabbath though, that term is more than deserved.  The band includes nearly every one of the hits that have continued to make it the paramount band that it has remained for decades despite being inactive just as long.  ‘War Pig’s’ opens the show as are the equally beloved ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Black Sabbath.’  It’s all bookended by another massive hit in ‘Paranoid.’  Those that are hoping for something more recent get that, too in the form of ‘Methademic’, ‘End of the Beginning’ and ‘God Is Dead?’  These songs comprise just part of the band’s extensive set list.  There are plenty more songs included in this show that play into its success.  Audiences will each have their favorites when they pick up the new recording for themselves on Blu-ray and DVD.

The set list chosen for this concert is part of the heart of the concert’s success.  Just as important to the success of the recording is the band’s onstage presence.  It’s incredible to think how many years had passed since Ozzy, Geezer, and Tony had performed together under the Black Sabbath moniker.  Drummer Bill Ward was not on hand.  Allegedly there are some hurt feelings between him and his now former band mates for some reason.  That’s not what’s important here, though.  Tommy Clufetos, who records and tours with Ozzy’s own band, handles drum duties on this concert.  And he more than handles his appointed duties, too.  He plays with the same intensity of a young John Bonham.  That’s evident both in the case of his work with the rest of the band and on his solos.  The rest of the band seems to feed off of Clufetos’ energy, too.  That energy is evident throughout the band’s performance, too.  The band may be years older, but they definitely got their audience just as energetic and excited.  Home viewers will feel it, too.  And that’s just one more aspect of this recording that makes it one of the year’s best.

The set list and stage presence of Ozzy and company are both extremely important in the overall enjoyment of Black Sabbath’s new live recording.  There is still one more factor to consider in examining this recording.  That factor is the recording’s combined audio and video mix.  The audio and video mix of any live recording is its foundation.  Far too often, people take this factor for granted.  But there are those recordings that suffer in these areas because of someone that is either inexperienced or simply doesn’t care to do their job the right way. Luckily for Black Sabbath fans, that isn’t the case here.  The video and audio were both expertly mixed.  Even as large as the venue was, the audio is crisp and clear.  The same can be said for the video mix.  It works with the set list and the band’s overall stage show to make Black Sabbath Live…Gathered in Their Masses a recording that is just as worth the money as going to see Black Sabbath live if not more so.  It is available now in stores and online.

More information on Black Sabbath and its tour schedule is available online at http://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath and http://www.blacksabbath.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Concert For Ronnie Montrose Is As Good As Any Major Label’s Live Recordings

Courtesy:  RoMoCo

Courtesy: RoMoCo

2013 has seen quite the surplus of live concert recordings.  Bands the likes of Jane’s Addiction, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and so many others have been released to the masses.  Each of those live recordings has proven to be exceptional in its own way.  These recordings will be seen by countless audiences thanks to being released via some of the music industry’s biggest labels. It doesn’t mean that they’re the only live recordings to hit the market this year.  One independently recorded and released live concert event that deserves just as much coverage as those aforementioned recordings is the Concert for Ronnie Montrose.  Recorded April 27th, 2012 at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, California, this live concert event will impress anyone that is a fan of true, pure, guitar-driven rock and roll.  This applies to even those that might not be so familiar with the work of Ronnie Montrose.  There is much to like about this new live recording.  The most obvious of factors is the concert’s audio and video mix.  For a show that was independently recorded and released, it looks and sounds surprisingly good.  The show’s set list and guest lineup collectively make up another of the reasons to check out this concert.  And while it is something relatively subtle, those charged with finalizing the concert included names and titles for each artist on each song.  For those that might be unfamiliar with the artists, this inclusion will help to introduce the artists to said new audiences when they look up each name.  In turn, it could open audiences’ eyes and ears to a whole new world of music.  Together with the aforementioned factors, the Concert For Ronnie Montrose proves to be just as enjoyable as any live recording released by the industry’s major labels.

The Concert for Ronnie Montrose is an independently recorded and released live concert event.  The automatic thought that might be raised in some audiences’ minds upon reading this is that it probably doesn’t match up with the live recordings released by the record industry’s major labels.  That belief could not be any more wrong.  The reality of this concert recording is that it looks and sounds just as good as any of the countless other live recordings released on said labels already in 2013. The camera crews charged with capturing the concert expertly carried out their duties.  Home viewers get the best seat in the house.  They are taken right on stage with the musicians and even above the crowd to see the full extent of the audience in attendance.  Seeing how packed the house was on the night of April 27th, 2012 just goes to show that while Ronnie Montrose might never have been one of the biggest names in the industry, he was and still is one of the most respected individuals to pick up a guitar. It is truly a telling statement, and one that any Ronnie Montrose fan will appreciate when they watch this concert for themselves.

The Concert for Ronnie Montrose was captured just as expertly on video as any live recording released via the industry’s major labels.  It is crystal clear.  And the camera work itself is just as impressive.  Having examined the recording’s high-quality video, the next logical step is to examine its audio mix.  Having been recorded in the semi-intimate setting of San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom, it goes without saying that it was extremely important that the audio be perfect.  Those that are more familiar with the science of acoustics will appreciate the painstaking efforts taken to ensure that the concert’s sound was on par with any major live recording.     Not one of the guitarists overpowered the other at any point throughout the evening.  And none of the musicians overpowered their fellow guest vocalists, either.  That set alongside the equally top notch camera work and video editing serve as the foundation for a concert recording that proves in the long run to be just as good as any of the year’s major concert recordings.

The audio and video mixes in the Concert for Ronnie Montrose collectively make for a solid foundation for this recording.  Having examined both, the next logical step in examining the presentation is to look at the collective set list and the guest lineup.  The set list that comprises this tribute concert spans the late guitarist’s rich career before his passing.  From his days with the Edgar Winter Group to his work with the band that bore his name to his solo career, this concert is front loaded with more than its share of great music.  Even audiences that might perhaps be less familiar with Montrose’s work will likely recognize the Edgar Winter Group’s hit songs ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Free Ride’ and the cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Connection.’  What’s more, those that might be fans of Dream Theater will hear quite the similarity between the concert’s opener, ‘Overture’ and certain work by Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci on the first of Liquid Tension Experiment’s two records.  Petrucci wasn’t one of the artists on hand at the Concert for Ronnie Montrose.  However, some equally big names were in attendance. And their presence is sure to impress audiences just as much as the show’s set list.

The lineup of artists on hand to pay tribute to Ronnie Montrose is just as eye-opening as the show’s set list.  Classic rock fans will recognize former Journey band mates Steve Smith and Neal Schon and Tesla front man Jeff Keith.  Also on hand were two equally big names in the form of Montrose’s former band mate and friend Sammy Hagar (Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot) and world renowned guitarist Joe Satriani (Chickenfoot).  Hagar and Montrose’s fellow former band mates were on hand for the concert, too.  Anyone that was a fan of the band in its heyday will appreciate seeing its members back together if only for a one off show.  If the set list that makes up the show isn’t enough for audiences, then this megastar lineup of artists is certain to convince audiences to check out this recording.

So much has already been noted as to what makes the Concert for Ronnie Montrose such a joy of a live recording, even having been recorded and released independently.  There is still one factor in the recording to examine.  It is a subtle, yet important factor to examine.  It is the inclusion of what is called “supers” (or superimposed images) highlighting the names and titles of each musician to take the stage throughout the concert.  Their inclusion is important for those that might happen to be new to each musician.  The names and titles are placed right in front of each musician.  This allows audiences to directly link a name with a face.  Audiences that are less familiar with said artists can in turn link the names and faces when looking up information on each one online or otherwise.  The latent effect of all of this is the potential introduction of a whole new world of music to new audiences.  For that alone, those charged with making sure the supers matched with each artist deserve their own round of applause.  And together with the camera crews, sound editors, and performers themselves, it all comes together to make the Concert for Ronnie Montrose a concert that any purist rock and roll fan will appreciate no less with each watch.  It is available now and can be ordered online at http://www.ronniemontrose.com/merchandise/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=238.  More information on this and all things Ronnie Montrose is available via the official Ronnie Montrose website, http://www.ronniemontrose.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock’s Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert Re-Issue An Amazing Way To Finish Off The Year

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Freddie Mercury, the late front man of the legendary rock band Queen, was in his time one of the single most charismatic vocalists in the music industry.  Many vocalists have tried to emulate the legendary singer’s energy and style.  Few if any have succeeded.  Sadly, Freddy Mercury was taken from the world in 1991, one of so many victims of the then emerging AIDS epidemic.  The music world paid tribute to his legacy and memory in 1992 with a special live tribute concert.  The concert, held at London’s Wembley Stadium has become one of the biggest and most  powerful live concert events of the Twentieth Century, even after more than two decades since it was originally held.  The only concert event that could compare to this event is Woodstock ’94.  And now thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, the legacy of Freddie Mercury lives on once again thanks to the Blu-ray release of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.  While this SD Blu-ray release of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert is not the first time that the concert has been released to the masses, this release is the concert’s best yet.    There is so much to be said of this latest re-issue.  The best place to start is the overall audio and video presentation.  Those charged with resurrecting the original footage are to be commended as the concert is presented here in its full original glory.  Audiences get to see the show as it looked in its original recording.  The audio sounds just as good.  This is especially the case for those with home theater systems.  The cinematography is incredible to say the least.  The crowd shots and shots of the crowd from the stage are collectively the epitome of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And of course, there is also the show’s set list and list of performers.  Both by themselves and collectively, they make a bold statement that puts the finishing touch on this incredible latest re-issue from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The first and most obvious factor to investigate in Eagle Rock’s new re-issue of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert is the audio and video mix.  This concert was recorded almost twenty-two years ago.  April 20th, 2014 will mark the twenty-second anniversary of this landmark concert.  Being that high definition recording was still years away when this concert was recorded, it’s obvious that the quality of the footage would not be crystal clear in this presentation.  But Eagle Rock openly noted on the recording’s case that this presentation is a Standard Definition Blu-ray.  That means that Eagle Rock openly notes that the presentation contained therein is a standard definition recording.  Those expecting pure 1080 quality video have only misled themselves.  Eagle Rock Entertainment is not to blame here.  That the footage still looks as good as it does over two decades later is a testament to those charged with maintaining and resurrecting it.  And having the option to set one’s TV to “Cinema” to gain the full concert video experience only serves to make it even better.

The quality of the concert’s video footage is impressive to say the very least.  It is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio.  Though, with the advent of high definition televisions, most viewers can set their monitors to present the concert in full “Cinema” mode.  That mode shows better than any how well the footage has stood the test of time.  The audio mix is just as impressive as the video in terms of its quality.  Every riff, every beat, and every chorus from the crowd of thousands is enhanced on this re-issue.  In comparison to the concert’s previous releases, the audio mix has never sounded better.  It has been enhanced so much that at times, the echoes of Brian May’s voice as he talked will make audiences think they are actually there in person.  It has been mixed that well.  That is quite the testament to those charged with restoring this concert to its former glory.  And along with the footage, it is one part of a very strong cornerstone of this recording.

The video and audio mixes serve collectively as a solid base for The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.  The concert’s cinematography adds an extra element of enjoyment to the recording, too.  Much as was the case with Eagle Rock’s release of The Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park Live this Fall, the camera shots obtained over the course of this concert are extraordinary.  There is something to be said about an entire stadium full of people singing in unison, arms high in the air, clapping in time. The visual effect both from the stage and from high above the sea of bodies is something that cannot be put into words.  It is something that must be seen to be fully appreciated.  Even seeing the shots in question from one’s own sofa, bed, etc. is awe inspiring.  They collectively go to show the love that so many people had for Freddie Mercury and for Queen.  While the concert’s audio and video mixes are the foundation on which the concert rests, the shots obtained by the camera crews give the show its shape.  And what a shape those crews give the concert.

As one should be able to tell from everything noted already, there is much to like about Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new re-issue of The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on SD Blu-ray.  Much has already been examined with this latest release from the leader in live recordings.  But it would not be complete without making mention of the concert’s set list and its equally diverse lineup of performers.  The show itself is set up into two separate segments.  The first of those segments is the “Opening Acts” segment.  This segment allows some of the acts tapped to perform at the concert to perform their own music and warm up the crowd at the same time.  This segment runs the gamut to say the very least.  It opens with a trio of songs from Metallica and follows that up with a medley of Queen hits courtesy of Extreme.  Guns N’ Roses (the original Guns N’ Roses) closes out the opening acts segments.  Def Leppard is also one of the opening acts.  Their front man, Joe Elliot, joins Elton John, George Michael, David Bowie, Annie Lennox, and so many other acts from across the music industry for the “Main Show” segment of the recording.  Having such a wide array of artists covering the music of one band is a bold statement.  It shows the impact that Queen had on them as bands and artists.  It also goes to show the respect that those bands and artists had for Freddie Mercury.  It goes to show the kind of person he was and how important he was to so many around him.  Keeping that in mind while watching the incredible shots, and hearing the equally incredible song selections is sure to bring a smile and maybe even a tear to some viewers’ faces.  If it does one, the other, or both, then it has most certainly done its job.  It means that Eagle Rock is that much more justified in once again unearthing this important piece of music history.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other live recordings from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.eaglerockent.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Sabbath Members To Make Special Appearance At Grammy Museum

Courtesy:  Universal Republic Records

Courtesy: Universal Republic Records

Black Sabbath founding members Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler are set to make a special appearance at the Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum next month.  The special appearance is part of a promotional tour supporting the release of the band’s new live DVD, Black Sabbath Live…Gathered In Their Masses

Ozzy and Geezer will take part in a Q&A session and special early screening of the band’s new live DVD during its appearance.  The whole thing will be held at the museum’s Clive Davis Theater.  During the Q&A session, Ozzy and Geezer will share with fans their thoughts on the band’s reunion, a #1 album in 13 and the band’s hugely successful world tour among other topics.  More information on the event is available online at http://www.grammymuseum.org.

Black Sabbath Live…Gathered In Their Masses will be available on Tuesday, November 25th.  It will be available on DVD, Blu-ray, combo pack, and deluxe box set.  The concert presented in the upcoming release was recorded April 29th and May 1st in Melbourne, Australia as the band kicked off its world tour in support of 13.  The band is currently on the road, touring across South America and Mexico.  Once that leg is done, the band will head overseas to tour Europe in November and December.  A full listing of the band’s current tour dates and more is available online at http://www.blacksabbath.com, http://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath, and http://twitter.com/OfficialSabbath.    To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.