Grieves’ Latest LP Has Plenty of “Bite”

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertanment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertanment

Hip-hop artist Grieves’ released his latest full length studio effort early this spring.  The album, Winter & The Wolves is just as good a listen for fans more familiar with Grieves’ sound as those that are less familiar with this music.  This latest release from the Seattle-based rapper is a moving and emotionally powerful work with its stories of broken relationships and a decidedly rough childhood among others.  While such themes make it easy to compare Grieves to the likes of perhaps Eminem, Grieves sets himself easily apart from Mr. Mathers stylistically throughout the course of the record’s dozen total tracks.  One example of that difference comes almost halfway through the album in ‘Breath of Air.’  Grieves writes of life’s difficult situations and their emotional impacts in this song.  Both his musical and lyrical approach to the song is largely genuine and will certainly see it become a fan favorite.  That genuine approach is evident in the album’s lead tracks ‘Rain Damage’ and ‘Whoa is Me,’ too.  These two tracks are the album’s most upbeat pieces despite their lyrical bite.  The mix of that bite and upbeat musical side make them the perfect introduction for this album.  They make the album’s title even more fitting, considering that sharpness of sorts about them.  And alongside the likes of ‘Breath of Air’ and the albums other songs, they prove to be part of a whole that fans new and old alike will appreciate with each listen.

Grieves has set himself apart from so many of his counterparts in the rap industry once again on his latest album.  While the songs themselves might be similar thematically speaking to works from other rap artists, his overall stylistic approach to his songs most definitely sets him apart.  One key example of that originality comes almost halfway through the album in the form of ‘Breath of Air.’  This deeply moving song comes across as Grieves writing about the emotional impact of life’s more difficult situations on himself.  He writes in this song, “As simple as I am/I got a puzzle for a heart/Laid it on the table in the living room/Rummaged through the parts/The child in me is runnin’ through the dark/But the man that I’m supposed to be/Is searchin’ for a breath in this cigar smoke chokin’/Dryin’ on my eyes/Like the desert wind/Drunk/Takin’ shots at the moon/With an empty pair…Go figure/Life’s been a freak show/Learn to hold a knife at a young age/And bleed so/Following the keystrokes/Leadin’ to my words/Is a trail most/Traveled by a part of me/That you would label disturbed/But it works/Living with the plague/Marching to the beat of my bones/getting thrown into the/Lake…If I could find a better way to make you see what I’ve been thinking/I’d probably just paint a stupid picture/They say it’s worth a thousand words.”  These are some pretty thought provoking passages.  And the use of the piano as the song’s main musical backing adds to the power of those words.  It’s so simple in the use of just a few chords.  Set that against the song’s solid beat and audiences quickly see just how original Grieves is as compared to so much of what fills the rap realm today.  It’s just one example of what makes this album well worth the listen by any rap fan, too.  The album’s lead tracks are just as great as this piece in exhibiting his creativity and originality.

Grieves offers audiences more emotional depth and substance into his latest release than can possibly be noted in a single review.  ‘Breath of Air’ is just one of the many deeply moving songs included in the album’s sequencing.  He exhibits just as much emotion in the album’s opener, ‘Rain Damange.’  This song shows its own emotion, but in a manner different from that of ‘Breath of Air.’  Grieves exhibits some more attitude in this song, writing, “The gap toothed rapper is back/With a bag full of dynamite strapped to my back/Rhymesayers/Put the logo on the back/If ever you were looking/Now you know where I’m at.”  He’s joined by collaborator Benjamin Lewis on this track, who introduces himself with just as much attitude, stating, “Name’s Benjamin/Same as I ever been/Sippin’ on a glass of ice cold Templeton/Cloud city/Rain water on the brim/Runnin’ with my back against the wind.”  The old school DJ work backing this re-introduction for Grieves adds all the necessary flavor to the song to make it an instant hit among audiences.  Things don’t stop here, either as audiences will hear on the album’s second song, ‘Whoa is Me.’

‘Whoa is Me’ is one more example of just how much Grieves has to offer his audiences on his new album. This song is perhaps stylistically the closest that Grieves comes to being anything like Eminem. The call and response of sorts used in this song is something that Eminem is known for using in his records. He writes in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion here, “My dog died/When you were 6/Really/I guess I’ve never gotten over it/Dark cloud constantly hovering over me/I’ve been a bad seed ever since the ovaries/Momma looked at me/And told me what it was/Said boys got a shadow big enough to block the sun/But it’s all said and done/I’m comfortable and numb/To the fact that I’m constantly sweatin’ under the gun/But it’s worth it/Ain’t it/My friends think I’m famous/My manager wants to put his foot inside of my anus/Haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep now in ages/And all I got to show is empty loose leaf pages/It piles up but that’s the life that I’m used to/Pressin’ up against the knife with a loose screw/Sing the blues and everybody assumes you could use a little old fashioned down home talking to.” The song’s lyrical side presents more of a frustrated feeling than the depressed emotion expressed in ‘Breath of Air.’ But at the same time, that little call and response of sorts that is also used in the song’s second verse hints at the subject trying to not let everything get him down. The whole of that call and response alongside the song’s musical side and lyrical bite exhibits such sensibility from Grieves. It also exhibits quite a bit of talent once again on the part of Grieves just as with the songs on his previous albums. Whether it be this song, those previously mentioned or those not mentioned, every song included in Winter & The Wolves is itself part of a whole that any hip-hop and rap fan will enjoy.

Winter & The Wolves is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered directly via Grieves’ Facebook page and via the Fifth Element store at http://www.facebook.com/Grievesmusic and http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/grieves/products/grieves-winter-the-wolves. Grieves is currently touring in support of his new album and will perform live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina next Monday, July 28th at Local 506. Tickets for the show can be purchased online at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/537299. Fans can keep up with Grieves’ latest tour updates, news and more online via his official Facebook page and his official website, http://www.grievesmusic.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.

ZZ Top Live @ Montreux Is One Of 2014′s Top New Live Recordings

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment has, over the years, earned the title from this critic of being the “Leader in Live Recordings.” Eagle Rock has long been the gold standard for live recordings with releases from the likes of Paul McCartney, The Raconteurs, Elton John, Stone Temple Pilots, Slipknot, and so many others across the board. Now yet again, Eagle Rock has proven yet again why it is that gold standard thanks to the brand new release of ZZ Top Live at Montreux 2013. This latest release in Eagle Rock’s ongoing partnership with Montreux Sounds is one more of this year’s top live recordings. It offers audiences a concert loaded with all of the Texas-based trio’s greatest hits and some lesser-known pieces, among which is a fitting tribute to the famed festival’s late founder Claude nobs. The concert’s combined audio and video mix make taking in each of those songs even more of a joy for audiences of all ages. And rounding out the whole thing is a pair of interviews that while relatively short, provide so much insight into the band’s respect for the Montreux festival, music in general and more. All three of these factors together show once again why Eagle Rock remains to this day, the “Leader in Live Recordings,” and why every classic rock and rock fan in general, will enjoy this concert.

The central point of enjoyment in ZZ Top Live at Montreux 2013 is the show’s set list, point blank. The veteran trio—Dusty Hill (bass), Billy Gibbons (guitar), and Frank Beard (drums)—churns out hit after hit throughout the course of the concert’s seventeen-song, eighty-minute show. Among those hits are the likes of ‘Sharp Dressed Man,’ ‘Gimme All your Lovin’,’ and ‘Tush’ just to name a few. As much as audiences will enjoy those favorites, they will also enjoy the band’s cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxey Lady’ and the trio’s tribute to late Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Knobs in the bluesy/jazzy ‘Kiko.’ The band even brings in a pair of special guest musicians to join in on this number and one other song. The band’s live take of ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’ is another wonderful highlight from this concert. Throughout it all, the trio’s unassuming demeanor set against such solid, driving songs makes for such an interesting experience. It goes to show that a band doesn’t need pyro and loads of special effects and more to make a concert memorable. As long as the band can get the audience moving with its music, that’s the most important factor to the show. And that’s exactly what the members of ZZ Top do in this case. That factor alone makes this recording more than worth the watch.

The set list that makes up ZZ Top’s by itself more than makes this recording worth the watch. It makes it well worth buying for the band’s fans of all ages. Just as worth noting is the concert’s combined audio and video mix. The sound and video are both crystal clear throughout the show’s roughly eighty-minute run time. This is one of those standards that has for the longest time, made Eagle Rock the gold standard in live recordings. Those with home theater systems will especially appreciate the painstaking efforts that went in to bringing this concert to audiences. From the soaring shots above the crowd to the close ups of the band to those of the audience happily singing along, the camerawork in this concert is on par with every concert that Eagle Rock has released in recent years. And the audio mix is just as solid. Again, those with a home theater system will hear this for themselves. That expert audio and visual work together with the show’s set list pushes this recording even more to the top. Putting the recording at the top is the addition of a pair of interviews with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill in which the pair discuss what the Montreux Festival means to them, their thoughts on Claude Nobs and more.

The finishing touch to ZZ Top’s new live recording is the inclusion of a pair of backstage interviews with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill. The interviews are short. They run about three minutes or a little more each. But even within their short run times, the thoughts shared by the pair speak volumes. They discuss the festival itself and its history and how much it meant to have been invited to perform. They also discuss their relationship with the festival’s late founder Claude Nobs. They spoke very fondly of nobs and how those positive vibes led to the band’s musical tribute to the man. Just as eye and ear opening is the pair’s discussion on how the festival really brought together so many people of different musical backgrounds. It shows a love for music and respect for all different kinds of people. And that sentiment, as short as it may be, makes one look back through the concert once again, gaining a whole new appreciation not just for this recording, but for the members of ZZ Top as people. All things considered, this latest live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment proves to be one more in this critic’s list of the year’s best new live recordings. It will be the favorite of any other music lover, too when they purchase the Blu-ray or DVD for themselves.

More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt and http://www.eagle-rock.com. And for the latest on ZZ Top’s updated tour schedule and more, fans can follow the band online at http://www.facebook.com/ZZTop and http://www.zztop.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.

Saxon’s Latest Live LP Shows Why It’s Still One Of Heavy Metal’s Elite Acts

Courtesy:  UDR/Militia Guard Music

Courtesy: UDR/Militia Guard Music

British heavy metal band Saxon released its latest live recording St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester this past April. The band’s first live release since 2012’s Heavy Metal ThunderLive: Eagles Over Wacken and its ninth live recording overall, this live recording presents a band that is just as strong today as it was in its earliest days. There is plenty for Saxon’s fans to appreciate in this album beginning with the set list itself. While it obviously doesn’t cover every single one of the band’s now twenty (yes, twenty) albums, the concert presented here covers quite a wide swath of the band’s career. The band’s stage presence also plays a role in the overall enjoyment of the concert. Needless to say the band’s impresses in this arena, too. And last but not least is the concert’s audio mix. The audio mix starts out a little choppy. But it improves rather quickly, making the overall concert experience presented here enjoyable. All things considered the only downside to the whole presentation is that Saxon didn’t provide this concert in either a DVD or Blu-ray presentation. Perhaps the band and its label will take that into consideration and release the show’s video side for fans before 2014 winds down. Regardless, of whether or not that happens, it still remains that St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is a must hear for any Saxon fan.

The central point of the success behind St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is easily its expansive set list. It goes without saying that there’s no way the band could have possibly covered its entire catalogue of now twenty albums within the span of time allotted for this concert. However, the band does cover quite a bit of that catalogue. It goes so far as to go back thirty years to the band’s earliest days and as recently as the band’s latest full length studio album and all points in between throughout the course of the concert. The concert’s full run time barely tops the two hour mark. And every single second of that time is well spent by both the audience in attendance and the band. Much like film great Martin Scorsese can take a two-plus hour movie breeze by, so does Saxon make this concert full so much fuller without leaving audiences feel exhausted at the same time. It’s because of that factor and the show’s set list alongside that the band’s more seasoned fans will enjoy this record just as much as those being introduced to the veteran metal act for the first time.

The combined set list and run time of said concert in St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester together are collectively a solid foundation for this latest live recording from Saxon. Just as important to the enjoyment of any live performance by any musical act is the stage presence of the given act. In the case of Saxon, front man Biff Byford and company prove to be just as full of life and energy as when the band first performed live decades ago. The band shreds through numbers such as: ‘Rock N Roll Gypsies,’ ‘Crusader,’ and ‘Wheels of Steel’ just to name a few. And even in between songs, the energy is there as Byford interacts with the audience. He tells audiences brief histories of the songs, joking about some of those histories along the way. Audiences even get the chance to decide which songs they want to hear at least at one point in the show. Byford repay the audience’s enthusiasm with one of the best performances to date of ‘And The Bands Played On.’ These are only some examples of how the band’s stage performance in this concert makes the recording so enjoyable for audiences. There are far more examples than can be noted in one sitting. Audiences will get the full impact of that presence when they purchase this recording for themselves. It still isn’t all that makes this recording enjoyable for Saxon’s legions of fans, either. There is still one more factor to consider in the recording’s enjoyment. That factor is the show’s audio mix.

The last but hardly least important factor to consider in the enjoyment of St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is the show’s audio mix. One has to think that what must have been an outdoor arena was rather large. That is because of the slight trouble at first in the balance of the recording’s audio mix. Byford’s vocals are muddled early on and covered by his band mates. But luckily, that is rapidly handled with the levels being more equaled as the first half of the first disc progresses. Since it would appear that there is no DVD or Blu-ray presentation to accompany the audio only portion of the concert, it is difficult to figure the size of the venue. One can only assume that the venue’s size must have been relatively large. If that is indeed the case, then those charged with the recording’s final product are to be applauded for the work put in to balance everything and in turn make St. George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester one of the best of Saxon’s live recordings to date.

George’s DaySacrifice Live in Manchester is available now in stores and online. That means that fans worldwide can enjoy the band’s live show even if it has already come and gone. Saxon is currently on tour in Europe in support of both this release and Sacrifice, its most recent full length studio effort. The band’s current tour schedule is available online now via the band’s official website, http://www.saxon747.com. All of the latest news and more from Saxon is available online at the band’s official website and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/saxon. 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.

Marillion’s “A Sunday Night…” Is A Great Listen For Any Night Or Day

Courtesy:  E.A.R. Music/Eagle Records

Courtesy: E.A.R. Music/Eagle Records

Marillion’s new live recording A Sunday Night Above the Rain was released in North America this week.  The double-disc recording is a piece that any fan of the veteran progressive rock band will want to add to their personal music library now that it is available to the masses.  The primary reason that audiences will want to add this new live recording to their personal music library is the band’s performance of its most recent album in its entirety along with a handful of other songs to complement the performance.  The second reason that Marillion’s fans will want to add this recording to their personal music libraries is its total run time.  Between its two discs, ASNATR offers audiences just over two hours of music.  The audio quality of those two-plus hours (technically two hours, two point four minutes) is expert.  All three factors together make Marillion’s new live recording well worth the money for any fan of this well-established band.

The central point of the success of A Sunday Night Above the Rain is the fact that the band’s set list in this show is comprised almost entirely of the band’s hit 2012 album Sounds That Can’t Be Made.  That album’s eight total tracks are spread across the record’s two discs.  They are accompanied by a handful of extremely rare songs from the band.  In the case of Marillion, the use of the term rare is not just thrown around.  Rather only perhaps two of those remaining five songs come directly from the band’s previous releases.  And those songs themselves have very rarely been performed live by Marillion.  The others are even rarer.  This makes the recording’s five remaining performances more than just part of the whole.  They become collectively a bonus in and of themselves.  Though, together with the other eight tracks from Sounds That Can’t Be Made, they become bonus material, too.  And that only serves to make this live recording even more enjoyable.

The songs included in Marillion’s set list are on the surface, great additions to the show.  On a deeper level, the very fact that the band would perform one of its albums in its entirety and do so for a live recording is even more important in itself.  That’s because while not entirely unheard of for a band to perform one of its albums in full, a band of such high regard doing so and for so many years as Marillion is less common.  It helps A Sunday Night Above the Rain stand out and establish its own identity even more.  That in turn makes this an even more special record for Marillion’s fans to add to their own home music libraries. All together, the performance of Sounds That Can’t Be Made alongside the rarer songs equals out to a performance time of just over two hours. To be more precise, it equals out to approximately two hours and two point four minutes. That is a lot of music for audiences to enjoy. And along with the last of this recording’s positives—the audio mix—those two factors and the set list together make ASNATR even more a great listen or Marillion’s fans.

The last factor worth noting in the release of ASNATR is the concert’s audio mix. Every concert venue around the world presents its own challenges when it comes to recording concerts.   Whether it be an American venue or one such as Center Parcs in Port Zealande, where this concert was recorded, balancing audio levels both for those in attendance and for potential home release takes painstaking and expert work. And that work paid off in the case of ASNATR. Neither front man Steve Hogarth’s vocals nor the music of his band mates covers the other at any point. Recording/Mix specialist Michael Hunter deserves his share of applause for maintaining that balance even in the recording’s softer moments. He shows that he can handle every moment from beginning to end. The end result is a recording that will allow listeners to capture so many nuances with each listen. The very fact that not every nuance can be caught in just one listen is in itself a testament to Hunter’s talents. Those talents are the finishing touch to a live recording that is one of this year’s best live CD recordings.

The CD side of ASNATR is available now in stores and online alongside its DVD and Blu-ray presentation. Each can be ordered online direct from Marillion’s website at http://www.marillion.com/shop/. They can also be purchased at the band’s upcoming live dates, the next of which will be Friday and Saturday, August 8th and 9th at the Cropredy Convention in Oxford, UK. The band’s latest tour dates are listed online at the band’s official website and Facebook page, http://www.marillion.com and http://www.facebook.com/MarillionOfficial. Fans can also go to either site or to the band’s Twitter page, http://twitter.com/marilliononline to keep up with the latest news from the band. 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.

Yes, Eagle Rock Partner To Release New Live Recording

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Legendary progressive rock band Yes will release a brand new live recording this fall.

Songs From Tsongas The 35th Anniversary Concert will be released via Eagle Rock Entertainment Tuesday, September 23rd. The recording will be released in a variety of presentations including: Blu-ray, double-disc DVD, triple-disc CD, and digital formats. This upcoming recording is a truly special recording for the band’s fans. That is because the special edition release contains not one but two concerts. Both shows were recorded during the band’s 35th Anniversary tour in 2004. The tour in question was the last to feature Yes’ classic lineup of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, and Alan White. The secondary concert included features seventy minutes of never-before-released footage from Lugano.

The concert’s DVD presentation contains the band’s entire concert from the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA. Previously this concert had been spread across two discs. The career-spanning performance includes an extensive acoustic set which encompasses the concert’s eleventh through eighteenth songs. It also includes some songs that the band had very rarely performed live in previous live engagements. The concert is also presented in its entirety in its triple-disc CD format.

The bonus second disc in the DVD presentation takes audiences to the band’s performance at Estival in Lugano, Switzerland. The crowd in attendance proved that not even the rain would stop it from seeing Yes perform as audiences will see for themselves. The band’s performance at this venue includes full on rock versions of the acoustic songs from the Tsongas Arena show as well as an acoustic stage. As an added bonus, fans area also treated to a performance of the song ‘Ritual,’ which was recorded during the band’s performance at the Tsongas Arena and an interview with legendary designer and Yes collaborator Roger Dean. Dean was the man responsible for creating the stage for Yes’ concerts on its 35th Anniversary tour.

The track listing for the Blu-ray, Special Edition double-disc DVD and triple-disc CD presentation of Yes’ Songs from Tsongas The 35th Anniversary Concert is listed below.

TRACK LISTING:

Special Edition DVD, Blu-ray:

Disc 1 – Songs From Tsongas

1) Intro/Firebird Suite

2) Going For The One

3) Sweet Dreams

4) Your Move / All Good People

5) Mind Drive Parts 1 & 2

6) South Side Of The Sky

7) Turn Of The Century

8) My Eyes

9) Mind Drive Part 3

10) Yours Is No Disgrace

11) The Meeting (Piano Solo)

12) Long Distance Runaround

13) Wonderous Stories

14) Time Is Time

15) Roundabout

16) Show Me

17) Owner Of A Lonely Heart

18) Second Initial (Guitar Solo)

19) Rhythm Of Love

20) And You And I

21) Every Little Thing

22) Starship Trooper

Disc 2 – Live In Lugano

1) Intro/Firebird Suite

2) Going For The One

3) Sweet Dreams

4) Your Move / All Good People

5) Long Distance Runaround

6) The Fish

7) Owner Of A Lonely Heart

8) And You And I

9) Starship Trooper

10) Roundabout

3CD:

Disc One:

1) Intro / Firebird Suite

2) Going For The One

3) Sweet Dreams

4) Your Move/All Good People

5) Mind Drive Parts 1 & 2

6) South Side Of The Sky

7) Turn Of The Century

8) My Eyes

9) Mind Drive Part 3

10) Yours Is No Disgrace

Disc Two:

1) The Meeting (piano solo)

2) Long Distance Runaround

3) Wonderous Stories

4) Time Is Time

5) Roundabout

6) Show Me

7) Owner Of A Lonely Heart

8) Second Initial (guitar solo)

9) Rhythm Of Love

Disc Three:

1) And You And I

2) Ritual

3) Every Little Thing

4) Starship Trooper

 The special edition double-disc DVD will retail for SRP of $24.98 while the Blu-ray will retail for SRP of $19.98. No price has been announced yet for the triple-disc CD set. Updates on that, and all of the latest entertainment news and reviews is available online at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks. 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.

All of the latest news and more from Yes is available online via the band’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/yestheband and the band’s official website, http://yesworld.com.

Rolling Stones’ “Clearly Classic” Vinyls Are Among 2014′s Best Re-Issues

Courtesy:  ABKCO

Courtesy: ABKCO

Early this Spring, ABKCO re-issued to audiences around the world three more of The Rolling Stones’ most beloved albums.  The albums in question are: Get Yer Ya-Yas Out: The Rolling Stones in Concert, 12 X 5, and the band’s hits collection Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2).  All three titles were re-issued as part of ABKCO’s ongoing “Clearly Classic” series.  And for audiences that prefer the vintage sound of vinyl to the more spit-shined sound of music on a CD or an MP3, these three latest re-issues are the perfect fit.  That sound is only part of what audiences will appreciate in these latest re-issues.  That they have been re-issued with their original artwork makes each vinyl even more enjoyable for fans of The Rolling Stones.  Last but definitely not least of all, each of these re-issues can be purchased by themselves or collectively depending on whether or not one already owns the original vinyls.  All three factors together make these vinyls the year’s top three music re-issues of 2014.

The central point in the enjoyment of ABKCO’s recently re-issued Rolling Stones titles is of course its sound. And it goes without saying that the sound on these re-issues could not be better. The sound is just as wonderful as it was in the vinyls’ original releases.  Only in the case of these “Clearly Classic” re-issues, it actually sounds even better as if it was on CD.  It sounds especially impressive on the band’s live release Get Yer Ya-Yas Out: The Rolling Stones in Concert.  Considering how many years ago that concert was originally recorded, it’s incredible that it sounds as good today as it did then.  Those charged with re-mastering the sound on that concert recording or this new re-issue are to be applauded for their efforts.  Much the same can be said of the sound on both 12 X 5 and Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2).  In the case of the songs on the latter of that pair, they have been added to nearly every one of the Stones’ many hits collections released over the years.  So it’s nice to hear them in one of their earlier hits collections.  There’s just a different quality that can’t be fully put into words.  It is something that must be heard first hand to be fully appreciated.

Audiences will appreciate the sound of the songs on these three latest Rolling Stones re-issues.  The sound on all three vinyls is just as impressive as that of the songs in their CD re-issues. Audiences will also appreciate in these re-issues the fact that they have been presented with their original artwork. There are so many labels out there today that try to revamp albums all the way down to their cover art as a means to market the albums. ABKCO didn’t take that route with these re-issues. It proves once more just how much the company wanted to honor both the historical significance of the albums and the band itself. Even more, it also shows a certain level of respect for the audiences, too. Older audiences will appreciate this as it will add to the sense of nostalgia established through the albums’ re-issues. Younger audiences that might be hearing these releases for the first time will appreciate them more for their historical significance. A comparison of such artwork to that of so many of today’s albums shows a vast stylistic difference. Unlike so many of today’s releases, there is nothing sexy or controversial about these releases’ artwork. That means that the attention will largely be on the music. The end result is a deeper appreciation for music that is plain and simple, real.

The transfer of the Rolling Stones’ original albums from CD back to vinyl on these re-issues is impressive to say the least. The sound quality is just as wonderful as ever. The use of the releases’ original artwork makes the overall listening experience even more enjoyable whether one is new to the world of The Rolling Stones or a far more seasoned fan. There is still one last aspect of these re-issues worth noting in their success. That final aspect in the success of these albums is the ease of purchasing them. They can each be purchased now via Amazon. And all three albums are below the thirty-dollar mark. So they are also affordable for audiences. Considering that many markets lack an indie store where fans could potentially pick up these vinyl re-issues, this ease of ordering becomes an even more important aspect to their overall enjoyment and success. Get Yer Ya-Yas Out can be ordered directly via Amazon at http://smarturl.it/YaYasLP, while 12 X 5 and Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) can be ordered at http://smarturl.it/12x5LP and http://smarturl.it/TTPDVinyl respectively. That cost effectiveness and ease of ordering along with the releases’ artwork and quality sound transfer back to vinyl each partners together in the overall presentation of these releases to make them absolute must haves for any true-blooded Rolling Stones fan. It also makes them three of this year’s top new re-issues.

More information on The Rolling Stones is available online at http://www.facebook.com/therollingstones,http://www.rollingstones.com and http://twitter.com/rollingstones.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.

Jefferson Grizzard’s Sophmore LP Another Solid “Modern Classic Rock” Record

Courtesy:  Back Porch Syndicate Records

Courtesy: Back Porch Syndicate Records

Singer/songwriter Jefferson Grizzard has released in his sophomore album Learning How To Lie a record that any fan of the “modern classic rock” genre will appreciate. The dozen tracks that make up his latest album instantly conjure thoughts of Bob Seeger, Joe Cocker, George Thorogood, and even Bruce Springsteen to a lesser extent. That’s thanks to the combination of his own vocal style set alongside From social commentary of sorts to songs of lost love and what would seem to be personal experiences, the songs on this album cover any number of topics. And the songs’ companion musical side serves to make each one all the better. One of the best examples of that social commentary comes in the form of the album’s title. The mournful yet powerful ballad ‘Lorelei’ is one of the best songs centered on a broken relationship. And ‘New Location’ comes across as a song that illustrates a personal experience. It would be interesting to hear from Grizzard himself on this infectious piece. Of course it and the other noted songs are but part of what makes Learning How To Lie a fit for any “modern classic rock” fan. There are nine other songs not noted here from which audiences will be able to choose their favorite(s). In hearing those other songs, those same listeners will agree that whether it be their first time hearing Grizzard’s music or not, this album is a solid work from start to finish.

One of the best examples of what makes Jefferson Grizzard’s latest record such a joy is its title track, which comes roughly halfway through the album. Grizzard writes in this bluesy rocker, “Lovers spasm up the stairs/Through cries of pleasure and despair/The pauper and the millionaire/Their fates are slowly fusing/Golems hide ‘neath plastic shields/Throw tear gas full of sex appeal/While riots make commercial reels/The cobbler slays the general/And the planet keeps on turning.” These musings come across as personal thoughts on the state of the world around us. “While riots make commercial reels” could be referencing the spots made by news agencies that tease the daily nightly newscasts. More often than not, those spots tend to feature violent stories such as riots. One look at the nightly newscasts across the “Big 4” networks proves that. He writes also that “Golems hide ‘neath plastic shields.” Anyone with any knowledge of the Lord of the Rings trilogy will get this reference. It would seem that he’s speaking metaphorically, saying that something ugly lies beneath a weak façade. Of course this could be wrong being that it is just this critic’s own interpretation. Regardless, the fact that Grizzard could create such thoughts (and likely discussions) centered on this song just goes to prove its importance on this record. Audiences can make their own decisions when they check out the song’s official video online via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9cEtilwnn4.

‘Learning How To Lie’ is a prime example of why “modern classic rock” fans will appreciate and enjoy Jefferson Grizzard’s sophomore CD by the same name. It’s just one of so many songs on the record that boasts a solid groove sure to have audiences singing along. And its seeming social commentary only serves to make it even more enjoyable. On the exact opposite side of that musical coin, Grizzard exhibits his softer side on the ballad of lost love, ‘Lorelei.’ The words themselves are only part of what makes this song so hard hitting. The addition of gentle piano runs, alongside a chorus backing Grizzard and his band mates, and an orchestral arrangement make this song a solid tearjerker. Grizzard sings overtop of those additions, “Hear the engine roar/She’s got me running/From my own sweet home/She’s got me feeling all alone/With shots of shattered bones/That leave me stranded/Crash landed in a field/Where her voice, it never yields/You’ve got centuries to fill/With all these words you’ve crafted.” He paints a picture of a relationship that did not exactly end well. Again, with the addition of the orchestration and choir, it becomes all the more impactful for any listener.

Both ‘Learning How To Lie’ and ‘Lorelei’ are excellent examples of what Grizzard offers audiences on his latest full length release. If they aren’t enough for listeners to give this album a chance, then ‘New Location’ most definitely will be enough. Grizzard gets pretty descriptive here, writing about a person living in a situation that is less than even substandard for lack of better wording. He writes in this song, “All my books are burning/The carpet’s stained with tar/There’s Raptors rippin’ all the second strings off my guitars/Outside on my deck/The dogs are howlin’ at the moon/Jackie’s in the basement/Puttin’ fire to a spoon/I aint tryin’ to make no accusations/But I can’t lie/I need a new location.” The imagery only gets more disturbing from here. And it’s no better early on. That’s not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the picture that he and his fellow musicians paint with their combination of lyrics and music make this one of the absolute highest of points. Audiences can download that song, the others noted here or any of the album’s other tracks now online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Learning-How-Explicit-Jefferson-Grizzard/dp/B00JRE0R6M/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1405712208&sr=1-2&keywords=jefferson+grizzard.

Jefferson Grizzard currently has no tour dates scheduled. However, after downloading the songs from his new album, audiences can keep up to date with all of the latest tour updates, news and more online at http://jeffersongrizzard.com and http://www.facebook.com/jeffersongrizzard. 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.

Wynonna To Appear On NBC’s Hollywood Game Night Thursday Night

Courtesy:  Mitch Schneider Organization

Courtesy: Mitch Schneider Organization

Country music superstar Wynonna will be on TV tomorrow night.

Wynonna Judd will appear tomorrow night at 8pm ET/7PM CT on NBC’s hit celebrity game show Hollywood Game Night. She will be joined by fellow celebrities Johnny Weir, Scott Foley, Leah Remini, Krysten Ritter, and Nick Swardson on tomorrow night’s episode. She and her team won’t be the only ones cying for a win tomorrow night. Audiences will actually have the chance to win a free pair of shoes from Wynonna’s own “Got Soul” line during tomorrow night’s episode. Here’s how: Wynonna and the show’s people will tweet out a question about the episode. Those that answer the question correctly and tag both @Wynonna and @NBCGameNight with the hashtag #WynonnaGame Night will have the chance to win a free pair of shoes. One lucky winner will be chosen this Friday morning. More details on tomorrow night’s contest are available online at http://www.wynonna.com.

Tomorrow night’s appearance on NBC isn’t the only event on Wynonna’s very busy schedule. She is also scheduled to perform the National Anthem Sunday August 3rd at Dodger Stadium before the currently NL West Division leading Dodgers host the Chicago Cubs. And the night before her performance, Wynonna will hold a free concert in Los Angeles as part of the “Country in the City” concert series. The concert is an all-ages show and is presented by KCRW 89.9 FM. The concert series serves to celebrate the Annenberg Space for Photography’s “Country: Portraits of an American Sound” exhibit. The exhibit is currently running and will run through September 28th. Ticket information for all of Wynonna’s shows is available online at http://www.wynonna.com/the-road.html. Wynonna’s current tour schedule is listed below.

Catch WYNONNA & The Big Noise out on the road this summer:

Tue

7/15 Central Point, OR Jackson County Fair
Wed 7/16 Livermore, CA Wente Vineyards
Fri 7/18 Tacoma, WA Emerald Queen Casino
Sat 7/26 Calgary, AB Canada Grey Eagle Resort & Casino
Sat 8/2 Los Angeles, CA Annenberg Space for Photography
Fri 8/8 Rock Hill, SC Old Town Amphitheater
Sat 8/9 Waco, GA Black Tie & Boots Event – Murphy Campus
Thu 8/14 Shreveport, LA Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
Fri 8/15 Robinsonville, MS Horseshoe Casino
Tue 8/26 Scottsdale, AZ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Thu 8/28 Redding, CA Win-River Casino
Fri 8/29 Reno, NV Atlantis Casino Resort Spa
Sat 8/30 West Wendover, NV Peppermill Concert Hall
Sun 8/31 Copper Mountain, CO Copper County Festival

 

To top off everything that Wynonna is currently doing, she and her husband , producer/drummer Cactus Moser, are working on material for her eighth full length studio release. That album is due out in 2015 on Curb Records. She recently sat down with Rolling Stone for an interview and explained what fans can expect from the album. “It’s vintage yet modern,” she says. “It’s hard to explain. A lot of the things I did I’m drawing from, yet the new sound is so simple and so pure. I’m playing instruments on stage that I started playing when I was nine. I’ve never done that in my whole career. So it’s a time of going back to the well and starting over.” The complete interview can be read online now at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/wynonna-gets-raw-primal-on-life-changing-new-album-20140709.

More information on Wynonna’s tour, album and more is available online at http://www.wynonna.com, http://www.facebook.com/wynonnajudd, and http://twitter.com/WynonnaMusic. 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.

Friedman’s Musical Light Burns Bright On Inferno

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Virtuoso metal guitarist Marty Friedman has built a career of churning out some of the most intense riffs that the metal community has ever heard. Some of the most intense of those riffs came during his time with veteran metal band Megadeth alongside fellow legend Dave Mustaine. For all of the impressive riffs that Friedman crafted during his time with Megadeth, he has shown to be just as talented on his own as he was during his time with that group of musicians. He has released a handful of albums in recent years. Each album has shown a different side to Friedman as an artist, the most recent of which being 2012’s Loudspeaker. Now two years removed from that album, Friedman has released his latest full length effort in the form of the aptly titled Inferno. Pardon the pun, but the title is fitting for this album because Friedman is most definitely *ahem* “on fire” throughout the course of the album’s dozen tracks. One of the most intriguing tracks on this album is his punk/hard rock hybrid ‘I Can’t Relax (ft. Danko Jones). This is one of those songs that shows that while Friedman is known largely for speed and thrash metal riffs, he is just as talented in other realms of rock, too. On a completely opposite branch, ‘Meat Hook (ft. Jorgen Munkeby)’ is a completely out of this world metal-meets-avant-garde jazz piece that is sure to catch any listener’s ear. Of course for all of the intensity and growth that Friedman exhibits through the course of this album, he also shows some emotional depth in the progressive rock ballad of sorts that is ‘Undertow (ft. Gregg Bissonette and Tony Franklin).’ These songs are but mere samplings of what makes Inferno such an outstanding opus from Marty Friedman. There are nine other tracks from which listeners can choose their favorite(s). Regardless of which song(s) listeners choose as their favorite(s), every listener will agree that all twelve of the songs that make up Inferno make up an album that is more than deserving of a spot on any critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.

Marty Friedman shows off his metal chops throughout the majority of his new album in a variety of ways as listeners will note in listening throughout the album’s dozen total tracks. For all of the metal chops that he continues to show on this album, he also displays a certain amount of growth, too. Case in point is the punk/hard rock hybrid that is ‘I Can’t Relax (ft. Danko Jones).’ Friedman shows in this song that while it’s been a while since he was part of a band with a vocalist, he is still okay with sharing the limelight with others. Jones, who has earned his own level of fame throughout his career perfectly mirrors Friedman’s own frenetic energy as he sings, “I’m always busy/Let’s get ready/Burn it down to the ground/I hate when someone tells me to stop moving and sit down…You’re gonna see my face everywhere/It’s gonna drive you crazy/I want to time and time again/I can’t relax/I can’t relax/You gotta know/I can’t relax/You’ve got to know.” Jones’ rapid fire delivery alongside the musicianship of Friedman and his fellow musicians will instantly have audiences dancing and singing along happily. It’s not the only song that will either, as is evidenced in the metal-meets-avant-garde jazz piece that is ‘Meat Hook (ft. Jorgen Munkeby).

‘Meat Hook (Ft Jorgen Munkeby) is another prime example in this record of just how much Friedman has grown as an artist. The song shows influences from the likes of Liquid Tension Experiment, Trioscapes, Faith No More, and certain other bands. Simply put, it is mind boggling, but in the best possible way. The use of the sax line against Friedman’s guitar playing makes for a contradiction that can only be best understood when heard by one’s own ears. There are no words to properly describe the sound or the effect. Add in the wild piano runs and audiences get a piece that completely defies any musical logic whatsoever. Yet it still manages to impress in its own right and make Inferno even more enjoyable for listeners.

For all of the wild energy exuded by Marty Friedman, his guest musicians, and his band mates throughout the course of this album, Friedman shows a softer side too. That softer side is presented in the progressive rock ballad ‘Undertow.’ This piece shows something of an influence from the likes of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment just to name a couple of bands. After the nonstop adrenaline rush on which Friedman sends his listeners throughout the course of the album’s previous song, this song is a welcome chance for listeners to catch their collective breath. The addition of Tony Franklin and famed session drummer Gregg Bissonette adds even more depth to the song. It takes listeners back to the days of big hair and even bigger rock. Listeners can just close their eyes and take it in, seeing in their minds, a giant arena with Friedman there center stage, lasers shooting out from the stage in time with his guitar playing. It’s one more impressive piece that stands out as one of this album’s highest of highs. Of course that it just the opinion of this critic. There are still nine other tracks on this record from which listeners can choose their own favorite(s). Regardless of which song(s) listeners choose, one thing can be agreed and that is that whether it be the songs noted here or those chosen as favorites by others, every track on this record proves just why Inferno deserves a spot on every rock critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.

Inferno is currently available in stores and online. Audiences can check it out now while they await Friedman’s next scheduled live performance Thursday, September 25th at the Iridium in New York. Audiences can keep up with all of the latest tour updates and news from Marty Friedman online now at http://www.facebook.com/martyfriedman.official and http://www.martyfriedman.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.

Lucky Day Could Be Stacey Peasley’s Lucky Album

Courtesy:  The Stacey Peasley Band

Courtesy: The Stacey Peasley Band

Independent children’s entertainer Stacey Peasley recently released her sophomore album.  The aptly titled Lucky Day could be good luck for Peasley as it has proven her potential as a viable commodity in the world of “kindie-rock.”  The songs on this album—Peasley’s second full length release—offers plenty of material for listeners of all ages.  And it all starts with the album’s opener ‘Little Soccer Player.’  While not even two minutes in length, the song paints a picture so vivid that it just begs for a music video.  The album’s midway point, ‘Broken Record’ is a song that speaks both to children and adults equally.  And the homage to vinyl records by guest star Mista Cookie Jar adds a certain extra touch to the song that parents especially will enjoy.  Being that most of the country is caught in the grips of the summer heat, the album’s closer ‘Summer Day’ is just as much a welcome addition to Lucky Day as ‘Broken Record’ and ‘Little Soccer Player.’  These three songs are but samples of what makes Lucky Day a worthwhile listen for parents and children alike.  The album’s remaining songs not noted here each have their own enjoyment.  And families will find their own songs to enjoy when they order Lucky Day for themselves.  They will find in listening to this album that Lucky Day will make their day.

The timing of Lucky Day’s release could not have been any better for this independent “kindie-rock” band.  This is especially the case considering the album’s opener.  The 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament just finished up.  But thanks to this album’s opener, parents everywhere can keep a young person’s love of and interest in soccer alive even with the media hype dying down for the next four years.  The song paints a wonderfully vivid picture of a parent on the sidelines of a youth soccer game cheering on his or her child.  That the parent in question could be a father or mother makes the song even better.  The parent sings to the child, “Little soccer player/In the morning sun/Time for early wake-ups/The season has begun/Little soccer player/See you on the field/Focused and determined/Skills will be revealed/And all the mommies/Have their coffee/They cheer really loud/And all the daddies clap so hard/Cause they are really proud to see you run so fast/Take a shot/Make a pass/Give it all you’ve got.’  The parent goes on to sing about the child practicing so proudly, his sister cheering, too on the sidelines.  As the song nears its end, the band gradually increases the song’s tempo until it finally reaches its ultimate climax.  The interesting thing is that on one hand, that closing could be just as easily left in the air as it could be solidified.  The picture is so vivid that it makes perfect fodder for a music video.  That increased pace in the song’s final moments would be the young soccer player running to the goal in preparation of kicking the ball.  That combination of music and lyrics in this piece work together to make ‘Little Soccer Player’ the perfect opener for Lucky Day and the perfect introduction for anyone that might be new to The Stacey Peasley Band’s music.

‘Little Soccer Player’ is a wonderful opener for Stacey Peasley’s new album and an equally impressive first impression for those that might be new to her music.  It isn’t all the album’s only high point, either.  Just as enjoy able is ‘Broken Record (ft.Mista Cookie Jar).’  Whereas ‘Little Soccer Player’ was sung from the vantage point of the parent, this song is sung from the vantage point of the child.  The child sings about his or her parent sounding like a broken record as said figure tries to get the child to brush her hair, to stay in her chair at dinner, why she won’t eat her macaroni and cheese with utensils and more.  This could very well be the wrong interpretation, but the tone of the music and lyrics together seems to hint at the gap in understanding of responsibility between parents and children in this case.  The young child has almost a frustrated tone as she sings of her father’s request, “He asks me once/He asks me twice/And by the third time/He doesn’t seem so nice/Cause it feels just like a broken record/Asking the same thing/Over and over.”  Guest star Mista Cookie Jar’s addition to the song makes it even more enjoyable for listeners.  He sings to his younger listeners that they need to give their parents a break, which parents will most definitely appreciate.  He adds in a little history lesson on the different forms of music presentation, too.  He raps over the track, “So what’s a broken record/Before you ask that/You’ve gotta ask/What’s a record/Way before the invent of MP3s/YouTube/And even before CDs/They made a big brown disc/Made outta wax/Put the needle on the track/And play music back/From the boom/To the bap/Motown/to even rap/Classical/rock/Folk/Pop/Funk/Hip-hop to Jazz/And when the record gets fresh/It gets wicky wicky wack/Cause some sound was straight played/Over and over/Make you lose composure for the record/This defines a broken record/Now that you know/Give your mom and dad a break/You heard?”  Mista Cookie Jar’s explanation and tie in to his brief history of vinyl easily reach both parents and their children alike.  And alongside Peasley’s own story of the gap between parents and children, it paints a picture just as vivid as that painted in the album’s opener.  It makes the album in whole all the more enjoyable, too.
Both ‘Broken Record’ and ‘Little Soccer Player’ are excellent examples of why Stacey Peasley and company are ready to be one of the next big names in “kindie-rock.”  There is at least one more song on the band’s album that serves as an example why every label and listener should check out this record.  That song is the album’s closer ‘Summer Day.’  Considering that the country is in the grips of the dog days of summer, this celebratory song is a perfect fit for the band’s new album.  As with ‘Broken Record,’ this song is sung from the vantage point of the child.  The child (and other children) sing of going to the beach to get through the summer.  They sing, “It’s summer day/Going to the beach/We’re gonna play/In the sand and sun/Summer day/swimming in the ocean/With our friends/Gonna have a ball.  As with the songs previously noted here and those not mentioned, Peasley and her band mates have painted one more wonderfully vivid musical picture to accompany a song that in itself will have listeners of every age singing along happily.

Stacey Peasley exhibits so much talent throughout the course of this album’s ten total songs.  From painting near perfect musical pictures to exhibiting a full understanding of the effect of dynamics, Peasley has collectively crafted an album that could very well be the album that really breaks her in the “kindie-rock community.”  Lucky Day is available now.  It can be ordered direct from the band’s official website at http://www.staceypeasley.com/.  Fans can also check out Stacey Peasley’s official Facebook page for her latest news and more at http://www.facebook.com/pages/-The-Stacey-Peasley-Band/60359963730.  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.