Satriani Proves He’s Still Got Plenty Of “Momentum” On New LP

Courtesy:  Epic Records/RED Distribution

Courtesy: Epic Records/RED Distribution

Joe Satriani’s latest release, Unstoppable Momentum is the famed guitarist’s best release since his 2006 album, Super Colossal.  This new record is the album that fans have waited for since the release of Super Colossal.  It is just as bombastic as Super Colossal and more at some points.  It’s also just as gentle as SC, too at different points.  Perhaps a big reason for the success of this record is the Satch opted for a different backing group than he typically uses on his records.  Many of Satriani’s past records were recorded with Jeff Campitelli on drums and Allen Whitman on bass.  This time out, Satch opted instead to have drummer Vinnie Colaiuta man the kit and Chris Chaney add the low end on bass.  Another change to the lineup that could have created such a difference on this record from his other works was the inclusion of Mike Frasier behind the glass once again.  The two are quite familiar with one another, having worked together on no less than six of Satch’s previous records, including his most recent album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards (2010) and Super Colossal.  He also helped with the creation of both of Chickenfoot’s current releases on which Joe played guitar.  That familiarity and friendship between the pair—and the inclusion of new musicians–obviously played a role in the record’s sound as it has proven to be not just his best record since Super Colossal, but one of his finest records to date.

Right from the opening number of Unstoppable Momentum, long-time fans of Satriani’s work know they are in for quite a ride.  The album opens fittingly with its title track.  Simply listening to the song, one can’t help but hear that perhaps Satriani is making a statement early on that even fourteen albums in, he still has a lot left to offer audiences.  He still has that “unstoppable momentum.”  The song’s seeming ABA structure starts off easy before really kicking things up in the middle section.  Joe shows without a doubt that he’s still got plenty left in the tank with his “solos” in this section while drummer Vinnie Colaiuta gives an added intensity with his musicianship behind the kit.  He proves to be just as solid as [Jeff] Campitelli, if not more so.  His ability to handle polyrhythmic patters without missing a single beat is impressive to say the least, both here and throughout the record.  This is just one example of what makes this such a solid record.

Another good example of what makes Unstoppable Momentum a success is the almost Beatles-esque, ‘I’ll Put a Stone on Your Cabin.’  The song’s “A” sections have something of a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club influence.  Somehow, Satriani and his band mates manage to tie in a sound that is quite the counterpoint to this vibe, making the song into a piece unlike anything that Satriani has ever recorded throughout his career.  It is one of those songs that simply must be heard to be appreciated and understood.      

There is at least one more example of what makes this new record one that fans will enjoy.  And it is the album’s absolutely shortest, but most touching piece.  That song is the one minute and forty-three minute long, ‘I’ll Put a Stone on Your Cairn.’  For those that don’t know, one of the traditional uses of a cairn is as a monument to one who has passed on.  Its use roots all the way back to prehistoric Eurasia.  So placing a stone on one’s cairn would be an act of tribute and remembrance to the deceased.  Keeping all of this in mind, the gentle, dulcet tones of this short opus are sure to create thoughts in the minds of listeners of perhaps those that they have lost.  It offers some of the album’s deepest emotions and is sure to generate among listeners some of the deepest emotions, as well.  Without a doubt, this song may end up being a favorite for fans, even as short as it is.  And it is just one more among so many that listeners will enjoy throughout the course of the album’s eleven total tracks.  The album is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online via Joe’s website, http://www.satriani.com, where he has links to iTunes, Amazon, and through his own website.  Fans can also order the new album and all sorts of Joe Satriani gear through his official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/joesatriani.  Fans can keep up with the latest tour updates and news from Joe on his Facebook page, too.

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Re-Machined More Than Just A Tribute Record

Courtesy:  Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nicktoon’s Latest DVD Release More “Wild” Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Nickelodeon/Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon have kicked off the New Year in fine fashion.  The two companies already have a somewhat busy slate of releases set in this still very young year.  Next month sees the release of Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series.  Before that though, audiences of the fellow classic Nicktoon, The Wild Thornberrys finally get to see the final piece to the show’s second season.  The Wild Thornberrys: Season 2 Part 3 is available in stores and online now.  The Thornberrys’ “wild” globe hopping, adventures have only just begun with this last portion of Season 2, as there are still three more seasons left to be released.  This time out, viewers finally get to see Eliza’s “origin” story so to speak, as it is finally revealed how she got her secret powers.  Also Debbie inadvertently becomes mother to a baby Panda, only to find herself having become emotionally attached to it just like a real mother.  And also Nigel’s life is in Eliza’s hands after he is stung by a poisonous fish during a search for an Angler Fish. 

The adventures included in the final portion of The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 3 continue to show just how strong the writing was for this classic Nicktoon in its infancy.  As with so many other Nicktoons of its era, the episodes included in this double disc set continue to show just how much heart the show had (and still has today by comparison to other shows out there).  Each episode in its own way continued to highlight the importance of family while balancing that with the show’s educational and even ecological aspects.  Every episode included in this new set emphasizes educational aspects without even trying, by teaching about different animals of different regions of the world.  That’s even the case in the set’s “origin” episode, “Gift of Gab.”  It teaches not only geography but also biology. That lesson on biology is also echoed in the episode, “Black and White and Mom All Over.”  Eliza’s sister Debbie learns a lesson of how wild animals connect to the first thing they see when they’re young after a baby panda mistakes her for its mother.  That biology lesson is directly tied in to the show’s emphasis on another aspect that still makes it so enjoyable to this day.  That aspect is its emphasis on family.

The educational role of The Wild Thornberrys is only part of what continues to make this such a fan favorite to this day.  The show’s emphasis on family plays a role in its heart, too.  As already noted, one of the episodes that shows that emphasis is “Black and White and Mom All Over.”  That theme is also evident in “Bogged Down” in which it’s up to Eliza to save Nigel’s life.  As excited as she is to be out with her father, one little error on her part nearly costs him his life.  So Eliza has to put her squabbles with Debbie on the backburner in order to save her dad’s life.    And in “Gift of Gab”, the family aspect is offered when Eliza tells the story of how she and Darwin first met and he essentially became part of the Thornberry family. 

As much enjoyment as The Wild Thornberrys brings from its writing and its educational emphasis, the show’s animation also plays a role in its enjoyment.  In a time when it would seem that the very art of creating hand drawn art is dying, this latest installment of the classic Nicktoon serves as yet another reminder of how much better hand drawn art is in comparison to the CG crafted material that currently permeates television stations across the spectrum.  Just as with even older cartoons (on both television and in theaters), the animation of The Wild Thornberrys boasts a very specific style.  While the show itself was one more creation from Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo (who also created the ultimate Nicktoon, Rugrats), the animation of this show was entirely different from that of Rugrats and the other cartoons which were created by the pair.  The animation style really served as the most basic identifier of the cartoon.  There was a certain roughness and definition all at once about it.  Set against the likes of Rugrats, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Rocket Power, perhaps the closest that any of these comes to The Wild Thornberrys in terms of its animation style would be Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.  Though, even that similarity is slight at best.  That defining mark, added in to the equally impressive writing and work by a star cast of voice actors has made The Wild Thornberrys one of Nickelodeon’s elite Nicktoons.  And thanks to the latest of the show’s DVD releases, it still holds that title to this day.  The Wild Thornberrys Season 2 Part 3 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/216648.

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Something Unto Nothing Is Something Indeed

Courtesy:  Robo Records

Courtesy: Robo Records

The debut album from rock supergroup Something Unto Nothing is perhaps the first great rock record of 2013.  The band—Sass Jordan (Canadian Idol), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner, Ozzy Osbourne), Michael Devin (Whitesnake, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Kenny Wayne Shepherd), and Tommy Stewart (Godsmack, Lo Pro, Everclear, Fuel) have come together for a record that’s a solid, no-nonsense rock record.  The project was originally started by Jordan and band mate Brian Tichy.  Tichy notes in an interview about the album, “I had played drums on Sass’ Rats record.”  He added, “I knew she was one of the best rock singers out there.  So after many years, we reconnected and tried a bit of writing together.”

Fans of the stoner rock genre will especially enjoy this album as it opens with a sound similar to the likes of Fireball Ministry, Nebula, and others of that ilk.  Jordan even noted in an interview of how the album came to develop its sound.  “As we continued the songwriting path from the quintessential rock tunes, ‘Burned’ to ‘Mobile Again’ to ‘Nomad’ and on…The whole thing started to take shape in the form of a 70’s odyssey, a time travel trajectory”, she said.  That couldn’t be truer.  The album’s opener, ‘Burned’ will take audiences back to rock’s heyday thanks to the combination of Sass’ vocals and the band’s musical backing.  Sass sounds like some wild hybrid of Janis Joplin and fellow veteran vocalist, Geddy Lee (Rush).  Stewart expertly keeps a solid 4/4 beat for the band all while tossing in some nice little flourishes throughout.  And Tichy’s guitar work is just as solid here.  Just as Stewart’s drumming proves the K.I.S.S. formula true, so does Tichy’s guitar work.  There’s nothing overdone about what he does here.  But it’s that simplicity and solid playing that makes this the right choice for a first impression on this record.

The band follows up the success of ‘Burned’ with an equally simple yet rocking song in ‘Crazy Head.’  There’s no question what this song is about, lyrically speaking.  It’s a song about a relationship issue.  Given, that’s the most common lyrical topic of any song.  But it’s the way the topic is tackled both lyrically and musically that makes it such an interesting piece.  Jordan sings in the song, “You, You, you/You’re crazy/Don’t you call me baby/You, you , you/You’re crazy/You got a crazy head.”  It’s amazing what a few words can do.  But that chorus is enough to explain everything that’s needed to understand this song.  This is not just some “oh-woe-is-me” style song.  This is coming from the standpoint of a strong empowered individual.  It’s someone who isn’t going to take any junk from anyone.  Add in the music’s fiery exuberance, and that becomes increasingly clear.  Yet again, Brian Tichy shines on this song, adding a solo that would make any guitar purist proud.

The band continues much in the same style in the album’s very next song, ‘Nomad.’  This is one of those songs that will instantly have the horns in the air and the hair flying as heads bang.  It’s sure to become a fan favorite both from the record and both as the band hits the road to perform the songs from this album live.  And for those worrying about whether or not this first trio of songs is all that the band has to offer on its debut, those fears are instantly silenced as the band launches in the Red Hot Chili Peppers style funk-rock of ‘Did Me No Good.’  Together, Tichy and bassist Michael Devin make for a sound that would make RHCP guitarist and bassist Josh Klinghoffer and Flea happy.  The band barely lets up from here with the southern rock styling of the album’s next two tracks, ‘Mobile Again’ and ‘I’m The One.’  ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd fans will appreciate ‘Mobile Again’ with its classic southern rock sound.  The same applies with ‘I’m The One.’  There’s more than enough rock to make any rock purist happy.  For those who want something a little softer, Something Unto Nothing offers that, too as it only slows down a few times.  That slowing is just enough to let listeners catch their breath before the band launches into its next aural assault.  The last of the slower songs is the album’s closer, ‘Goodbye.’  On the surface, it would appear that this is a breakup song as Jordan sings, “I don’t want to leave you/But I’ve got to say/Goodbye.”  And given the song’s tone, it would appear even more that this is a song about a breakup.  But on a deeper level, it could also be interpreted as Jordan and company saying goodbye for now.  It’s as if she and her band mates are collectively saying, “We’ve had a blast entertaining you, and we don’t want to have to leave, but we have to say goodbye.”  On that level, it’s a fitting end to what is without a doubt one of the first great rock records of 2013.

The band currently wrapped a series of dates in support of its new album.  In order to find out when the band will next be hitting the road, fans can check out the band online at http://www.somethingunto.com, http://www.facebook.com/pages/SUN-Something-Unto-Nothing/177605938956922, https://www.twitter.com/teamsassjordan, and http://www.reverbnation.com/sunsomethinguntonothing.

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Permanent Ability On The Brink Of The Mainstream On New EP

Courtesy: Permanent Ability

Permanent Ability’s new EP, Bring it on! is a good listen for anyone that is a fan of fellow Los Angeles rockers, Red Hot Chili Peppers.  If a person didn’t know it was Permanent Ability, they would almost swear that this band was the latter.  Even front man Brian Lanese sounds like RHCP front man Anthony Kiedis.  This is especially the case on the EP’s title track.  Lanese sounds eerily like Kiedis here as he sings, “Once you crossed my line/There ain’t no stepping back/I’m a pacifist/But I’ll pass my fist/Right to your face/If I get pissed/Well here’s your big chance Big Shot/Don’t blow it.”  He leaves no guesses about this song.  It’s one of those pieces that will get any listener’s blood flowing.

The band has another adrenaline fueled hit on its hands in its EP’s penultimate song, ‘In Waterbury.’  It comes across as almost a tribute song in the way it was written.  Lanese sings about his brother protecting the peace and about some of the places he remembers such as the country club, the mall, and some of his favorite places to eat and of course one other memory that listeners can find out for themselves when they listen to the EP.  The way that Lanese sings here makes the memories he shares come across as being very fond memories.  And that emotion exuded from both his vocals and the lyrics will easily make this song a fan favorite.

These two tracks are just a small sampling of what Permanent Ability has to offer on its new EP.  There are still four other tracks for audiences to enjoy.  ‘Girls’ and ‘Sex Junkie’ are perfect for any college frat boy.  And ‘Shades of Grey’ is just as much a personal declaration as the EP’s title track.  It makes for a solid opener to this release.  There’s even a slower, more introspective style piece in ‘Last To Know’ in which Lanese sings about a lost love.  It all comes together for a release that will earn more appreciation from its audiences with each listen.  Bring it on! is available now via iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bring-it-on!/id374859523.  

The band is currently working on dates in support of its new release.  To get those dates and all the latest news from the band, fans need just go online to http://www.permanentability.com, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Permanent-Ability/20522581563, http://twitter.com/permanentability, http://www.youtube.com/permanentability, and http://www.myspace.com/permanentability

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Long Live The Foot!

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Nearly a year has passed since rock supergroup Chickenfoot–Sammy Hagar (vocals), Michael Anthony (bass), Joe Satriani (guitar), Chad Smith (drums)–released its second full length studio album.  In the time since the release of “Chickenfoot III”, this band has continued to make as many waves as its album.  “Chickenfoot III” picks right up where the band’s debut album left off.  It wastes no time, kicking right into gear with the album’s opener, ‘Last Temptation.’  [Sammy] Hagar and company show that they’re in prime form on this new release.

There’s no letting up from the band after ‘Last Temptation’ as the band launches right into the equally up-tempo, ‘Alright Alright.’  The band is a fully cohesive unit, not missing a single beat with this album.  Who would have ever thought that the band singing one simple word over and over again would be so much fun.  Go figure.  Somehow though, the band manages to ame doing just that something so fun.  So fun in fact, that it makes this song, one of the album’s best tracks.

As much fun as the band’s new album is, it does have a more serious moment on ‘Three and a Half Letters.’  This track comes across almost as a sort of spoken word piece, with Hagar reading letters about people who have lost their jobs and singing.  While it’s not outright, being that the song is included in this album, and that the album was released when it was, this is a direct reflection of the current job market and economic state of the country.  It is easily the single most powerful piece on the entire album. 

‘Three and a Half Letters’ is a truly powerful song.  It’s one song taht will leave a lasting impression for any listener.  While it makes for a great addition to the overall sequencing, audiences are brought back from the seriousness of the world right after that in another of the album’s best songs in ‘Big Foot.’  It brings listeners back to the fun that opened the album in ‘Last Temptation.’  There’s never an easy way to transition from the serious issue of unemployment to something happier.  That’s even the case here.  But Chickenfoot is deserving of some credit for making the attempt.  That’s because along with ‘Dubai Blues’, ‘Big Foot’ helps to ease lisenters back to a more positive mindset.

“Chickenfoot III” offers fans so much great material.  But the music isn’t the only star of this album.  The inclusion of old school 3-D glasses to check out the pictures and “hidden” information on the included cards makes for a fun little experience in itself.  All said, Chickenfoot III is an excellent album from one of modern rock’s greatest supergroups.  One can only hope that with each members’ main projects, fans will still see another Chickenfoot album sooner rather than later, as great as this album and its predecessor are.

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RHCP Bassist Releases New EP For Music Conservatory

Courtesy BB Gun Press

Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has released a six track EP titled, “Helen Burns” to benefit an organization that he helped to create.  The Silverlake Conservatory of Music is a non-profit organization that he helped to found in 2001.  Flea said in a statement that the music on this Ep is totally different from anything he’s done with the Chili Peppers.  “Hi people who like The Red Hot Chili Peppers! I love you a lot! Mucho!  Just wanted to give you a heads up about this little record ‘Helen Burns’ I am putting out on the Silverlake Conservatory website,” he said.  “Warning! It is not a Chili Pepper record. It does not have songs that are like the Chili Peppers at all. It is a mostly instrumental, weird and arty record, the music is mostly just me creating soundscapes that are very emotional for me, but certainly not for everyone!  Just me tripping out at home. I am putting it out to raise money for The Silverlake Conservatory of Music a community based non profit music school that I am an integral part of. There you have it. See you all soon I hope!”

Audiences can download the EP at http://silverlakeconservatory.com/helen_burns/ at “a name your own price” until August 19th.  At that time, the EP will be available at all digital retailers.  A special limited edition 180-gram vinyl will also be available at the same link.  Each one will include a piece of one of the bass strings that Flea used while touring.

The track listing for the EP is as follows:
1) 333
2) Pedestal of Infamy
3) A Little Bit of Sanity
4) HelenBurns
5) 333 revisited
6) Lovelovelove

More information on the Silverlake Conservatory of Music and the Red Hot Chili Peppers is available online at http://www.silverlakeconservatory.org and http://www.redhotchilipeppers.com

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com