“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.

Bonamassa Still On A Roll With His Latest Live Release

Courtesy:  J&R Adventures

Courtesy: J&R Adventures

Joe Bonamassa has been on quite the roll as of late.  After having released what was one of 2012’s Top 10 Live Recordings last year, Bonamassa has picked up 2013 exactly where he left 2012; with one of this year’s top live recordings.  That recording is An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House.

An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House has been released both on Blu-ray and DVD as well as double CD set.  That audiences have been offered so many options alone makes this new recording one of 2013’s best.  The audio companion to the Blu-ray and DVD portion is nice to have.  Though, the Blu-ray and DVD offer audiences the best experience.  The video and audio are both top notch, especially on the Blu-ray.  That is especially the case for those with a home surround sound theater system.  Collected here in this performance are stripped down versions of songs from Bonamassa’s previously released albums.  Long time fans will recognize: ‘The Ballad of John Henry’, ‘Jelly Roll’, ‘Seagull’, ‘Dust Bowl’, ‘Sloe Gin’, and the title track from his most recent album, ‘Driving Toward The Daylight’ just to name a handful.  They are just part of the enjoyment that audiences get from this latest live release from one of the music industry’s current top guitarists.

The songs performed in this set are enjoyable in and of themselves.  But it’s not just the songs that are enjoyable.  The concert’s setting adds to the enjoyment factor.  It’s a basic, stripped down set with J.B. sitting calmly out front, singing and playing his instrument, and his band mates backing him.  There are no special effects, no pyrotechnics, and no special lighting rigs.  It’s just a group of musicians, their instruments, and the audience.  It’s music as it should be experienced.  Watching J.B. with nothing but his shades and his guitar, sweating as he played the blues echoed hints of legends the likes of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt.  It is simply put a pure, raw experience.  And thanks to those behind the cameras, the experience is that much more incredible.

Thanks to producer Kevin Shirley, director Philippe Klose, and all others involved, the recorded performance has made for one of 2013’s Top 10 Live Recordings.  Both the video and audio presented in the Blu-ray disc are crystal clear.  The performance here is presented in widescreen, adding yet another touch to the overall product.  That the performance was recorded at the Vienna Opera House makes it even more special.  The juxtaposition of this modern artist performing a mix of modern and classic blues pieces in one of Vienna’s most famed structures puts the whole thing over the top.  Now, had the CD, DVD and Blu-ray been released in one large box as an option, it might have made its way to the very top of the year’s Top 10 Live Recordings list.  Regardless, considering all of what has been noted, it still remains one of this year’s top Live Recordings.  It is both an excellent introduction to Joe Bonamassa’s music for new audiences, and a must have for long time fans.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the official Joe Bonamassa website at http://jbstore.jbonamassa.com/blu-ray/an-acoustic-evening-at-the-vienna-opera-house-blu-ray/.

For those itching to see Joe live, he is currently touring in support of this new live release.  He is currently finishing up a string of U.K. dates and will be returning to the U.S. on April 12th at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington.  Fans in North Carolina will possibly get the chance to see him later this year as he is scheduled to perform at the Crown Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina on November 10th.  That performance will be followed up by a performance at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 12th.  For a full listing of tour dates and all the latest news, go online to the official Joe Bonamassa website, http://www.jbonamassa.com or his official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa.

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Re-Machined More Than Just A Tribute Record

Courtesy:  Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Famed British hard rock band Deep Purple is set to drop its new album next month.  The album, titled Now What?! will be released in the United State Tuesday, April 30th.  While fans wait for the release of this highly anticipated album, they have another recent release to tide them over in the form of the tribute album, Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple’s Machine Head.  It may be a tribute album, but it is still a great album for both new and long-time fans of Deep Purple.

The new honorary compilation hit stores in late 2012 as part of the 40th anniversary of the landmark album’s original release.  It features all seven tracks from Deep Purple’s original iconic album plus a pair of bonuses.  One of those bonuses comes in the form of Metallica’s cover of ‘When A Blind Man Cries.’  As Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich notes in the compilation’s liner notes, “I have a list of songs in my head that Metallica should play before we either break up or die, and Deep Purple’s ‘When A Blind man Cries’ is one of those songs.”  The song in question is a bonus in that it actually never made the record.  Again, the liner notes shed light on this.  The notes, written by Classic Rock Magazine’s Mark Blake note that the song in question was originally a B-side to the song, ‘Never Before’ but has become a fan favorite throughout the years.  So it only made sense to have it included on this tribute record.  And it’s just one of the pieces that make this album a must not just for any Deep Purple fan but for any hard rocker, period.

‘When A Blind Man Cries’ is just one part of what makes Re-Machined such an impressive album of covers.  Going back to Ulrich, he and Metallica constitute just one of the acts brought together to record this album who openly tout Deep Purple as an influence in their own career as musicians.  Blake writes of Iron Maiden’s front man Bruce Dickinson (whose band also covers a track on the disc) that he [Dickinson] was also a “serious Purple aficionado.”  He quotes Dickinson as saying, “I cut my teeth as a kid on Deep Purple.  It’s what I grew up with.  It’s what got me out of bed in the mornings.”  Now if that isn’t a tribute in itself to the importance of Deep Purple in the music world, it’s anyone’s guess what is.  Dickinson and company ended up recording ‘Space Truckin’’ for the record, which is an absolutely outstanding piece both originally and as a cover here.  The way that it drives (no pun intended), it will have fans pumping their fists and singing along loud and proud. 

If Iron Maiden’s ‘Space Truckin’’ isn’t enough to convince fans of this compilation’s importance, then maybe the album’s opener will.  Carlos Santana (yes, that Carlos Santana) joins Papa Roach front man Jacoby Shaddix for a cover of what is arguably the band’s most famous song of all time, ‘Smoke on the Water.’  What’s really interesting about this cover is that while it is a cover, it doesn’t feel or sound like one.  Far too often, bands and artists try to take classic songs and update them.  That’s not the case here.  Shaddix and Santana have taken the classic and made it their own while still paying homage to the original.  It makes perfect sense as to why the album would open with this cover in hearing Santana’s guitar chops and the solid vocals of Shaddix.  It also serves one more purpose that at a passing glance is missed.  But in really thinking about the generational mix presented here, one sees the purer purpose of using it as the compilation’s opener.

On the surface, having a bunch of bands and artists resurrect one of rock’s most important and iconic albums is a great thing.  Having the album resurrected by a collection of rock’s greatest names past and present is even greater.  What this does is it makes it more than just a tribute album.  It makes the album a music history lesson in and of itself.  As evidenced in the opening number, young audiences will be pulled in by the inclusion of Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix.  Older audiences will be pulled in from both the fact that it’s Deep Purple and that fellow veteran musician Carlos Santana is on the track.  Also because of the inclusion of Santana, those same younger audiences will potentially be introduced to the music of not just one great classic act, but two in both Deep Purple and Carlos Santana, thus preserving both acts’ legacies for a whole new generation.  The same could be said of the inclusion of Chickenfoot’s live cover of ‘Highway Star’ and Black Label Society’s cover of ‘Pictures of Home.’ 

It should be clear by everything noted here that Re-Machined is more than just a tribute to a band.  It’s a tribute, yes.  But it’s also a tribute to everything that was and still is right with rock and roll.  It’s a musical love letter to real rock and an excellent way to get a whole new generation of hard rockers and metal heads into what is without a doubt, one of mainstream rock’s greatest bands.  The album is available now in stores and online.  Audiences can get more information on this album, the band’s upcoming new full length studio release and its tour dates online at http://www.deeppurple2013 and http://www.facebook.com/officialdeeppurple

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Lord’s “Concerto” Is A Modern Musical Work Of Art

Courtesy: Thompson Music/Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra is a modern musical work of art.  One part classical and one part rock concert, this opus proves more than ever that music truly is the universal language.  It’s a modern classical work that could so easily put modern masters the likes of Hans Zimmer and John Williams to shame.  The way that the musicians so perfectly complement each other throughout each movement makes it sound just as much a movie soundtrack as a general modern classical opus.

The style and dynamic contrasts of this three movement piece will pull in audiences from both sides of the fence.  And the addition of a top notch group of musicians on both ends to bring it all to life makes it that much more of a joy to hear.  Steve Morse, Joe Bonamassa, and Darin Vasilev all join in on guitars, with Vasilev heading things in the first movement.  Bonamassa comes in on movement two, while Morse finishes things off in movement three.  Brett Morgan and Guy Pratt add their own touch to the work’s rock based sections.  On the other side, the control of the orchestra (especially the strings) throughout what would seem to be the “B” section of the first movement.  That section repeats later near the end of the movement, too.  Classical fans will also recognize what is a reference to Gusatv Holst’s The Planets.  As noted in the liner notes, there is a reference in the first movement to “Jupiter.”  But it’s a bit of a surprise that there’s no mention that the final moments are equally similar to the final moments of “Mars.”

The immediate contrast of the brashness from the first movement into the second movement adds so much more emotion to the overall piece.  It’s a total mood change.  The way that it the second movement changes moods so much from one section to the next makes for even more discussion and enjoyment.

The intensity from the concerto’s first movement returns in its third movement full force, with the orchestra’s percussion and low brass holding court first.  The woodwinds come in next, followed by the strings, and then even Hammond organ.  It all comes together for what is without a doubt the entire concerto’s finest moment.  While the entire movement is nearly eleven minutes long, it’s nearly eleven minutes well spent as even rockers who have never been fully introduced into the world of classical music will find themselves listening intently to the musicianship of this group, along with the rock elements.  When it’s all said and done, it will leave audiences soundly appeased yet wanting more.  That is the sign of a good recording.

Concerto for Group and Orchestra offers so much for both fans of classical and rock.  One can only hope that it will serve its purpose and bring both sides together, perhaps making for new fans of the other side all the way around.  This is a standout album, all the way around.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Eagle Rock Entertainment’s website, http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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Bonamassa’s “Driving Toward The Daylight” is a great ride

Joe Bonamassa recently celebrated his thirty-fifth birthday.  Typically, the one celebrating the birthday is the one getting the gifts.  But in Bonamassa’s case, he is giving his fans a gift, albeit it just a little bit after his birthday.  The gift in question is his new upcoming album, “Driving Towards The Daylight.”  The album hits stores next Tuesday.  And whether one is a fan of JB himself or a fan of the blues, this new album is a wonderful addition to any music lover’s library.

“Driving Towards The Daylight” is a great bookend to an already positive start to the year for Joe Bonamassa.  He started the year with the outstanding blu-ray and double disc dvd release of “Beacon Theatre:  Live at Beacon Theatre.”  Then, he recently celebrated his birthday.  This new release is just one more addition for his fans.  The album is a solid mix of blues and blues-based rock that will have any listener tapping his or her feet.  It takes a handful of new material and throws in classics from the likes of Howlin Wolf (‘Who’s Been Talking?’) and Robert Johnson (‘Stones in My Passway’) for good measure.  There’s even a rendition of Willie Dixon’s ‘I Got All You Need’ and Tom Waits’ hit, ‘New Coat of Paint.’ 

The covers included on “Driving Towards The Daylight” are great additions to the album.  But J.B.’s originals shouldn’t and can’t be ignored, either.  The album’s opener, ‘Dislocated Boy’ is a modern blues hit. Bonamassa shows yet again with this song that even as young as he is, he’s just as talented as legends the likes of: Warren Haynes, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, and so many others.  That’s the case both with his vocals and his guitar work.  His talent is just as evident in the album’s more rock oriented title track.  What’s really interesting about this song is that the title might make one think it’s an up-tempo hard rocking piece.  But the reality is that it’s actually more of a borderline ballad of sorts.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  It’s an easily accessible song that any listener will enjoy.  Add in guest musicians, Anton Fig (drums) Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford and his son, Harrison, and audiences get a song that is arguably one of the major highlights of this album.  Famed drummer Anton Fig helps out throughout the album.  He and Whitford are also joined by producer Kevin Shirley (Dream Theater).  Shirley adds in his own contributions on guitar, percussion, and even toy piano on different songs.   

The guest musicians and cover songs do their part to make “Driving Towards The Daylight” a great new release from Joe Bonamassa.  The production by Kevin Shirley makes the album that much better.  Add in the raw talent of Joe Bonamassa himself, and audiences get what is not just one of the best blues records of the year, but one of the best albums of the year, too.

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Joe Bonamassa adds one more to the list of 2012′s great live recordings

Joe Bonamassa is a modern day music legend.  This guitar virtuoso is right up there with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani, B.B. King and so many other guitar greats.  That multi-faceted mix of raw talent has been expertly captured on his new live double disc dvd, “Beacon Theatre:  Live From new York.”

Bonamassa and his band are shown at the top of their game in this performance, recorded last year.  From the raw energy of ‘Cradle Rock’ to the beautiful, emotional ‘Bird on a Wire’ to the Jimi Hendrix-esque ‘Blue and Evil’, there is little, if anything, bad that can be said of Joe Bonamasa and company in this performance.  The entire band shines both on its own and as a supporting act to guest artists Beth Hart, John Hiatt, and Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company, The Firm).  Audiences really do feel the respect between the band and the guest vocalists throughout the duration of the concert.

Of course, those moments aren’t all that make this performance so great.  One of the greatest moments of the show comes in the show’s closer, ‘Young Man Blues.’  The control of drummer Tal Bergman is immense with each (yes,each) drum solo used to set up each segment of the song.  It does so to help build the anticipationof what’s to come next.  the music presented by Joe Bonamasa and his bandmates makes for an outstanding show.  But one would be remiss to ignore the show’s production values, as they add their own element to the overall enjoyment of seeing J.B. and company live.

Kudos are in order to director Scot McFadyen and eveybody behind the scenes of the show.  The video and audio are very well balanced throughout the course of the concert.  This is the case both on the blu-ray and standard def dvd presentation.  The video is especially clear on both versions, as the concert was shot in high definition.  So no matter which format audiences may choose, they will be getting an excellent presention, all the way around.  Combine the top notch production values of the concert recording with a solid set list, and audiences get a show that is easily one of the best home live releases of the year.

For fans who want more new material from Joe, fear not.  Joe has a new album out later this month titled, “Driving Towards The Daylight.”  And in support of the album, he’s already headed out on a tour that will take him straight through December.  North Carolina fans will be excited to know that Joe will be making a stop at the nationally known Durham Performing Arts Center on November 28th.  Fans can check into tickets and more on the DPAC website, http://www.dpacnc.com.  Joe’s fans can follow his tour news and more online at http://www.jbonamasa.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JBONAMASSA