Friedman Proves Again To Be One Of Rock’s Elite With New LP

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Prosthetic Records recently re-issued famed guitarist Marty Friedman’s 2009 and 2011 records, Tokyo Jukebox I and II in a double disc set for his fans.  The recent release marked the first time that these two albums had ever been released stateside.  Fans know of Friedman’s work with the likes of Megadeth.  But how many know of his abilities on his own?  That question is answered loud and clear with this recently released double disc set.  The aptly titled album presents quite a bit of material that sounds like it came right from a Japanese Anime feature film.  Though, it does also offer heavier material such as its relentless opener, ‘Tsume Tsume Tsume.’  What’s so interesting about this song is that rather than just being one song, it actually splits itself into two separate movements within its near five and a half minute run time.  It goes from being a thrashing, speed metal opus to a slower, heavier work that will leave listeners breathless by the song’s end before moving into the first of the album’s more anime favoring songs in ‘Gift.’

‘Gift’ sounds just like a work that could have come right out of the likes of Dragonball Z or a similar anime work.  Any listener who has any knowledge of Japanese features will be able to hear it, too.  Even those who are less initiated into the world of anime will be able to hear it simply by closing their eyes and taking in the song.  The album continues in this fashion in the album’s next handful of songs before finally leaning more towards a mainstream sound in the much more subdued acoustic song, ‘Romance No Kamisama.’  Friedman truly shows his talents here proving that just as he can shred with the best of the industry’s guitarists, he can play just as amazingly with a slower song.  As the old adage states, anyone can play fast.  But it takes a true musician to be able to play slow.  That being the case, Friedman shows here that he definitely is a true musician.  The addition of some very gentle piano runs and what sounds like a flute add so much more emotion to the song right up to its fading final moments.

The second half of Tokyo Jukebox Vol. 1 & 2 movies back in the direction of Friedman’s heavier side through all five of its tracks.  The opener, ‘Yeah! Mecha Holiday’ does lean more toward the vein of something from an anime feature.  But it somehow manages to walk the line, balancing that side of the music with a more mainstream sound.  Even more interesting about the song is the guitar break late in the song.  Instead of being metal, Friedman tosses in his own take on a jazz/fusion sound, believe it or not.  It really makes for an interesting listen. 

Just as much of an interesting listen is Friedman’s take on Pachelbel’s Canon in D in ‘Canon A La Koto.’  The introduction of an Asian element and Friedman’s guitar work makes this a piece that would amaze even the members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  It doesn’t even run a full two minutes.  It comes up just shy of that.  But in that time, it proves to be one of the shining gems of this combo release as does the powerhouse ballad style song that follows, ‘I Love You.’  Friedman expertly captures the emotion of someone newly in the bonds of love in this opus.  To make another comparison, anyone who is familiar with Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci will appreciate this song as the similarity to Petrucci’s guitar work is evident here.  It makes for yet another high point to an album that is one of the best examples to date of Marty Friedman’s talents.  Tokyo Jukebox Vol. 1 & 2 is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Prosthetic Records store at http://www.indiemerch.com/prostheticrecords/item/16661.

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TSO Goes Back To Its Past On New EP

Courtesy:  Atlantic Records

Courtesy: Atlantic Records

Trans Siberian Orchestra is back at it again.  It’s been over fifteen years since this famed melodic power rock band first turned the world of Christmas music on its ear with its blend of classical, rock, and holiday sounds.  And it’s been eight years since the band’s last holiday themed release, The Lost Christmas Eve (2004).  Now, the band has returned to form after the release of its most recent album, Night Castle with the release of its new EP, Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night).

TSO’s new EP offers fans four new songs and one that revisits an old classic and updates it at the same time.  That track is the EP’s title track.  Long-time fans of TSO will instantly recognize the band’s song ‘Queen Of The Winter Night’ in this song.  The change here though is that it has been mixed in with the final movement of Vivaldi’s legendary ‘Four Seasons’ opus.  Obviously, going back in time for this song has and will continue to divide the band’s legions.  But adding in new material makes for an interesting musical reboot of sorts.   

The EP’s opener, ‘Winter Palace’ is the perfect first impression for this new release.  Its ominous piano based intro will instantly grab listeners and keep their attention throughout the course of the song’s near four minute run time.  It’s the song’s buildup from the first bars to the sudden harder edged rock sound that makes it such a powerful first song.  It will instantly conjure thoughts of the band’s breakthrough hit, ‘Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24’ with its overall tone.  And its transition into the EP’s title track adds even more power to the overall general effect of this new release.

The EP’s third track, ‘I Had a Memory’ is just as…well…memorable as song as anything that the band has released over the course of its “Christmas Trilogy.”  This one will instantly conjure thoughts of ‘Faith Noel’ also from the band’s previous Christmas album, The Lost Christmas Eve.  Fans will recall that after the song’s initial slower opening “A” section, the tempo picks up in its “B” section.  The overall sound here even goes to more of a rock based sound.  A side by side comparison of the two songs will surely show the similarity.  While the band obviously looked to its roots for this piece, it can’t be said that the band directly ripped itself off.  But the influence of its previous record is undoubtedly there in this song. 

The influence of the band’s previous works is evident even as it moves into the EP’s penultimate track, ‘Someday.’  Stylistically, its emotional, almost folksy sound is similar to that of certain material from the band’s debut 1996 album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories.  What’s different here though, is the song’s lyrical side.  Lyrically, it is a tribute on the part of TSO founder and singer Paul O’ Neill to his parents sung by vocalist Tim Hockenberry.  Hockenberry’s haunting vocal style won’t leave a single eye dry after hearing singing here, “So I wrote these words/And I hope they last/For the years have come/And the years have passed/Think of all they gave/Think of all the debt/But can’t find a way/To repay them yet/For the days still come/And the debt still mounts/And do words unsaid/Ever really count/But sometimes still/In the dead of night/I can see them there/In the pale moonlight/I am trying/And I don’t know how/And I don’t know when/But I’ll have to tell them/Someday.”  It’s not just Hockenberry’s vocals that will move listeners in this emotional piece, either.  The music makes for a fitting compliment to Hockenberry’s gritty and almost mournful vocals in this song.  Together, they make one more highlight to the EP.  It’s a song that will leave even the strongest person at least a little teary eyed.

TSO’s new EP closes out with the gentle and equally emotional vocals of singer Georgia Napolitano on ‘Time You Should Be Sleeping.’  Yet again, TSO has reached back into its bag of tricks here as its obvious this song was influenced at least some part by the band’s song, ‘Dream Child’ from its 1998 album, ‘The Christmas Attic.’  Napolitano’s vocals are so powerful in their gentility, proving once more the old adage that less is more is very true.  Listeners can almost see this loving mother figure holding her young child, smiling down on said child as she sings, “I can see you breathing/Know that I am near you/Feel the evening whisper/In gentle sighs/To close your eyes until tomorrow/Childhood dreams are always new/And when you are there I’ll follow/And believe that my whole life is…/You.”  If this final moment doesn’t send chills and draw tears once more from listeners, then it’s anyone’s guess what would.  ‘Time You Should Be Sleeping’ doesn’t necessarily show any real Christmas themes.  But that aside, its beautiful lullaby style sound and lyrics make it the perfect counterpart to the EP’s opener, gently landing listeners on another musical shore after the journey taken from the EP’s other songs, thus closing one more impressive release from one of rock’s greatest and most talented bands around today.

Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via TSO’s online store at http://transsiberianorchestra.shop.bravadousa.com/.  It can also be picked up at the band’s shows as it tours the country in support of the new release and its most recently full length Christmas album, The Lost Christmas Eve.  To get a full list of tour dates and all the latest news from the band, audiences can go online to http://www.facebook.com/TSO or http://www.trans-siberian.com.

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