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.

Lineup Change Announced For 2014 Carolina Rebellion Festival

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

The organizers of the Carolina Rebellion Festival have announced a change to the weekend of the annual concert festival. It has been announced that Motorhead will no longer be on the lineup for this year’s festival.

Organizers released the following statement regarding the lineup change: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have learned that Motorhead will be unable to perform at Monster Energy’s Carolina Rebellion in Concord, NC May 3rd. We are working hard to find a replacement artist, so stay tuned to http://www.CarolinaRebellion.com for further updates.”

The Carolina Rebellion Festival is the mid-Atlantic region’s biggest annual rock festival. It will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC May 3rd and 4th, 2014. The current band lineup for this year’s edition of the Carolina Rebellion Festival is listed below.

Saturday, May 3
Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Seether, Volbeat, Black Label Society, Killswitch Engage, Black Stone Cherry, Fozzy, Adelitas Way, Thousand Foot Krutch, KYNG, Nothing More, Devour The Day and Truckfighters

Sunday, May 4
Kid Rock, Five Finger Death Punch, 311, Staind, A Day To Remember, Alter Bridge, Theory of a Deadman, Fuel, Hellyeah, Of Mice & Men, Trivium, Redlight King, Twelve Foot Ninja and Gemini Syndrome

Bands announced for the festival will perform on one of three separate stages throughout the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Those stages are the: Carolina Stage, Rebellion Stage, and Jagermeister Stage.

Tickets for the 2014 edition of the Carolina Rebellion Festival are on sale now. This includes Camping, Hotel, VIP Packages, and Weekend 4-packs and upgrades. All camping and hotel packages include access to the Friday Night Campground Party. Active military members can purchase tickets once again at a discount. More information for all ticketing, including military discounts, is available online at http://www.CarolinaRebellion.com.

The Carolina Rebellion Festival was created in partnership by AEG Live and Danny Wimmer Presents. It is sponsored by Monster Energy, Jagermeister, Ernie Ball, Jack Daniels, Bud Light, F.Y.E. and Pabst Blue Ribbon. More information on the Carolina Rebellion Festival is available online at http://www.CarolinaRebellion.com and http://www.facebook.com/carolinarebellion. 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.

Rocklahoma Organizers Announce New Ticket Package

Courtesy:  Ashton Magnuson Media

Courtesy: Ashton Magnuson Media

Organizers of the annual Rocklahoma concert festival announced this week that they will make available a new ticket package for audiences.

The new Zippo Encore Fan Package For Two will be available beginning next Tuesday, March 18th at 1pm ET/12pm CT.  The package includes:

  • Two (2) Weekend General Admission Tickets (inclusive of all service charges and fees)
  • Meal vouchers (two per day)
  • Two (2) Official Festival Zippo Lighters
  • One (1) one-year subscription to Revolver Magazine.

Tickets can be ordered online at the official Rocklahoma website, http://www.rocklahoma.com.

Also on March 18th, ticket prices both for general admission tickets and general admission 4-packs will increase.  General admission tickets currently are available for a price of $109 plus fees.  Beginning March 18th, that price will increase to $129 plus fees.  Weekend 4-pack General Admission packs will increase from $349 plus fees to $399 plus fees.  This takes effect beginning at 1pm ET/12pm CT.

Members of the military can get discounted tickets for the Rocklahoma festival online at http://www.govx.com.  Prices for those tickets will also increase March 18th at 1pm ET/12pm CT.

The new ticket package and price increases are not all that organizers announced this week for the annual festival.  Organizers also announced the return of the “Miss Rocklahoma” contest.  The contest runs through April 18th.  Ten finalists will be announced in late April online at http://www.rocklahoma.com.  Contestants and fans can register and vote online at http://www.rocklahoma.com.

The complete lineup for this year’s edition of the Rocklahoma Festival is:  Kid Rock, Five Finger Death Punch, Staind, Twisted Sister, Deftones, Seether, Motörhead, Jackyl, Filter, Black Label Society, Theory of a Deadman, Killswitch Engage, Skid Row, Tom Keifer of Cinderella, Hellyeah, Kix, Down, Pop Evil, Adelitas Way, Black Stone Cherry, Trivium, Texas Hippie Coalition, The Pretty Reckless, Thousand Foot Krutch, Redlight King, Skindred, KYNG, We As Human, Nothing More, Devour the Day, Heaven’s Basement, Gemini Syndrome, Butcher Babies, Eve to Adam, Truckfighters, Scorpion Child, Twelve Foot Ninja, Kill Devil Hill, Killer Dwarfs, Mandy Lion, Bai Bang, Lynam, ASKA, Black Tora, Firstryke, Mystery, Nasty Habit, Sleepy Hollow, Wicked, Down & Dirty, Loveblast, Ruff Justice, Ratchet Dolls, Ragdoll, Dellacoma, Chaotic Resemblance, Scattered Hamlet, Siren, Mach22, Tempt, London’s Dungeon, Mine Enemies Fall, Station, The Chimpz, Sleepwalking Home, Well Hung Heart, Framing The Red, Blackwater Rebellion, Dryvr, Jet West and Dirty Crush.

The annual Rocklahoma Festival is sponsored by Bud Light, U.S. Cellular, Jagermeister, Monster Energy, Hard Rock Casino, Route 66 RVs, and Jack Daniels.

More information on the annual Rocklahoma Festival is available online at http://www.rocklahoma.com, http://www.facebook.com/rocklahoma and http://twitter.com/rocklahoma.  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.

Details Released For Annual Carolina Rebellion Festival

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

Courtesy: Ashton-Magnuson Media

The weather is cold across much of the country.  But don’t tell organizers of the annual Summer concert festival series.  Details for the annual Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion Festival have been made official.  This year’s Carolina Rebellion Festival—the third of four events that comprise “The 2014 World’s Loudest Month–will be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday and Sunday, May 3rd and 4th.  Avenged Sevenfold and Kid Rock will share headlining duties at this year’s festival.  They will be joined by Rob Zombie, Five Rob ZomFinger Death Punch, 311, Motorhead, Staind, Seether, Volbeat and more.  Avenged Sevenfold (also known by its fans as AX7) also performed at last year’s inaugural Carolina Rebellion Festival, which sold out.  The current performance schedule for this year’s festival is listed below.

Saturday, May 3

Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Motörhead, Seether, Volbeat, Black Label Society, Killswitch Engage, Black Stone Cherry, Fozzy, Adelitas Way, Thousand Foot Krutch, KYNG, Nothing More, Devour The Day and Truckfighters

Sunday, May 4

Kid Rock, Five Finger Death Punch, 311, Staind, A Day To Remember, Alter Bridge, Theory of a Deadman, Fuel, Hellyeah, Of Mice & Men, Trivium, Redlight King, Twelve Foot Ninja and Gemini Syndrome

Bands announced for the festival will perform on one of three separate stages throughout the Charlotte Motor Speedway.  Those stages are the: Carolina Stage, Rebellion Stage, and Jagermeister Stage.

Tickets for the 2014 edition of the Carolina Rebellion Festival go on sale this Friday, January 31st at 10am ET.  This includes Camping, Hotel, VIP Packages, and Weekend 4-packs and upgrades.  All camping and hotel packages include access to the Friday Night Campground Party. Active military members can purchase tickets once again at a discount.  More information for all ticketing, including military discounts, is available online at http://www.CarolinaRebellion.com.

The Carolina Rebellion Festival was created in partnership by AEG Live and Danny Wimmer Presents.  It is sponsored by Monster Energy, Jagermeister, Ernie Ball, Jack Daniels, Bud Light, F.Y.E. and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  More information on the Carolina Rebellion Festival is available online at http://www.CarolinaRebellion.com and http://www.facebook.com/carolinarebellion.  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.

ROTR Organizers Announce Early Details For 2014 Festival

Rock on the Range 2014 Logo

Courtesy: MSO PR

The 2013 edition of the annual Rock on the Range festival was one of the biggest that organizers of the annual event have ever experienced.  2013 saw the annual event completely sell out.  Seeing the success that the festival had in 2013, festival organizers have announced that the festival will now expand to three full days this year. The festival, which will run from May 16th – May 18th this year, will be headlined by three very big name acts.  Those acts are Guns N’ Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, and Kid Rock.

While the trio of aforementioned bands will headline the once again expanded festival (last year saw the festival expand to three nights) are big names in themselves, they won’t be the only bands to perform at this year’s show.  Also scheduled to perform this year are: Seether, Five Finger Death Punch, Slayer, Staind, Motorhead, Chevelle, Alter Bridge, Mastodon, Black Label Society and Killswitch Engage among many others.  The complete lineup of bands scheduled to perform at this year’s ROTR Festival is listed below.

2014 ROCK ON THE RANGE BAND LINEUP

Guns N’ Roses, Avenged Sevenfold, Kid Rock, Five Finger Death Punch, Slayer, Staind, Motorhead, Seether, Chevelle, Alter Bridge, Mastodon, Black Label Society, Killswitch Engage, Bring Me The Horizon, Theory of a Deadman, Down, Black Stone Cherry, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Pop Evil, Of Mice & Men, Adelitas Way, Trivium, Gojira, Suicidal Tendencies, The Pretty Reckless, We Came as Romans, Fuel, Redlight King, Miss May I, Reignwolf, Thousand Foot Krutch, Texas Hippie Coalition, Rev Theory, Skindred, Kyng, Fozzy, Heaven’s Basement, Butcher Babies, Nothing More, Exodus, King 810, Devour the Day, We As Human, We Are Harlot, Kvelertak, Jim Breuer Band, One OK Rock, Twelve Foot Ninja, Avatar, WERM, Monster Truck, Wilson, Crobot and Truckfighters with comedians Jim Breuer, Jim Florentine and more.

Audiences will note that along with the lineup up some of the biggest names in the rock world, this year’s festival also boasts the return of the ROTR Comedy Tent.  Jim Breuer, Jim Florentine, and a number of up-and-coming comedians will perform at the ROTR Comedy Tent.

Weekend passes including Field General Admission, Stadium General Admission, hotel and VIP packages and a stadium four-pack go on sale Friday, January 24th at 10am ET.  More ticket information is available online at http://www.RockOnTheRange.com.  Additional information and updates on this year’s festival is available online at http://www.facebook.com/rockontherange and http://twitter.com/rockontherange.  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.

Atlanta Based Hard Rock Band As Raucous And Irreverent As Ever On Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  Steamhammer/SPV Records

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPV Records

Nashville Pussy front man Blaine Cartwright and his wife Ruyter Suys (pronounced Rider Sighs) have spent nearly two decades making hard rock for the masses.  While the husband and wife duo have largely stayed just under the radar that whole time.  That hasn’t deterred them, either.  The pair (with their latest band mates) is set to release the band’s sixth full length studio release later this month. Up The Dosage is scheduled to be released Tuesday, January 21st via Steamhammer/SPV Records.  And it goes without saying that this new record shows Cartwright and company have not lost any steam over the course of their careers.

It goes without saying that Up The Dosage is a fitting title for the latest release from Blaine Cartwright and company.  The band has continued on this record, its long-standing tradition of crafting some of the most raucous and irreverent rock songs that the music world has ever heard.  The album’s opener, ‘Everybody’s Fault But Mine’ is a prime example of this.  Musically speaking, its sound is similar to bands the likes of Fireball Ministry, Black Stone Cherry and others of that ilk.  Its lyrical side makes it even more enjoyable.  It comes across lyrically as a proverbial middle finger to all those that would want to blame others for their problems.  Imagine Hatebreed’s ‘Defeatist’ only aimed in a different musical direction.  Audiences will hear that for themselves as Cartwright sings, “If you see me coming/You’d best get out of my way/Cause I don’t wanna know you/You’ll just lead me astray/If the world comes crashing down/I’ve left it far behind/If I don’t make it to the top/It’s everybody’s fault but mine.”  If indeed Cartwright and company were intending a certain sharp commentary with this song, then message well received.  There are people everywhere like the individual portrayed in this song.  They are the typical “oh-woe-is-me” type that refuses to stand up and take responsibility for their own actions and the results of said actions.  Considering the history of Nashville Pussy, this is the perfect re-introduction for fans of the band that are more familiar with its material.  On the other hand, it is just as welcome an introduction for anyone that might be less familiar with the band’s catalogue.  And it’s only one of so many stand out songs that the band shares on this record.

If ‘Everybody’s Fault But Mine’ doesn’t grab audiences right off the bat, then the adrenaline-fueled song that follows definitely will prove the band’s reputation.  That song is ‘Rub it to Death.’  Musically speaking, this is a song that bears quite the Motorhead style influence.  Lyrically, it is everything that has made certain groups hate rock and roll since its early days. There is mention of both sex and drugs throughout the song that comes in at just under three minutes.  Of course so much of said material is so explicit that it can’t be reprinted here.  That content aside, ‘Rub it to Death’ is still another great addition to this record when one puts the song’s high-energy musical side next to the more adult lyrical themes.  Simply put, it’s a good fit for anyone that is a fan of Hank III.

The energy and themes established early on in Up The Dosage barely lets up as the band makes its way through the course of the thirteen tracks that comprise the album’s standard edition.  On a side note, the album will also be available in an extended edition that includes two bonus tracks.  The one time when things take a different direction–albeit a slight one at best–is on the album’s shortest song, ‘Taking It Easy.’  The song comes in at just under a single minute.  To be more precise, it clocks in at just forty-seven seconds long.  Things take a different turn here primarily in that Cartwright’s wife takes over vocal duties.  And instead of singing about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, she sings about taking a break from said topics.  She sings, “What are y’all doing on a Saturday night/I’d rather be sleeping than getting in a fight…you rock it all over like a heavy metal beast/You know you got’s to/takin’ it/takin’ it easy.”  The real irony of the song is that for a song that is about…well…taking it easy, it is quite the adrenaline-fueled anthem.  That juxtaposition alone makes it well worth the listen.  Add in the fact that it is able to say so much and make such a hard-hitting impact in such a short span of time, and audiences get a song that is far less simple than it seems on the surface.  It’s one more of so many songs that audiences new and old will appreciate on this album.

Fans overseas will get to hear even more of the band’s music beginning at the end of the month when it kicks off its European tour.  The first date on that tour is Thursday, January 30th at Le Forum in Vauxreal, France.  The latest list of the band’s tour dates is available on the band’s official website, http://www.nashvillepussy.com.  Fans can also keep up with the band via Facebook and Twitter at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nashville-Pussy/13091707669 and http://twitter.com/bashfulpuppy.

Ford Is As Ferocious As Ever On Her New Live Recording

Courtesy:  SPV/Steamhammer Records

Courtesy: SPV/Steamhammer Records

Lita Ford’s new live recording, The Bitch Is Back, is a good introduction to the veteran rocker’s music.  Ford, who started her career decades ago as a member of the famed Runaways, proves with this latest live release that she still has plenty left to offer her audiences.  From the show’s set list to the audio mix to her general presence, there is much to like about this new live recording.  All things considered, Ford should have titled this recording, The Bitch Is Here instead of its given title.  Regardless, it proves in the end to be one of the year’s top live CDs.

The set list chosen for Ford’s 2013 show at California’s famed Canyon Club is the first part of what makes The Bitch Is Back so enjoyable for audiences.  Most of the songs chosen for this show come from her 2012 album, Livin’ Like a Runaway.  However, there are some older tracks included in the set list presented on this recording.  One of the best of the songs included in this recording is ‘Can’t Catch Me.’ She explains to the audience in attendance that the song was spawned after a chance meeting at the Rainbow Room.  Who would have ever thought that Lita Ford and Lemmy Kilmister would collaborate?  Regardless, the result is a fun, high octane piece that bears all the trademarks of classic Motorhead.  It’s little tidbits such as this that Ford shares through her set that makes this recording even more fun.  But that will be discussed later.  Ford’s collaboration with Lemmy Kilmister is just one of the high points that fans will take away from The Bitch is Back.  She also includes ‘Hate’, which is just one of the songs that she pulled from Livin’ Like a Runaway.  The song’s lyrical side is a powerful social commentary about society’s seemingly growing obsession with violence and hate.  It’s not such a stretch.  One need just look at the content of today’s TV shows and movies and one will agree that Ford is right on the mark here.  Her driving guitar riffs expertly compliment the song’s lyrics, making it one more high point of the show.  There is so much more that could be discussed concerning the show’s set list.  Allegedly, there were even a number of songs from the show not included in this recording.  If that is indeed the case, then maybe fans will get the remainder of those songs in a future live release.  To that extent, one could argue that by not including all of the songs from her show, Ford has left fans wanting more in the best possible way.  Again, that just makes this recording all the more worth hearing.

The set list included in this recording is the center of what makes it so enjoyable.  However, it isn’t the only part of what makes it so enjoyable.  The recording and mastering work done by Bill Gall and Fernando Cavasos respectively makes the record all the more worth the listen.  Indoor venues always present their own set of challenges when recording live performances.  This is the case regardless of whether one is recording a pop star, rock band, rapper, or some other act.  So it goes without saying that Gall and Cavasos did an impressive job in making sure that Ford’s fans were presented with the best product possible.

The final audio mix presented in The Bitch is Back works in tandem with the recording’s set list to make it a record that is a good introduction to first time fans.  The final product is just as good for those fans that are more knowledgeable of Ford’s body of work.   For everything already noted, there is still one more piece to this recording that can’t be ignored.  That piece is Ford’s own performance.  As with the set list, so much could be noted.  There just isn’t enough space or time for it all.  While this recording is only the concert’s audio portion, one can tell simply by listening, that even after so many decades, Ford has not lost a single bit of steam.  As a matter of fact, the level of energy that she exhibits throughout the performance echoes the energy and stage presence of her fellow veteran rockers in their heyday.  That stage presence is the final proverbial nail for this recording.  Alongside the expert audio mix and equally impressive set list, it makes this record that much more of a must hear for any Lita Ford fan old and new alike.  It is available now in stores and online.  After fans pick up her new live release, they can also make plans to see her live once she hits the road again in the new year.  She is currently taking some much needed rest and relaxation in order to get recharged before hitting the road again.  She is currently slated to kick off 2014 with a live performance on January 9th at the world famous Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood, California.  That show will be followed by performances in Nevada and more dates in California.  Fans can get the latest tour updates, news and more from Lita Ford online at http://www.facebook.com/litaofficial and http://www.LitaFordOnline.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.

Motorhead Hasn’t Lost Any Steam Even After Twenty-One Albums

Courtesy: UDR

Courtesy: UDR

2013 has been quite the year for the metal community.  New releases from the likes of Chimaira, Kingshifter, and so many others have made the field among the metal community extremely crowded.  Enter veteran rock band Motorhead and its members’ twenty-first full length studio album, Aftershock.  With the release of Aftershock, Lemmy Kilmister and his band mates have made the choice of the year’s best new hard rock and metal even more difficult.  Kilmister left fans wondering when they’re hear the next new Motorhead album when it was announced earlier in the year that he was suffering from an illness.  So it only makes sense that he, drummer Phil Campbell, and guitarist Mikkey Dee would open the band’s twenty-first full length studio release with the pummeling ‘Heartbreaker.’  This song is a bold statement, letting the world know that not even illness will keep Motorhead from making music.  ‘Coup de Grace’, the album’s second song, keeps the energy flowing, proving more still why this trio of musicians is still collectively one of the rock world’s greatest bands nearly four decades after it was originally formed.  The band barely lets up even the slightest over the course of the album’s fourteen total tracks.  Simply put, the band leaves listeners breathless by the end of the album’s closer, ‘Paralyzed.’  By the time this song’s final notes fade, any purist metal head will agree that what he or she has just experienced in this album is a work that is far more than deserving of a spot on any rock critic’s list of the year’s best new hard rock albums.

Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey waste no time getting things moving on Aftershock.  The album’s opener, ‘Heartbreaker’ is proof of that.  It’s a full on, no nonsense hard rocker much in the vein of the band’s much more classic records through the years.  Keeping in mind that Kilmister had suffered from an illness before this record was released, it makes this song all the more impressive return especially for him.  His voice sounds as pounding as ever as he sings, “Careful where you stand now boy/Everything has changed/Got to search and destroy/Everything has changed/Got to move/Stop the dreams/All protection gone/Listen to how the people scream/On and on and on.”  Lemmy has never sounded better.  His powerhouse vocals alongside the musicianship of Phil and Mikkey collectively make this an excellent first impression for anyone that is new to the music of Motorhead.  It’s just as impressive a return for the band’s more seasoned fans.

‘Heartbreaker’ is one heck of a way for the members of Motorhead to open the band’s new album.  The energy doesn’t let up after this song ends, either.  Lemmy, Phil, and Mikkey keep the throttle on high as they launch into the equally pounding ‘Coup De Grace.’  The song’s musical energy alone will have any purist metal head’s horns high in the air.  The defiant lyrical side serves to make it even more of a fan favorite.  Lemmy sings in this song, “Don’t believe a word/Don’t run with the herd/I don’t like the news/Watch it every week/Just because/I don’t believe it/Don’t make me a freak/If you knew the real stories/Can’t be fooled no more/You can kiss/Or you can tell/Parasite or whore.”  He goes on to sing in the song’s next verse, “Don’t believe the lies/Truth will make you wise.”  The statement being made here is largely clear.  That statement set alongside the song’s musical side exudes pure hard rock energy.  And the combination of the two elements will certainly make this another fan favorite.

The energy exuded by ‘Coup De Grace’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ is incredible to say the least.  And it hardly lets up at any one point throughout the course of Aftershock. This is the case even with the album’s closer, ‘Paralyzed.’  The song’s lyrical side is interesting to say the least.  The song’s lyrics are obviously metaphorical.  Kilmister writes, “Looking for a temple/Looking for the gold/Looking like a hero/When the story’s told.” He goes on singing, “Flying over mountains/Flying over seas/Flying through a hurricane/Praying on your knees/Searching for a fortune/Searching for a clue/Flying in the face of death/Flying into view.”  It’s certain to lead to plenty of discussion as to what exactly is being said here.  Add the discussions in question to the song’s full throttle musical side, and audiences get a song that closes the album just as solidly as ‘Heartbreaker’ opened the record.  These songs, and those not mentioned all work together to make Aftershock one that Motorhead’s legions of fans will love whether it’s a first introduction or the twenty-first re-introduction.  It’s available now in stores and online.  As of right now, Lemmy is still fighting the good fight, trying to get back to full strength.  As long as everything goes as planned, the band will hit the road in Europe in 2014, beginning with a performance in Glasgow, Scotland on February 13th, 2014.  A full listing of the band’s most current tour schedule is available online at http://www.imotorhead.com/tour.  More information on the band’s tour, all the latest news from the band, and on Aftershock is available online at http://www.imotorhead.com and http://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead.  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.

Unfinsihed Song A Complete Joy

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Everybody knows the story of The little Engine That Could.  Well now, people are going to start learning the story of the little movie studio that could.  That’s thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment’s latest home release, Unfinished Song.  This latest release is one more from Anchor Bay that has found its way onto this critic’s list of the year’s best independent movies.  The other is the recently released rom-com, Shanghai CallingUnfinished Song is nothing like Shanghai Calling.  It is also entirely unlike 20th Century Fox’s geriatric drama, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Despite attempts by some to make a comparison, there is no comparison as the two are wholly separate stories.  Unfinished Song is its own story.  And it is a story that will both entertain and move audiences just as much as the aforementioned works.

Unfinished Song boasts so much heart throughout its roughly ninety-minute plus runtime.  It is centrally a story about family.  On a deeper level, one could argue that it is also a story about appreciating life.  Throughout both story elements, writer/director Paul Andrew Williams throws in more than enough laughs to keep audiences of any age laughing, too.  His ability to balance both the story’s dramatic and comedic elements is to be highly commended, especially considering the story’s length.  Also to be considered in the success of Unfinished Song is the story’s casting.  Terrence Stamp (Superman II, Get Smart, The Adjustment Bureau) was the perfect choice to fill the role of grumpy old Arthur Harris.  And Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End, Mission: Impossible, Cars 2), was just as solid a choice to play Arthur’s wife Marion.  The two play off of each other so well.  Their interpretation of Williams’ scripts draws viewers in even deeper, and thus makes suspension of disbelief that much easier.  The resultant effect of both of that acting prowess and the general writing make this movie one more surprise hit from Anchor Bay, and one of the year’s surprise hits.

The writing behind Unfinished Song is, as already noted, one of the keys to the movie’s success.  Despite attempts by some to compare this movie to the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the two stories are total opposites.  The latter is centered more on the elderly acquaintances’ personal journeys of self realization.  Unfinished Song is its own story in that it is more centered on family.  Audiences are introduced in this story to Arthur Harris, a very Scrooge-like character that doesn’t want to have a good time or smile.  He’s just a crotchety old man.  But underneath that rough exterior, Arthur is very much the sympathetic character, as audiences will learn as the story progresses.  The change that he eventually undergoes as the result of a tragic event completely envelops audiences and makes them cheer even more for him; perhaps even more than his fellow choir members.  By the story’s end, Arthur’s transformation is complete so to speak.  And audiences will realize just how deeply they have been pulled into the story thanks to Williams’ writing and by Stamp’s acting.

The acting on the part of the veteran Stamp was perfect from start to finish.  Though, his wasn’t the only acting that audiences will appreciate.  The passion in Redgraves’ voice when Marion sang ‘True Colors’ to Arthur will bring even the strongest person to tears.  And his reaction to what happens after the fact is even more powerful.  Of course there are some funnier moments that come from the supporting cast.  Audiences will find themselves laughing uproariously as the members of the elderly choir perform Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ and Salt ‘N Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ to an audience made up of people of various ages.  There is just something hilarious about a group of older people trying to rock out to Motorhead.  And one would think that older people would be more conservative when approached with the idea of singing Salt ‘N Pepa seductive song.  Yet, they were entirely open and enthusiastic about it.  Their reactions are more than worth the laughs that are generated.  And countered by Arthur’s view of the song, it makes this moment even funnier.  Paul Andrew Williams has given audiences quite the story, as is evidenced here.  He has written a story that boasts a perfect balance of comedy and heart.  It is a story with equally excellent acting.  Whether for the acting, the writing, or both factors, both work hand-in-hand to make Unfinished Song a story that will leave viewers feeling entirely complete.  It will be available this Tuesday, September 24th on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct online from the Anchor Bay Home Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=3967a252-b0ce-e211-838a-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this release is also available here and through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBayEnt.

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.

Saxon Shines On Sacrifice

Courtesy:  UDR, Columbia Records, Militia Guard Music, EMI

Courtesy: UDR, Columbia Records, Militia Guard Music, EMI

Thirty-four years is a long time.  It’s a long time any way that one thinks about it in terms of regular time.  IN terms of the world of music, thirty-four years is an exceptionally long amount of time.  That’s how long the British hard rock band Saxon has been making music.  In an era when the music world is top heavy with flash-in-the-pan bands, it says something special about Saxon that the band is still making music and is still a fan favorite.  Over the course of those three decades plus, Saxon has crafted some nineteen albums.  And now on its twentieth (yes, twentieth) full length record, Sacrifice, Saxon shows once again why it is still so popular and successful.

Sacrifice is pure guitar driven hard rock.  The album’s ten-song set will impress anyone that is a fan of the band’s British brothers in Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.  If there is one song that best exemplifies the album’s title, it would have to be ‘Made in Belfast.’  This song pays tribute to the Irish workmen who built so many of the world’s great structures.  That includes both buildings and sailing vessels.  The band sings proudly in the song’s chorus, “Pulling all together boys/Salving for the boss’s boys/Got to meet the deadline now/Pulling all together boys/Made in Belfast/Made in Belfast.”  The song goes on sounding more like something that audiences might expect more from the likes of Boston’s own Celtic punk rock band Dropkick Murphys than from any hard rock act.  Regardless of this, it proves that even hard rock bands can cover more than the standard lyrical themes in their songs.

Just as fitting an addition to Sacrifice as ‘Made in Belfast’ is ‘Walking the Steel.’  This song is an obvious tribute to all who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 from the innocent victims to the first responders that died trying to save the innocents.  It also pays tribute to those that have made so much sacrifice to help “Ground Zero” return to its former glory as they build the aptly named “Freedom Tower.”  It’s a different form of sacrifice.  But it still fits quite well within the album title’s general theme.  Front man Biff Byford (who co-produced this album alongside famed producer Andy Sneap—Arch Enemy, Killswitch Engage, Fozzy) sings proudly in this song, “Rising from the ashes floor by floor/Reaching up into the sky/Where the eagles soar/The city sleeps/Life goes on/Hope is still alive/Born again the towers rise above the New York skies./Rising from the ashes for all the world to see.”  This single verse, which opens the song, is certain to become a fan favorite both on the record and in a live setting.  It is so easy to close one’s eyes and see fists breaking the air with pride, and the audiences in attendance singing along with the band as it reaches the chorus, “Walking the steel build them high/Walking the steel you touch the sky/Remember the heroes/Remember them all.”  Anyone that is left unmoved by this song is simply not human.

‘Made in Belfast’ and ‘Walking The Steel’ are both excellent additions to Sacrifice.  They were perfect choices for the album, considering its lyrical themes.  There is much more for audiences to appreciate about this album, though.  There is the traditional song about living life on the road in ‘Stand Up and Fight’, and the completely original song, ‘Guardians of the Tomb’, which comes across as being about the famed “terracotta army” of China.  Go through the annals of hard rock and one will struggle to find many bands that have decided on this as subject matter for a song.  Saxon’s members get major credit for that originality and for crafting a song that rocks at the same time.  There are even more songs on Sacrifice from which listeners will be able to choose proving why these old dogs still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.  They alone are more than worth picking up this album, which is available now.

If the songs on Sacrifice’s main disc aren’t enough for fans, then maybe the bonus EP will impress listeners.  The bonus EP boasts five re-recorded songs from the band’s catalogue, anchored by the beautiful orchestral take of ‘Crusader.’  The cellos used throughout the song conjure thoughts of Apocalyptica.  The album’s liner notes don’t’ make mention of whether or not it is the band in question.  Regardless, they are a nice touch.  The way that the song starts out with the gentle acoustic guitar alongside Byro’s vocals before building into the pounding rhythms of the re-recorded song makes for huge effect.  The effect of that mix is made even better with the inclusion of any number of string musicians.  It may not be the first time ever that a band has incorporated strings into a rock song.  But it still works nonetheless.  The bluesy ‘Just Let Me Rock’ is slower than ‘Crusader.’  But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less enjoyable.  There’s almost a certain ‘Ace of Spades’ vibe about this song.  Even Byro himself sounds a little like Lemmy Kilmister.  Were someone to hear this song without knowing that Byro was singing, one might actually believe for a moment that it was in fact Kilmister singing.  The guitar solos are just as blistering as anything that Motorhead could put out, too.  To say that this album is that impressive is a tribute to both Byro and his band mates.  It proves just how good this album is and how worth it is for any true hard rocker to pick up or order online.  The band is currently on the road in support of Sacrifice.   It is winding down the U.S. leg of its tour before taking a little time off in October to get ready for the European leg of its tour.  More information on this latest release from Saxon, its tour dates, and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/saxon and http://www.saxon747.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.