Fogerty’s New LP Is An Album For Everyone

Courtesy:  Vanguard Records

Courtesy: Vanguard Records

John Fogerty’s first full length studio release in over six years isn’t exactly a new album.  But it is still a fun collection of songs, nonetheless.  Wrote a Song For Everyone takes fourteen of Fogerty’s most famous and beloved songs and updates them for a new generation.  It goes without saying that the classics collected for this compilation didn’t necessarily need an update.  But the updates do admittedly give listeners a new take on the classics.  It’s actually a good thing.  And that will be discussed later.  The song selection itself is just part of what makes this collection of classics a hit in and of itself.  Fogerty was joined by some of the biggest names in the music industry in re-recording the songs for this work.  And some of the names included on the “guest list” might surprise some listeners.  That’s one more reason for fans to pick up this record.  The compilation’s bonus booklet is the extra spice that makes Wrote a Song For Everyone quite the musical dish.  The bonus booklet includes a back story on each of the songs included on the record.  Together with the guest appearances and the song choices themselves, it all combines to make this compilation one that music lovers of ages will love no less with each listen.

The songs collected for Wrote a Song For Everyone are some of John Fogerty’s best known and beloved songs.  The natural reaction to these songs by those more familiar with them is to question if they really needed an update.  The end result after having listened through the compilation is one of pleasant surprise.  Listeners that are more familiar with the original songs will agree that needed or not, these updates are fun new takes on Fogerty’s classics.  It all starts with an update of what is perhaps his most beloved songs, ‘Fortunate Son.’  Fogerty is joined by Dave Grohl and his band mates in Foo Fighters on this update, with Fogerty and Grohl sharing vocal duties on the song.  It’s a great way to open the compilation because it largely sticks to Fogerty’s original song.  At the same time, it gives the song new life because it amps up the song and keeps it fresh for a whole new generation that can relate to it just as easily as that generation that originally related to it.  Fogerty is joined later by Zac Brown Band on the update of another of his hits in ‘Bad Moon Rising.’  The band’s update on this song is just as fun as Fogerty’s original take on the song.  Unlike the update of ‘Fortunate Son’, the update of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ doesn’t stick strictly to the original song.  That aside, it’s still a pretty interesting take on the song.  Brown and his band mates put their own signature semi-tropical spin on the song.  There’s even a little guitar solo added to the song on this take.  It’s another of the compilation’s pieces that fans of the original song will enjoy just as much as younger listeners.  Fogerty’s new take on ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ is one of the most interesting on this new release.  He is joined by fellow veteran rocker Bob Seeger on the song.  The pair took the original mid-tempo country-rock piece and gave it more of a pure country vibe.  It comes across as being more reserved on this take than on the original.  That’s not a bad thing, either.  It is just a new and equally enjoyable take on the song.  It’s just one of many more songs from this compilation from which listeners have to choose as their favorite.  Also included on this record are updates of ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’, ‘Born on the Bayou’, and ‘Hot Rod Heat’ just to name a few.  Again whether one is familiar with these songs or not, they all comprise a record that Fogerty fans of all ages will enjoy.

Fogerty fans of all ages will enjoy this compilation primarily because of the songs that comprise the record.  The songs themselves aren’t all that listeners will appreciate.  The record’s “guest list” is another of its selling points.  As already noted, Fogerty is joined by the likes of Zac Brown Band, Bob Seeger, and Foo Fighters on some of the record’s updates.  Also along for the ride are: Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), and Kid Rock.  Even former American Idol contestant and award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson makes an appearance among many others.  On the surface, one might look at the record’s “guest list” and shrug, asking why any of this is significant.  It’s significant in that it shows the influence that John Fogerty has had on both his fellow veteran musicians and even younger musicians.  It’s an example of actions speaking louder than words.  And it’s a statement that speaks very loudly with this release.

The sequencing and “guest list” chosen for Wrote a Song For Everyone both are critical factors in the album’s success.  They both play important roles in the album’s overall presentation.  Just as important is the album’s bonus booklet.  The booklet included with the album is such an important addition to the overall presentation because it offers a back story to each song.  Those stories come from Fogerty’s own words, too.  Many audiences will be amazed to learn that ‘Fortunate Son’ was written as a result of his own time serving in the Army Reserve during Vietnam.  He writes in the song’s liner notes, that ‘Fortunate Son’ was the result of his person feelings about states using the term ‘Favorite Son’ for their politicians.  He explains in the liner notes that he took that term and changed it to “Fortunate Son” to reflect his negative thoughts on the original term.  Just as interesting to learn is that he felt so strongly about what was going on at the time and ended up writing the song in just twenty minutes.  This after he and the band had originally rehearsed the song without any lyrics at all.  His story behind ‘Bad Moon Rising’ is just as eye and ear opening as it is being read.  He explains how the song originally was the result of a famous movie titled The Devil and Daniel Webster.  He expands on this, explaining how the movie got him to thinking about the impact that music can have on people, and how that links back to the song.  His anecdote is one that will move any fan.  His somewhat cryptic explanation of ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ is sure to get fans discussing, too.  He closes his explanation stating that the song is about “seeking the truth.”  He links this to his experience at the very first Woodstock festival.  Those that know the history of the original Woodstock will perhaps understand this better than anyone, especially if said individuals were actually there in person.  It’s just one more story that makes the album’s booklet more a bonus for fans than just a bunch of liner notes.  And together with everything already mentioned, it makes this record even more worth picking up whether for one’s own self or as a gift this holiday season.  It is available now in stores and online.

John Fogerty recently wrapped up a massive tour in support of his new album.  Fans can check in for more tour dates and news from John Fogerty online at http://www.johnfogerty.com and http://www.facebook.com/johnfogerty.  Fans can also get his album online via either site.  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.

Audiences Will Enjoy “Fan Made” Rockumentary

Courtesy:  Arts Alliance Media/Scott Free/Black Dog

Courtesy: Arts Alliance Media/Scott Free/Black Dog

Bruce Springsteen.  One name.  So many thoughts.  Few artists have meant to the music industry what he and his band mates in the E Street Band have—and still mean—to audiences and fellow musicians through their career.  Now thanks to film maker Baillie Walsh, audiences get a very special look at just what he and his band mates mean to the world.  Walsh has directed a new documentary centered on “The Boss” that is comprised largely of fans submissions. The documentary, Springsteen and I, presents what he and his band’s music mean to fans from the first hand perspective of his fans.

Lots of documentaries have been made over the years that include fan submissions.  But it’s rare for music documentaries to consist nearly entirely from the perspective of the fans.  It makes this a very special presentation.  What’s so interesting in terms of the fan submissions is just how many people from so many backgrounds Bruce Springsteen has reached throughout the course of his career.  Audiences see fans from every walk of life.  There are truckers, housewives, hopeful musicians, and so many others in between.  Just as interesting is the sentiment shared throughout the fan submissions.  Every fan notes just how important of a role Springsteen’s music has played in their life.  At one point, one fan tells his story of the importance of Springsteen’s music as he drives, and begins to become very emotional.  It’s one of the most moving of the main feature’s barely hour plus run time.  On the completely opposite end, there’s an appearance by “The King” in one fan story that will have audiences laughing and smiling together.  Whereas the previous moment noted was one of the film’s most moving, this moment is one of the most memorable for the wonderful feelings that it will bring about.  The story shared by the Elvis impersonator is one of this documentary’s most enjoyable of highlights.  There are plenty more highlights that could be shared.  But that would mean endless rambling.  And that is not what this critic is here to do.  However, it does bring about another aspect of the documentary that audiences will enjoy just as much as the stories shared by their fellow fans.  That enjoyable secondary aspect of the documentary is the fan and professional footage used for the feature. 

The professional footage included in the feature makes up a healthy portion of its live performances.  As a matter of fact, the second hour of the feature is nothing but live footage of Springsteen and company culled from over the years.  While both the live and “bootleg” footage are combined throughout the first hour of the documentary to help illustrate the stories shared by Springsteen’s fans, the documentary’s more professionally recorded performances complete everything.  The second half of the documentary is comprised largely of live performances.  It culminates with the now infamous London 2012 performance in which the plug was pulled because the show went past the city curfew.  It makes sense as to why the London show was used as the final performance in the documentary.  The way in which it went out literally with the lights made for even more impact.  That’s because the show didn’t end there.  Springsteen stayed devoted to the audience and played one more song before having to leave the stage.  It was one last tribute to what it is that makes people love Springsteen so much to this day.  Sir Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings) was there along with John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Street Sweeper Social Club).  The footage sound and video were expertly mixed both with this concert and with the others included throughout the documentary’s second half.  Even after the concert ends, there’s one more surprise for audiences that takes up the last ten minutes or so of the documentary.  It will leave audiences feeling entirely fulfilled, knowing they have just experienced something very special.     

The mix of live footage and fan submitted stories makes Springsteen and I more than just another concert documentary or documentary.  All things considered, it will be a wonderful experience for any true fan of Bruce Springsteen from start to finish.  And it will be an equally welcome addition to any Springsteen fan’s home library when it is eventually released to DVD and/or Blu-ray.  But first, it will run exclusively in theaters one time today, July 22nd and again next Tuesday, July 30th.  Audiences can check to see if it will play at their nearest theater online at http://www.fathomevents.com/#!springsteen-and-i.  Fans in Greenville, North Carolina will get to see this feature tonight at the Greenville Grande 14.  Audiences in Raleigh will also get to see it as it will play at the Brier Creek Stadium 14.  Fans in the mountains of North Carolina will also get to see the presentation as it will run at theaters in Asheville, Charlotte, Concord, Greensboro, and Salisbury.  Tickets for showings can also be purchased online at http://www.fathomevents.com/#!springsteen-and-i

To keep up with tall of the latest news and more from Bruce Springsteen, fans can follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/brucespringsteen and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/springsteen.  Fans can also get all the latest news and notes from Bruce Springsteen on his official website, http://www.brucespringsteen.net

To keep up with all of 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.

Queen V Hits Compilation A “Royal” Hit

Courtesy:  Royal Noise Records

Courtesy: Royal Noise Records

Ladies and gentleman, all hail her highness, Queen V.  For those rock and roll purists that haven’t yet heard the music of this heroine of hard rock, the New York based artist and her band mates are sure to impress with the new release, The Decade of Queen V.  This eleven track singles collection tracks the band’s now decade-long career together.  With any luck, the release of this brand new compilation will generate enough interest in Queen V to see her previous releases including her debut EP, Critical.  There is not one bad track on this compilation, which is a rare feat for a “hits” collection; this is especially rare considering that the band has flown just below the mainstream radar throughout the first ten years of its time together.

The first of the classic songs on this compilation, ‘Revolution Baby’ will instantly conjure thoughts of Joan Jett and Lita Ford with her gritty vocal style and hard driving music.  Her defiance as she sings lines such as: “You’ve got yours and I want mine”, “I’ve got every reason/to waste me time/Revolution baby/If you think you own me/Go to hell” is the mark of a strong confident woman who could care less about the reputation of the rock industry being marked as a man’s world.  The inclusion of this song as the compilation’s opener is simply put, a reminder of that confidence to first time listeners of her music.  The musical backing is just as solid as Queen V’s own vocals.  The bluesy harmonica backing wouldn’t seem to go with the harder guitars and drums.  But somehow it all melds nicely together to make a perfect introduction for first timers and re-introduction for those that might have otherwise forgotten about her and her band mates.

The energy doesn’t let up at all on the compilation’s next song, ‘America.’  This is pure, guitar-driven hard rock at its absolute finest.  The guitar solos are there.  The energy is there from each one of the band’s members.  And one can so easily close one’s eyes and imagine the band on stage, Queen V up front, fist in the air as she screams, “America/Can you hear me?”  What is most intriguing and interesting about the song is not so much it’s lyrical content, but its slow boil style.  It starts hard enough.  But audiences will notice how the song seems to build, musically increasingly with each verse until it all explodes with a massive guitar solo at the song’s end with Queen V hitting some of the highest notes of any female rocker of any era.  It’s like hearing Janis Joplin if she were a hard rocker, for lack of better comparison when she hits those high notes.  No doubt, long-time fans will appreciate all of this. And first-time listeners will be just as impressed with the talents exhibited here by the entire band.

Not all of the songs on Queen V’s new compilation are older pieces.  She also includes a newer piece in ‘My Machine’ that features none other than Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, The Watchman, Street Sweeper Social Club).  Morello sounds as strong as ever with his guitar wizardry.  As bizarre as this may seem, but the way that Queen V intros the song, bring about thoughts of John Lee Hooker.  It’s that familiar opening of “ha, ha, ha, ha.”  John Lee Hooker fans will get the reference.  It might not have been entirely purposeful.  But it’s a nice touch to the song.  And it only gets more intense from here.  The intensity developed throughout the compilation’s sequence of songs is right here, too. 

There is so much that could be written on Queen V.  But suffice it to say that whether for the songs noted here, or the compilation’s others, including its closer—which was co-written by and features none other than Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) on vocals—or any of the album’s other outstanding works, this compilation is an absolute must have for any hard rock purist.  Fans can catch the songs from this brand new release and even more of the band’s hits tonight when the band takes the stage at the Thunderbird Café in Pittsburgh, PA.  The band will be in Clifton, New Jersey on July 26thThe Decade of Queen V is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the Queen V website at http://www.queenv.com/web/?product=the-decade-of-queen-v-cd-pre-order or via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-decade-of-queen-v/id662842188.  Audiences can find out more about the band’s live schedule and all of the latest news and more from the band online at http://www.facebook.com/officialQueenV, http://www.queenv.com, http://twitter.com/theQueenV, and http://www.reverbnation.com/queenv.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Draiman, Device Far From Being Disturbed

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Records

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Records

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

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

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

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

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

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Device Announce New Tour Dates

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Records

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Records

Device, the new hard rock act featuring Disturbed front man David Draiman, will hit the road for a new series of U.S. tour dates.  The band will kick of a new tour beginning April 10th in Mobile, Alabama.  The band’s tour includes stops at a number of big name Spring festivals.  Nonpoint and Gemini Syndrome will be along as supporting acts on select dates.

Device’s upcoming tour is in support of its upcoming self-titled debut album.  The album is expected to be released April 9th, 2013 on Warner Brothers Records.  Draiman is the front man of this latest hard rock super group.  He is joined by Evanescence drummer Will Hunt and Virus (guitarist of Dope and Rock of Ages).  The trio worked with former Filter member Geno Lenardo.  The band has already earned some big honors even before its debut album drops.  It has earned a Gold God nomination for “Best New Talent” from Revolver magazine.  And Artist Direct said of the band’s sound, “Welcome to the 22nd Century of rock.”  The band has already released the first single from its album.  That song is titled, ‘Vilify.’  The video for that single is available online now at YouTube.  It can be viewed now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K1q1pw04Bs.  The album can be pre-ordered online through iTunes at http://smarturl.it/deviceitunes.

Device features guest appearances from Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Glenn Huges (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Country Communion), M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold), and Lizzy Hale  (Halestorm).

For a full rundown of tour dates and to get all the latest news from Device, go online to http://www.facebook.com/devicetheband and http://twitter.com/devicetheband

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.

Jennings Shows His Talent, Originality Again On New LP

Courtesy:  Black Country Rock/Entertainment One

Courtesy: Black Country Rock/Entertainment One

Shooter Jennings is one of the most underrated individuals in the music industry today.  The son of music royalty, Jennings has made his own identity throughout his career, making music the way that he has wanted.  The result is two impressive modern country albums and an equally impressive and brave experiment in the form of his previous record, Black Ribbons.  When Jennings released Black Ribbons, the initial reaction was mixed.  But it showed his versatility and thus not only kept most of his audience, but also brought in a whole new faction of fans.  Now on his most recent release, Family Man, Jennings has shown just as much versatility.

Family Man bears little resemblance, if any, to Shooter Jennings’ previous recordings.  Its opener, ‘The Real Me’ is classic outlaw country with a touch of blues mixed in.  Lyrically, it’s classic Shooter right along the lines of fellow outlaw country artists Hank Williams Jr., and Hank III.  The song’s chorus is the best evidence of that.  He sings in the song’s chorus, “I’m a double-talkin’/Chicken-lickin’/Meaner than the Dickens/Sick and wicked/Hole-diggin’, pickin’/Son of a gun/And I’ll love you like the devil/Bite you like a snake/And then forsake and break/Everything I don’t take before I am done.”  The chorus itself is lyrically the heart of this song.  But it’s the lyrical delivery of the chorus that makes it really hit.  It’s almost a rap style delivery, for lack of better wording.  Just hearing Shooter deliver the chorus in this manner is impressive.  It’s something that audiences have rarely heard from him.  Set against the rest of the song it simply stands out and makes the song that much more enjoyable.

Shooter shows more of his outlaw country side in the album’s opener.  But he doesn’t stay in his safe zone on this record.  He branches out, showing quite the mix of influences time and again.  Just one example of that bag of musical influences is the album’s lead single, ‘The Dollar & The Deed.’  Jennings’ vocal style set against the music makes for an interesting combination of Bob Dylan meets Kenny Rogers mixed with a modern country love song.  Stylistically speaking, Jennings’ vocal style in ‘The Deed & The Dollar’ invokes images of Bob Dylan.  Coming from a musical standpoint, this song is classic country all the way.  One of the best comparisons that can be made is to the likes of Kenny Rogers.  Lyrically, the song is a good fit for any happy couple or hopeful happy couple to be.  He sings, “She’s got a special way/Makes me happy every day/What do the old folks say…When I feel alone/She reminds me that there’s always tomorrow/I kinda wonder if she knows/My sun comes up/Just to hear her call.”  If that’s not the basis for a romance, it’s anyone’s guess what is.  And with Valentine’s Day already right around the corner, this would make for a fitting song to set a romantic mood.

Shooter gets soft at times on his new album.  But he also shows that he’s got that outlaw still in him later in the album in the song, ‘Family Tree.’  This is not just country.  It’s pure outlaw country and is bound to become one of his biggest hits with fans both on the album in live.  He sings in this song, “We’re southern by God/Our name is mud/We’ve got each other’s backs/Cause we’ve got the same blood/Let the stock market crash/Cause we’ll always be free/We may be trash/But we’re family.” Simply put, this is an anthem for Shooter’s fans.  It will light a fire under his fans and have them singing along and pumping their fists with pride at every one of his shows.  And it’s just one more example of that makes this new album yet another success from one of this generation’s greatest all around musicians.

Jennings recently wrapped up his most recent tour in support of this album and is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album that’s due out in early 2013.  Fans can keep up with his progress online at his official website, http://www.blackcountryrock.org/shooterjennings and his official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ShooterJennings.

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.

RATM’s Anniversary Box Set A Great Gift To Band’s Fans

Courtesy:  Epic Records/Legacy Recordings

Courtesy: Epic Records/Legacy Recordings

Twenty years ago, one of the biggest bands in modern music history first broke through with its self-titled debut release.  That debut album completely changed the face of music at the time.  The band in question was none other than Rage Against The Machine.  While RATM may not have been the originators of the rap/rock genre, its musical styling wasn’t what made it such an influential band.  It was the fire lit under an entire generation by the band’s sound mixed with its unapologetic political stance.  The band united a generation, telling in no uncertain terms, to “take the power back.”  And the masses began to do just that in listening to the band’s debut.  The band’s message still resonates true with that generation today and even a whole new generation.  In celebration of that continued impact, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings have released the band’s debut album in a box set complete with the band’s original demo, and a handful of extra live performances never before released and other bonuses.

When fans first open the new Rage Against The Machine XX Deluxe Box set, they are greeted with a large picture book featuring pictures from the band’s career.  It opens with an introduction by fellow music veteran and Public Enemy front man Chuck D.  Chuck notes of the band in his intro, “Over the past 20 years, I’ve often called them the greatest band on Earth because of their ability to stand out musically, lyrically, and philosophically.  Nobody comes close to sounding like THEM.  Their lethal combination of many things considered NON-rock makes them the best rock band period.  Sonically distinct, a cocktail bomb sum of its parts.”  That’s a pretty bold statement coming from one of music’s other biggest and equally most controversial individuals.  And it’s an entirely grounded statement, too.  When RATM first broke through in 1992 with its self-titled debut, the music industry had just broken away from the hair metal movement of the 80’s, and was just opening the era of the Seattle “grunge” sound.  The world of pop music was moving away from 80’s nu-wave and into the more bubble-gum sound that is so prevalent today.  Enter Rage Against The Machine.  As Chuck D. notes, there was nothing like this California based quartet out there at the time.  And as he notes late in his intro, music hasn’t been the same since.

The additional liner notes by Chuck D. in this new box set’s mega picture booklet are just one piece of the whole that makes it a nice idea for any long-time fan of RATM.  After going through the liner notes and photos included in the booklet, fans get to really get into the box set.  First off after the booklet is a rather large double-sided fold out poster with two images of the band.  If a person were to want, one could easily put the poster under double glass and perhaps hang it in a way that would show both sides.  Otherwise, it still makes for a nice bonus to the entire set. 

Moving the poster aside, audiences finally get into the real heart of the set.  The real heart of this set comes in two smaller boxes inside the larger.  The first of those two boxes is one containing a pair of CD’s and a pair of DVD’s.  The first of the two CD’s is the band’s original 1992 debut album.  Whether fans already own the original album or not, this re-issue offers listeners a few bonuses in the form of a trio of bonus live tracks.  The first of the bonus live tracks is a live track taken from the band’s original single release of ‘Bombtrack.’  This piece opens with an introduction by front man Zack de la Rocha.  He explains the basis of the song being centered on AIM member Leonard Peltier.  Long time fans will recognize his name as his ongoing case is also the center of the video for the band’s equally well known song, ‘Freedom.’  ‘Bombtrack’ is followed with a live take of another of the band’s megahits, ‘Bullet in the Head.’  No introduction here.  The band simply launches right into the song.  A live, extended take of ‘Take The Power Back’ closes out this new re-issue of the band’s debut.  It’s a fitting closer, too as it reminds audiences of exactly what RATM stood for then and the impact that it still has on audiences today, despite having only released three albums in its time together.  If the bonus live tracks on the new re-issue aren’t enough for fans, then the inclusion of a full, double-sided 180g vinyl copy of the album might be.  It doesn’t have the bonus tracks.  But for anyone that is nostalgic for vinyl, this inclusion makes for yet another bonus to the set.

The second CD included in the band’s new anniversary set is a full run of the band’s original demo tape.  The tape was originally recorded in 1991.  Before its inclusion in this set, the only way that audiences could get their hands on it was at the band’s live shows.  Now fans can hear early takes on the songs that would make RATM the band that it is today.  Audiences will note that while some of the songs on the demo were included on the eventual full length debut, others weren’t so lucky.  But at least one of the songs on this release managed to find its way onto the soundtrack of the 1994 Brand Lee breakout movie, The Crow.  That song is ‘Darkness of Greed.’  Along with that song, fans are also treated to the rare gems: ‘The Narrows’, ‘Auto Logic’, and ‘Mindset’s a Threat.’

Fans get a load of treats from the band’s original demo tape now on CD.  As an added bonus fans will also get to not only hear them, but also see them as the band’s first ever live recording is also included on DVD.  That performance was its performance on October 23rd, 1991 on the campus of Cal State Northridge. The video is somewhat rough.  But that’s because it was obviously originally recorded via VHS.  Nonetheless, having this added live experience makes this set all the more worth it for any true RATM fan.  It’s a real added bonus in that in comparison to where the band started, it’s amazing that the band would go so quickly from a college campus to playing major venues the world over.  Those massive venues included the likes of: Pink Pop, Rock Am, Reading Festival and its now iconic 2010 performance at Finsbury Park in London, England.  The performance was a thank you to fans who had helped the band’s single, ‘Killing in the Name’ reach number one over the winner of the U.K.’s X-factor the year before.  The turnout is absolutely incredible.  And the recorded performance is just as amazing.  Both the video and audio mix are above par.  Both help to translate the energy of both the audience and band to home viewers.  Yet again, it’s one more incredible piece that makes this set so much more powerful.   

A lot of thought and work went into assembling the final product that is RATM’s twentieth anniversary deluxe box set.  It includes the band’s original album both on CD and vinyl.  It also includes the band’s original demo tape that would lead to its landmark debut, as well as loads of live material on CD and DVD.  And let fans not forget about the included oversized photo book and double sided poster.  By the time fans have gone through this set, one of two things will happen.  It will leave fans hoping for the day that RATM returns in force with a brand new album or it will leave fans feeling fully satisfied at having a rather large piece of the band’s legacy.  Both reactions are great reactions to have as this deluxe box set is equally great for any of the band’s legions.  It’s available now in stores and online and makes for a very good gift for the RATM fan in anyone’s house.  It can be ordered online direct from the band’s official website, http://www.ratm.com/rage20/.  Fans can also get all the latest info from the band on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.comRATM.

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