Every Record Store Day Shopper Should Check Out The Sugar Free Allstars’ New Special Release

Courtesy:  Wiser Music

Courtesy: Wiser Music

Chris “Boom” Wiser and Rob “Dr. Rock” Martin (a.k.a. The Sugar Free Allstars) will release a special new two-song vinyl in celebration of Record Store Day. Saturday, April 19th the duo will release Vinyl45. Side A consists of the duo’s song ‘My Daddy’s Record Collection.’ The vinyl’s B-side is the song ‘Banana Pudding.’ Both songs are great reasons in themselves for parents to pick up this record for their children. Even more reason for parents to pick up this special new release is the record’s wild artwork. If that’s not enough, the very fact that it is a vinyl is reason enough, too. All things considered, Vinyl45 is a great listen for listeners of all ages. And now it can be owned on Record Store Day, 2014.

The primary song featured on The Sugar Free Allstars’ special new Record Store Day vinyl is the song ‘My Daddy’s Record Collection.’ The song is a fitting feature for the duo. That’s because Record Store Day itself is a celebration of music’s early days. Most records released on Record Store Day are released on vinyl. ‘My Daddy’s Record Collection’ is also a celebration of that format. The lyric video for the song, which can be viewed online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OvW6EEWK1A even presents a turntable playing Vinyl45 right at the center of so much modern technology and vinyl record sleeves. It is a very telling statement in such a small space. The song’s lyrics make that statement all the stronger. Wiser and Martin sing fondly of the golden days of records and the joys of hearing music on vinyl in this song. They sing about pulling out a father’s record collection, dropping the needle on the records, and just taking in the music. They even address the advancements that have been made in terms of ways to listen to music today versus the special joy that comes from hearing music on vinyl. Even the song’s musical side harkens back to the golden days of music. The song’s funky beat set against what sounds like perhaps a classic Wurlitzer organ makes the song sound even more organic like something right out of the days of Booker T, Deep Purple and so many other of The Sugar Free Allstars’ influences. It is a wonderful song that listeners of every age will appreciate.

‘Banana Pudding,’ the vinyl’s B-side is just as funky as ‘My Daddy’s Record Collection.’ Even more interesting, the song is in fact about banana pudding. Yet again, audiences have one more example of the originality that makes children’s records so fun for any critic to review. Who would have ever thought a song about one of the tastiest dessert dishes ever created could be the basis for a song? For that matter, who would have ever thought that it would be as entertaining as it is? Wiser actually sings about making banana pudding and the joy of getting to eat the creation. It’s so upbeat and poppy that it will have listeners salivating like Pavlov’s dogs, wanting to run out and make their own banana pudding. That’s how infectious this song proves to be. It’s one more wonderful reason to check out the Sugar Free Allstars’ new Record Store Day vinyl.

The two songs contained on The Sugar Free Allstars’ new Record Store Day release are two great reasons to check out this record. If they aren’t enough for listeners, the disc’s wild artwork will grab listeners just as much. The disc looks like it’s been tie-dyed. It perfectly reflects the songs on the disc. That throwback design will instantly put listeners in a retro state of mind, thus setting the stage for the musical fun that is to come on the disc. Audiences will be able to see that wild retro disc design and hear the equally fun retro style songs on Vinyl 45 when they get out to their local indie record store April 19th. And fans in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma will even get to see Wiser and Martin performing live at Guestroom Records when the duo performs there in celebration of their new release. Needless to say whether or not one gets to see The Sugar Free Allstars, any parent out there should give this vinyl a chance. It will take them back to a better time. It will also take their children back to a better day, and give them their own joy in listening to music in its purest form. The record will be available in limited quantities. So it will be available on a first come first serve basis. Parents should make sure they pick up their copy early.

More information on the Sugar Free Allstars is available online at http://www.facebook.com/SugarFreeAllStars, http://www.sugarfreeallstars.com and http://twitter.com/sfas. 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.

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.

Now What?! Re-Issue A Must Have For Any Purist Deep Purple Fan

Courtesy:  E.A.R. Music

Courtesy: E.A.R. Music

Deep Purple is one of modern music’s most beloved and respected bands. The UK based band has been making music for some forty-five years. In that time, the band’s members—Its current lineup consists of Ian Gillan (vocals), Ian Paice (drums), Roger Glover (bass), Steve Morse (guitar), and Don Airey (keyboards)—have crafted no fewer than eighteen albums. Considering all of the band’s lineup changes and side projects through the years, the very fact that the band has churned out nearly twenty albums is quite the statement of its staying power. Last year, Deep Purple’s most current lineup released album number nineteen in the form of Now What?! That album was met by critics and audiences alike with largely positive reviews. Fans that enjoyed that album—the band’s first in eight years—will enjoy just as much its newly expanded re-issue, which is available now.

Now What?! Gold Edition gives audiences more than its share to applaud. Those that haven’t picked up this recent re-issue first because it presents Now What?! in its entirety.  It also includes a second bonus track versus the single bonus track included in the album’s original release.  The re-issue’s added bonus track, titled ‘First Sign of Madness’ is a fun, up-tempo piano driven rocker that is certain to impress every listener.  Front man Ian Gillan sings against keyboardist Don Airey’s almost manic performance, “Somebody tell me why I’m talkin’ to myself/Haven’t listened to a word I say/Nor does anyone else/Somebody asked me/If I have any doubt/Well maybe yes/Maybe no/It’s something to think about.”  Airey’s work on the keys gives the song a light, not so serious vibe.  And Roger Glover’s low end set alongside the equally driving drumming of Ian Paice completes the song.  It all gels, making this a fitting closer to the album.  It isn’t the only impressive piece that the band includes on this album.  Audiences will also enjoy the funky, sexually charged song that is ‘Bodyline.’

‘Bodyline’ is a great addition to What Now?!  As Gillan explains in the album’s liner notes, the influence of the song was the silhouette of a woman he saw on the classic TV show Tales of the Unexpected.  He explained that the silhouette of what appeared to be a naked woman dancing in the flames was used in the show’s opening sequence.  He adds that this was when he was much younger.  That would explain the song’s swing and its energy.  Every male in his youth goes through that stage of puberty where his hormones are raging uncontrollably.  And that is essentially what is being described here.  Gillan sings in the song, “I’ve been watching you dancin’ all night long/Your legs go on forever/Exquisite synchronicity/But they never stay together/My head is spinning keeping focus on my whirling dervish/I don’t know who you are/But I’m enslaved and at your service/It’s your bodyline.”  What makes this even more interesting is that while the silhouette of a woman on TV was the influence behind such a verse, that same sexual energy makes this song just as much a hit in the clubs.

The songs included on the primary release of Now What?! are a big part of what made that release so enjoyable.  Now with its re-issue a new aspect has been added to the album that makes it even more album.  That aspect—a dual pronged aspect—is the newly included What Now?! Live Tapes.  The bonus disc and its companion booklet take Deep Purple fans out on the road with the band.  Whether the band has ever come to a fan’s town or not, this bonus live recording is a wonderful addition to the overall presentation.

The songs culled for this recording were recorded throughout the band’s 2013 “Now What?! World Tour.”  They do an impressive job of representing the band’s history.  And the audio mix of the recordings is just as impressive.  It would have been so easy to simply put together a slapdash recording and call it a bonus disc.  E.A.R. Music and the band’s members had more respect than that for the band’s legacy and its fans.  The audio is crystal clear on each song.  Add that to the fact that the song selection is such an impressive cross section of the band’s catalog and it makes this disc even more of a bonus for fans.  Speaking of that cross section, it would have been just as easy for those charged with the recording’s production to simple toss in each song and make them separate.  But they didn’t do that, either.  The transitions from song to song are clear and solid.  If one didn’t know that each song came from a different point on the band’s tour, one would have no idea that that was the fact.  The solid transitions between songs make this grouping of recordings feel like the entire show was recorded at one single venue.  Again, this is a minor issue on the surface.  On a deeper level though, it is quite the important piece to the overall recording’s presentation.  Those charged with assembling the recording and presenting it are well deserving of praise for their work.  Just as deserving of praise are those charged with assembling the companion booklet that comes with the bonus live recording compilation.

The companion booklet that comes with the bonus live recording compilation is the finishing touch to Deep Purple’s What Now?! Gold Edition.  For starters, it provides more than just the standard, stale liner notes.  It actually makes a person want to find out the whole presentation’s “W”’s (The who, what, when, where).  It also provides audiences with some personal insight from the band on each of the album’s eleven primary tracks.  Also included is a collage of albums featuring the band on the covers, as well as full color photos of the band on tour.  Some of those photos were also included in the main album’s companion booklet, but weren’t in color.  So seeing those same photos in full color brings them to life. And they make the experience all the richer.  Together with the bonus live recording compilation and the original album, the bonus companion booklet is the final touch on a rare worthwhile re-issue from any band across the board.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/What-Gold-Edition-Deep-Purple/dp/B00F9K3VSO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1385497926&sr=8-3&keywords=deep+purple.  More information on this new release, news from the band and more is available online at http://www.deep-purple.com and http://www.facebook.com/officialdeeppurple.  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.

Thorogood & Company Put On A Real Rock Party In Their First Ever Montreux Show

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds formed a new landmark business partnership a year or so ago.  The partnership in question allowed Eagle Rock distribution rights for a number of new and archived shows that were recorded at what is one of music’s most revered festivals.  And the recordings in question have been nothing short of impressive.  From the likes of Miles Davis, Stan Getz, and Etta James to newer acts such as The Raconteurs, the Montreux Jazz Festival has seen some of the industry’s top names take its storied stages.  Now, one more piece of the legendary festival’s history has been released to the masses in the form of George Thorogood & The Destroyers Live at Montreux 2013.  The concert, which was recorded this past July, marked the first time that Thorogood and his band mates—Jeff Simon (drums), Bill Blough (bass), Jim Suhler (guitar/vocals), and Buddy Leach (saxophone)–had ever performed at the venue.  And Thorogood himself makes note of his excitement at getting to finally perform at Montreux after more than two decades.  That excitement pored over throughout the band’s entire performance, too.  It’s one of the key factors of this recording that makes it so fun to take in.  The band’s set list is another reason that fans will enjoy this recording.  Thorogood and his band mates hit on every one of their major hit songs.  There is even a tribute to Johnny Cash thrown in for good measure.  If that isn’t enough for fans, the combination of the recording’s bonus interview and companion booklet will push the recording over the top.  They, along with the set list and the band’s performance, make this recording one more huge success from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds.

George Thorogood has been making music and performing for over four decades.  So it comes as quite the surprise that 2013 marked the first time that he and his band mates played the famed Montreux Jazz Festival.  The festival, which started out mainly as a venue for the top names in jazz and blues, has grown each year to incorporate bands and artists from across the musical spectrum.  Thorogood and his band mates obviously held no ill will toward festival organizers when they took the stage at the festival.  Thorogood makes no bones concerning his excitement at finally being invited to perform at Montreux.  His positive energy isn’t confined to just that one moment, either.  From the high energy opener that is ‘Rock Party’ to hits like ‘I Drink Alone’, ‘Bad to the Bone’, and ‘Madison Blues’, the band exudes so much energy and excitement.  The audience in attendance feeds off of every bit of that excitement, too.  The mutual sharing of excitement and energy can be felt even by viewers watching this recording from the comfort of their own living rooms or bedrooms.  Home viewers may even find themselves feeding off of that excitement, dancing around and playing air guitar, etc.  That shows just how much fun Thorogood and company make their performance for all of their audiences.  Home viewers will discover this for themselves when they order or purchase the recording for themselves on DVD and Blu-ray.

The positive energy and excitement exuded by Thorogood and company is key to the overall enjoyment of this recording.  Whether one is seeing the concert for the first time or reliving the concert again, everybody can agree that the band’s stage performance alone is enough reason to take in this concert.  Just as important to the overall enjoyment of this concert recording is the set list chosen for the performance.  Fans won’t be disappointed at the set list chosen for the concert.  The veteran rockers included all of their fan favorites over the course of the near ninety-minute set.  From the likes of ‘I Drink Alone’ to the band’s now famous cover of John Lee Hooker’s ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer’ to the Johnny Cash tribute in ‘Cocaine Blues’, the band leaves little if anything on the table.  Audiences will especially appreciate that in the tribute to the late country singer, Thorogood actually seems to channel him.  He actually sounds like Cash, vocally speaking, at points in the song.  The same can be said of his guitar work, too.  It is just one of so many high points offered throughout the course of the concert.  And it’s just one more part of what makes the recording as a whole so enjoyable for audiences of all ages.  It’s not the last, either.  The bonus interview and companion booklet included in with the DVD and Blu-ray put the finishing touch on this recording.

The songs chosen for this concert and the band’s performance collectively make up the most important and impressive part of this latest recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds.  There is still one part of the overall presentation of this recording that puts it over the top.  That last part ifs the collective bonus interview and companion booklet.  The show’s bonus sit-down with Thorogood shows that the persona presented on stage was as real as it comes.  Audiences get even more insight into his excitement over playing Montreux at long last.  And through the show’s companion booklet, audiences get a brief history of Thorogood’s career leading up to his performance at Montreux.  Audiences will be interested to learn that along with George Thorogood and The Destroyers, ZZ Top was at Montreux this year, as were Prince, Sting, Ben Harper, Deep Purple, Leonard Cohen, and so many others.  It’s just a tiny piece of the whole history that audiences will enjoy learning in reading through the included literature.  And together with everything already mentioned, that history and the bonus interview make this presentation complete.  It all collectively makes this latest release one more huge success from Eagle Rock Entertainment and Montreux Sounds.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Live-At-Montreux-2013-Blu-ray/dp/B00FFLBXJQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1387537259&sr=1-1&keywords=george+thorogood+%26+the+destroyers+live+at+montreux+2013.  More information on this and other concerts in Eagle Rock’s ongoing Montreux series of concerts 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 in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

“Concerto” Documentary A Fitting Tribute To Lord’s Memory

Courtesy:   Eagle  Rock Entertainment/Thompson Music/E.A.R. Music

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Thompson Music/E.A.R. Music

When Metallica recorded its now fan favorite live album S&M with the San Francisco Symphony, that recording was lauded by fans and critics alike. The praise showered on the band was fully justified. It was considered by some to be a groundbreaking performance because it was the coming together of two entirely separate musical worlds. What many people might not know is that S&M was not in fact the first time that the two worlds have come together. Former Deep Purple member Jon Lord crafted and performed his now famous Concerto for Group and Orchestra almost forty-five years ago in 1969. That performance was truly groundbreaking. Sadly, cancer claimed Lord in July of 2012. Thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment though, Lord’s opus finally saw the light of day that same year. And now again thanks to Eagle Rock, audiences are taken even deeper into Lord’s majestic and magical composition thanks to a new documentary on that record. There is a lot to like about this recently released documentary. The documentary’s behind-the-scenes main feature is the main portion of what audiences will appreciate in this release.  Audiences are provided a history of Lord’s original performance of his opus in order to set up the more recent recording session.  As part of the recording process, viewers will also get to hear from some big names that helped bring the recording to life. Audiences will also appreciate that not only are they taken behind the scenes of the recording’s birth, but they are also provided with two opportunities to hear the recording in the new Blu-ray presentation.  It is included both as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray itself, and as its own separate CD as even more of a bonus.  All of this taken into consideration makes the documentary on Jon Lord’s Concert for Group & Orchestra quite the interesting work.

Far too many record labels in today’s music industry add “making of documentaries” to their new albums and try to pawn them off on fans as something special.  The problem is that so few of those “documentaries” in question are really worth the extra money shelled out by hard working audiences.  Jon Lord: Concerto for Group& is not one of those releases.  This documentary gives audiences a full history of the former Deep Purple member’s iconic song, from its very first ever performance in 1969 at the famed Royal Albert Hall to its first non-live recording in 2012.  Audiences see just how much work went into putting his composition to record.  It’s a fitting tribute to the musician, who sadly lost his battle with cancer just last year.  From the initial setup to the recording of each part and everything in-between, viewers will see that this isn’t just another one of those albums where each part was recorded separately in different studios.  This understanding will generate a whole new appreciation for the song and everything that went into actually doing a “studio” recording of it.  This applies to listeners that are both more familiar with Lord’s work and those that might be less so.

Along the course of the documentary, viewers get to hear from some of the biggest names in the rock world that took part in the recording process.  Those names include greats such as Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and blues/rock guitar great Joe Bonamassa among so many others.  The respect shared between them and Lord is obvious through their shared commentary and by the seriousness with which they approached their respective roles in the overall composition.

The overall presentation of the documentary here is exceptional to say the least.  From the composition’s history to its first official studio recording, so much information is shared on its importance.  As impressive as the main feature is, Eagle Rock didn’t stop there.  Eagle Rock has included as a bonus for fans, the complete Concerto for Group & Orchestra both on its own CD and as a bonus feature on the primary Blu-ray disc.  And it’s not all that is included as a bonus, either.  Eagle Rock has exceeded expectations once again with this documentary’s bonus material.  Also included as bonus material is are interviews with Paul Mann and Marco de Groeji.  Mann conducted the orchestra assembled for the new recording of Concerto for Group & Orchestra.  The insight that he shares is something special.  That’s because of his understanding of and appreciation for the worlds of both rock and classical, as well as for Lord himself.  His interview and that with others involved with the record’s production more than live up to the title of bonus features. Together with the documentary’s main feature, they collectively make this release one that transcends genres.  It’s one that fans of both classical and rock will enjoy. It is available now in stores and online.   More information on this and other releases 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.

Blackmore’s Rainbow Rocks In New Archived Live Show

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment has built quite the reputation over the years as one of the leaders in live recordings.  Releases from the likes of Queen, The Rolling Stones, and even Slipknot and Stone Temple Pilots last year show why Eagle Rock has justifiably earned that reputation.  Already, Eagle Rock has maintained that reputation in 2013 with even more top notch live recordings already released and more on the way.  Among the most anticipated recordings to come are the likes of Dream Theater’s Live at Luna Park and The Rolling Stones’ Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live.  Getting back to already released live recordings, one of the most notable of Eagle Rock’s most recent live recordings released in 2013 is the newly released Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow: Black Masquerade.  This DVD recording was released just a couple of weeks ago.  And it’s one that was well worth the wait for any purist fan of rock and roll.

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow: Black Masquerade is a great live recording from the band’s post Ronnie James Die lineup.  It was originally recorded in 1995 at Dusseldorf’s famed Rockpalast TV series.  Considering that nearly two decades have passed since this concert was originally recorded, those responsible for uncovering the footage and transferring it to DVD are to be commended.  Both the audio and video quality of the concert is impressive to say the least.  They are both just as clear as they must have been in the show’s original recording if not better than said recording.  Director Gerd F. Schultze is deserving of credit here, too.  It was under Schultze’s watch that audiences catch the band’s nonstop energy and enjoyment from start to finish of the roughly ninety-minute-plus concert.

The quality of the footage in its transfer from tape to disc plays a big part in the success of this recording’s overall success.  It’s not all that audiences will appreciate here, either.  Just as much as fans will appreciate the quality of the show’s footage in its transfer, fans will also appreciate the performance itself.  Blackmore breezes through the show, exhibiting his abilities as both a modern guitarist and even as a classical guitarist.  He proves why he was still considered one of the industry’s most respected guitarists at the time as he made his way effortlessly through each song.  That’s not to say that he isn’t still considered one of the greats today.  It just serves to show that even after so many years with Deep Purple, there was still plenty of fire left in him at the time.  Suffice it to say that it is in its own way, a tribute to him and his abilities.  He isn’t the only member of the band that gets to shine in this concert, either.  Singer Doogie White is a fitting replacement for RJD.  His vocals soar with such power from one song to another.  And his interaction with both the band and the audience in attendance helps to build the show’s overall energy.  One would be remiss to ignore the talents of keyboardist Paul Morris and Chuck Burgi here.  Morris is right up there with the likes of Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) and so many others of that ilk in his performance.  And Burgi’s drumming is classic rock at its finest.  From his over the top outfit to his talents and showmanship, he plays his own part in bringing fans a memorable show.

The performance by the post RJD lineup of Rainbow is in itself more than enough to make buying or ordering this new DVD well worth it.  The talent of each member of the band shows true musicianship all the way around.  And the set list that spans both the Deep Purple and Rainbow catalogue adds another element of enjoyment to the show.  And then there is the quality of the footage in its transfer from tape to disc.  All of these aspects work hand-in-hand so to speak to make Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow: Black Masquerade one more impressive piece from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  There is one more factor to be considered in the presentation’s overall enjoyment.  It’s a factor to which most people don’t pay attention but should.  It is the included liner notes in the DVD’s bonus booklet.  Writer Jeff Katz puts it even better than this critic could have in the liner notes, that “what we see in this concert is a band firing on all cylinders.”  Katz goes into painstaking song-by-song detail in his liner notes, explaining why this recording was such an important performance to be unearthed.  In doing so, he explains to audiences that in examining this release, he had to look back at his own experiences in seeing Rainbow live in person.  Those ruminations do an excellent job of setting up his take on each song.  All together, his analysis is more than just an analysis.  It’s like a program for a rock concert.  Audiences can almost read each song’s notes as each song plays, and get a better understanding of each opus.  Together with the other mentioned factors to consider in this recording, it turns out to be the icing on the proverbial cake.  It makes the performance whole and all the more worth picking up now that it is available in stores and online.  It can be ordered from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DPH7QFM/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1CF1TH81AXSD69D1EDKF&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.

For more information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment, audiences can go online to http://www.eagle-rock.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.

Rockshow Another Welcome Live Release For Fans of McCartney AND Wings

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Eagle Rock Entertainment has for some time, been the place to go for anyone wanting to learn anything about the history of modern mainstream music.  The company has released live recordings from greats such as: Ray Charles, Miles Davis, The B-52s, Deep Purple and more over the years.  It has even ventured into the realm of newer music with live releases from artists including: The Raconteurs, Stone Temple Pilots, Alanis Morissette, and even Slipknot.  Now Eagle Rock has taken music lovers the world over back in time once again with yet another impressive live release from another of music’s greatest names in the form of one Sir Paul McCartney.

Eagle Rock has just released a new live recording from Sir Paul McCartney and his band mates in Wings, titled, Rockshow.  It would be so easy to state that this performance presents McCartney and company at the top of their game.  But the reality is that McCartney himself has always been at the top of his game.  This performance is just one more example of his and his band mates’ talent.  There are those that have complained about issues with audio in the transfer from this performance’s original VHS recording to the DVD and Blu-ray format.  One can’t help but wonder if this was a mostly isolated problem.  The Blu-ray screener viewed by this critic didn’t seem to have any audio issues whatsoever.  And for those that complained about the video quality, one must remember that this concert was originally recorded nearly four decades ago.  So yes, it is going to be grainy.  Fans of the music icon should be appreciative that the effort was even made to transfer the masters from Betamax to DVD and Blu-ray.  Considering all that could have gone wrong with the transfer, the grainy footage is just one more part of the whole that makes this another success for Eagle Rock Entertainment and for Sir Paul’s fans.

Having tackled the elephant in the room, the next logical step here would be to take a look at the band’s performance overall.  Whether one is a fan of McCartney’s time with The Beatles or more of his work away from the band that helped him launch his career, both sides will be equally impressed by the set list of this concert.  It all kicks off with the crowd pleaser, ‘Venus and Mars/Rock Show/Jet.’  Throughout the course of the roughly two hour-long recording, McCartney and company cover largely material from Wing’s catalogue.  Though there are some Beatles tunes peppered in for good measure including: ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Blackbird’, and ‘The Long and Winding Road.’  They intentionally avoided the Beatles material as much as possible during this and other performances intentionally in order to separate the two bands.  As author/media personality Paul Gambaccini writes in the included liner notes, “In the early seventies McCartney did not perform Beatles songs in concert, wanting to establish Wings on its own.  Now, in 1976, the group is in full flight, and Paul can use some of the songs he wrote in the sixties to spice up the set.”  It really was a logical plan of action for someone that had built his name with such a big band.  And it helps to make this performance so much more enjoyable.

Staying on the matter of Gambaccini’s writing, this is another positive factor to the whole that is Rockshow.  His writing style is less journalism and more storytelling.  Set alongside the photos of the band, the pair takes viewers back in time.  He doesn’t try to write above himself.  And he doesn’t try to write above the heads of those that would buy this new release.  It’s easily accessible for general audiences.  Because of this, the actual concert experience is that much richer whether one was actually there or not when this performance was originally recorded.

Getting back to the actual concert experience, the band covers more than its own material and that of The Beatles.  Audiences will enjoy the inclusion of the Moody Blues classic, ‘Go Now.’  This song about lost love is ironically one of the whole performance’s highlights.  It’s a highlight not so much because of the music, but because of the sight of Paul and his then wife Linda performing side by side.  There is something so contradictory about this sight set against a song about lost love.  Audiences can see just how in love the couple was.  Sadly, she would pass many years later.  Knowing this, it makes this moment all the more special.  It makes the final two pages of the included booklet all the more touching as a closing gesture, too.  The booklet’s penultimate page features a concert poster for the original 1976 tour with Paul’s face there.  The final page is a picture of Linda exactly as she looked in this recording.  She was one of the ones for whom this re-mastered recording was dedicated.  While McCartney himself might not have had a hand in this new re-issue, he surely had to have seen this touching gesture.  Fans will see it too, and hopefully be just as moved by this and the sight of her performing with her then husband.  It’s a touching final moment of what is another enjoyable live release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The DVD and Blu-ray are both available now in stores and online.  They can be ordered online direct from the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.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.

Rainbow Live Re-Issue A Welcome Return For A New Generation Of Audiences

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Long live Eagle Rock Entertainment.  That’s what fans of classic rock group Rainbow will be saying after experiencing the band’s newly re-issued recording, Live in Munich 1977.  This classic concert was originally released to DVD in 2006.  Now seven years later, it’s available once again for a whole new generation of purist rock and roll fans to enjoy.  And it goes without saying that this is quite the performance.  It is available now on DVD, 2CD, digital audio and digital video, and even vinyl for older audiences with a certain sense of nostalgia. 

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

The classic lineup of Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Dio), Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Dio, Uriah Heep)  and Cozy Powell (The Jeff Beck Group, Whitesnake, ELP, Black Sabbath, etc.) came together for what is one of the single most epic concerts of this band’s career.  It’s also the only full live show ever filmed that featured this lineup.  And what a show it was.  It is yet more evidence of everything that once was right with rock and roll.  This is not just some rock and roll concert.  Rainbow Live in Munich 1977 is a rock and roll experience.  The show’s shortest song is four minutes and forty-two seconds long.  The longest comes in at a whopping twenty-seven minutes and thirty-three seconds.  So it is not for those with short attention spans.  The songs in between are hardly short, either.  And that is perfectly fine.  The audio (CD/Digital audio) portion makes for great driving music for classic rock fans, especially with the weather having turned warm.  The video portion (DVD/Digital video) is just as enjoyable to pop into one’s DVD/Blu-ray player.  Those with home theater systems will especially appreciate the surround sound experience of this show. 

Speaking of the overall concert experience one would be remiss to ignore the overall performance presented by Rainbow in this recorded concert.  Both Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio showed why they were and are two of the most respected individuals in the music community to this day.  RJD no longer being with us, this concert serves as a testament to his vocal abilities, even though his vocals are somewhat overpowered by the rest of the band at times.  When he cuts through though, RJD really cuts through and shows why he remains one of the best singers in the rock business today.  Blackmore’s chops on the guitar are second to none throughout the show.  This is especially the case on the anthem, ‘Love Live Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  He and the rest of the band put on a virtual clinic with this song that was brand new at that point.  It’s such a simple song.  Yet somehow, Blackmore with his solos and Cozy Powell with his solid time keeping make this one of the show’s highest of highs.  On a side note, seeing Cozy Powell playing with the traditional grip is just as incredible.  When one thinks of drummers using the traditional grip, the most common association made is with jazz, not so much rock music.  There are those that did and do today.  But their numbers are few.  So for the drumming community, this, along with Powell’s solid time keeping makes the performance even more enjoyable. It’s just one of so many examples that could be pulled from the show that make it such a joy to experience whether one is hearing Rainbow for the first time or fiftieth.

Rainbow showed that it could really bring down the house with a number such as ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll.’  It also showed its versatility on the equally bluesy ‘Man on the Silver Mountain.’  This sixteen-minute plus opus had its own slower jam session moment that is just as incredible as anything that any of today’s blues musicians could churn out.  It’s also one of the moments when RJD really got the opportunity to showcase his powerhouse vocals.  And did he ever?  His vocals soar on this performance.  And even after this song ended Dio showed again why he was and is one of rock’s best front men.  Here was this larger than life figure.  Yet on stage, he seemed so down to Earth and so humble.  Seeing the rapport that he had with the audience in comparison to the myth surrounding him is so eye opening and refreshing.  He shows that he was a rock star’s rock star.  He showed he didn’t have an ego and that he appreciated having the chance to do what he did; even more proof of the importance of RJD as an artist.  And the band fed off of that energy, too, making this whole concert such a joy to look back on.

The concert contained on the DVD and double-disc CD are both wonderful additions to the home library of any classic rock fan or any fan of pure, guitar driven rock music.  This latest re-issue boasts more than just a concert though.  Adding to the overall enjoyment of the performance are bonus interviews with Bob Daisley and Colin Hart, as well as an interesting recording of the band performing in Texas the year prior.  The interviews with Daisley and Hart are entertaining to say the least.  During his interview, Daisley tells an anecdote about going driving with one of the other band members.  This little story is sure to make for some laughs.  He also tells his side of how the band came to be and much more.  What else is discussed, audiences will have to find out for themselves when they pick up the DVD.  Hart’s interview is just as entertaining, and at other times candid.  This is especially the case when he is asked to share his thoughts on drummer Cozy Powell.  It’s obvious in hearing him talk that this was a difficult topic to touch on.  Fans will take away a lot from this and Hart’s other thoughts on fellow band member Ronnie James Dio, as well as his thoughts on the band’s success and other topics. 

If the bonus interviews aren’t enough for fans, then maybe the bonus promo videos and the included booklet in the DVD package will impress audiences, too.  The booklet included in the DVD outlines the history of Rainbow from its formation to the replacement of Dio, Daisley, and Stone.  It’s just one more extra piece that fills this small package with so much to appreciate.  The bonus videos included in this recording are actual full performances of the songs ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’, ‘Gates of Babylon’, and ‘L.A. Connection.’  They aren’t just little snippets of the songs.  If all of this set alongside an already impressive full live performance isn’t enough for fans, then fans that don’t appreciate everything included here either don’t have a pulse or aren’t real fans to begin with.  Keeping this in mind, this latest re-issue is one more incredibly jam packed live release that is more than worth every watch.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct online from the Eagle Rock Entertainment website at http://www.eagle-rock.com/product/EV306049/Live+in+Munich.

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 entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Real Rock Fans Will “Dig” H&E’s Dig

Courtesy:  Quarto Valley Records

Courtesy: Quarto Valley Records

The latest release from the British blues/rock band, Heaven & Earth, is one of the year’s best rock albums, and potentially one of the year’s best overall albums.  From the album’s artwork to its songs, so much was done right with this album.  Bassist Chuck Wright notes in the album’s bonus DVD about the album’s cover art that it is meant to represent the “unearthing” of rock and roll.  He states that “it [rock and roll] has been buried away for far too long.”  And if that’s the case, then this album has done quite the job of “digging up” rock and roll.  As producer Dave Jenkins states, this album was an attempt to capture the vibe of a live show on record.  He and the band did just that from start to finish.

The album opens fittingly with the anthemic ‘Victorious.’  The opening Middle Eastern influenced strains lead in to front man Joe Retta’s powerhouse vocals.  He sings, “There’ll be a champion/Standing tall for all to see/On their way to be victorious/All for glory.”  Taking into account Jenkins’ statement about crafting an album that sounds like a live performance in studio, it becomes so easy to see Retta standing both before the mic and in front of thousands singing this line, fist raised along with those of thousands in attendance at a major arena as they sing in unison.  Even more interesting to note about this song (and others throughout the album) is that if one were listening to this record without knowing it was Retta and company, one would swear one was listening to either Chickenfoot or to its singer, Sammy Hagar.  Retta’s vocals are so close in style to Hagar’s that the difference is nearly incomparable. 

Joe Retta isn’t the only one that gets the chance to shine on H&E’s new record.  While he might front this veteran band, his band mates—Stuart Smith (guitars), Chuck Wright (Bass), Richie Onori (drums), and Arlan Schierbaum (keyboards)—also get their chance to showcase their talents, too.  Case in point, the album’s second track and lead single, ‘No Money No Love.’  Stuart Smith’s chops are right up there with guest musician Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) in his solos.  And drummer Richie Onori keeps the band moving with a straight forward with solid time keeping that is just enough to impress any drummer of any level.  Add the keyboards of Arlan Schierbaum and audiences will hear just why this was chosen to lead off this album.  The band has also released a video for the album that can be viewed via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WB1iW0thik

Audiences get even more of that full on energy in the song, ‘Man & Machine.’  Again, one has to refer to [Dave] Jenkins’ mention of making a record that sounds like it’s a live experience here.  Everything that could go right with this song went right.  From its choruses to the pure musicianship of each band member, this is just one more of this record’s highest of points.  And it isn’t the last, either.  Fans will also enjoy the slower, bluesy vibe of ‘House of Blues’, the driving guitars and drums of ‘Back in Anger’, and ‘Rock and Roll Does’ as well as the record’s softer, slower moments.  Fans will especially enjoy ‘Rock and Roll Does.’  It would be a surprise if the band doesn’t use this as a show closer at its live shows in support of this record.  All assembled together, this record is a welcome change of pace from the constant drone of so much mainstream rock and the down tuned crunching guitars and cookie monster growls of less mainstream sounds.

Speaking of live shows, no live shows have been announced as of yet.  However, fans can get all the latest tour news and more from the band online at the band’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/officialheavenandearth and its official website, http://heavenandearthband.com/wordpressDig is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dig/id637141654

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Draiman, Device Far From Being Disturbed

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Records

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Records

David Draiman is one of the most well known vocalists in the rock community today.  His animalistic sounding growls and seemingly Maynard James Keenan inspired vocal style make his a voice that is instantly noticeable when listeners hear it.  The problem is that just as Keenan’s side project, A Perfect Circle, was instantly compared to Tool because of Keenan’s iconic vocal style, so has Draiman’s new side project, Device, been compared to Disturbed.  While the first pair of tracks on Device’s self-titled debut do bear some semblance to material recorded by Disturbed, that similarity begins to fade early on.  The album’s third song, ‘Vilify’ has more of a pure rock sound.  Right from its opening verse, it impresses just as much lyrically as musically.  Draiman sings defiantly as the song opens, “As you vilify/Every single move that I make/And try to bind me/In your insanity/You’ll come to know/That you never had control/from the onset/Go find another lapdog, f***er.”  The defiance doesn’t stop here.  The verbal assault against those who would run their mouths seemingly just to run their mouths runs nonstop through the song with full on intensity that is sure to get the blood and body flowing.

If there was still any question of comparison to Disturbed even in ‘Vilify’, then those comparisons will be erased even more in the album’s very next song, ‘Close My Eyes Forever.’ Some might cringe at this, but it almost comes across as a ballad style piece, especially with the addition of vocalist Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) give it even more of that sense.  And if that’s not proof enough, one need only look at the song’s lyrical content as argument for that comparison.  Lyrically speaking, it comes across as a song of lost love.  Draiman and Hale sing here, “I know I’ve been so hard to you/I know I’ve told you lies/If I could have just one more wish/I’d wipe the cobwebs from my eyes.”  This one song isn’t reason for anyone to worry, as it’s the only time through the course of the album’s ten tracks that the album’s intensity drops off. 

The intensity built early on in Device’s self-titled debut picks back up not long after ‘Close My Eyes Forever.’  What’s more, as the intensity rebuilds through the album’s second half so does the separation of Device from Disturbed.  It all starts on ‘Out of Line.’  This socio-political piece offers a solid mix of electronics and heavy, foot-stomping, head banging guitar breaks that would make any metal purist proud.  And the inclusion of Serj Tankian’s (System of a Down) equally distinct vocal style adds even more musical flavor to this song.  One can’t ignore the addition of Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath) on this track, either.  The mix of music, star power, and lyrical heaviness makes it just one more of so many tracks from which listeners will be able to choose as a favorite.  The intensity and separation from the band members’ primary bands builds even more in ‘Opinion.’  The guest guitar work of Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) is surprisingly unlike what Morello has recorded with his other side projects.  And it definitely helps to maintain this song’s identity from anything even remotely related to Disturbed.  It is one of those pieces that has to be heard to fully understand this.

If the guest appearances from Tom Morello, Geezer Butler, and Serj Tankian aren’t enough to convince listeners as to the identity of Device, then perhaps ‘War of Lies’ and the album’s closer, ‘Through It All’ will do the job.  The heavy bass and vocals from Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) mixed with Draiman’s vocals make this one of the album’s more surprisingly interesting songs.  That’s because of the fact that the song starts off very slow and deliberate.  But a little more than halfway through the song, it picks up, and carries the listener up to the song’s final fading moments.  Those moments are just subtle enough to allow listeners to catch their breath after the musical rollercoaster on which they have just taken a ride.  And having caught their breath, any listener that went into this album thinking it would be just another Disturbed record will have seen that that belief was in fact completely wrong.  While it might have started out with some similarity to Disturbed, that similarity is soon erased, and a new band with a sound that bears only the slightest closeness to the prior arises.  It definitely turns out to be a record that any fan of Disturbed and any hard rock fan in general will want to check out at least once.   

Device is currently touring in support of its self-titled debut.  Among some of its more notable scheduled concert dates are performances at the “Welcome to Rockville” Festival on April 28th in Jacksonville Florida, the Carolina Rebellion Festival in Rockingham, North Carolina on May 4th, and the famed Rock on the Range Festival in Columbus, Ohio on May 19th.  The band has even more dates that audiences can find out about when they “Like” Device on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Devicetheband.  Audiences will also find a link to download the band’s album via iTunes on the Facebook page.  That link is http://smarturl.it/deviceitunes for those that may not be able to get to the band’s FB page.

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.