Rocker’s Debut LP “Hard To Bleed” Is Hard To Hate

Courtesy:  Phill Rocker

Courtesy: Phill Rocker

Late last month Phill Rocker (yes, that’s really his name) released his debut album Hard To Bleed. The independently released album boasts fifteen tracks all of which are a good fit for any fan of big riffs and even bigger hair. From start to finish Rocker exhibits influences from the likes of Judas Priest, Poison, Ozzy Osbourne, and so many others from that bygone era of rock. There are even some old school style power ballads thrown in for good measure to round out the record. The combination of those ballads and the album’s more up-tempo pieces makes Hard To Bleed a record that is hard to hate.

Phill Rocker’s debut album Hard To Bleed is a record that is hard to hate. Yes, that bad pun was fully intended. The fifteen-song record (there is also a deluxe edition that includes two bonus songs) is so hard to hate because over the course of its roughly sixty-seven minute run time it offers rock purists plenty to appreciate what with its classic rock sound and equally interesting lyrical content. The album is anchored by the album’s up-tempo, near mid-point ‘Burning in the Fire.’ It has already been noted that the songs featured in this record boast a noticeably old school rock sound. The sound in question takes listeners back to the days of big riffs and even bigger hair. That is no different in the case of ‘Burning in the Fire.’ Rocker and company waste no time getting things moving in this song. They jump into it right from its opening measures. Drummer Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Velvet Revolver, Ozzy Osbourne) is on point in his time keeping here. The dual guitar attack of Ricardo Fernandes and Miguel Aguiar adds even more impact to the song. That is because it instantly conjures thoughts of classic Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, and even Judas Priest. Rocker’s own vocal delivery here boasts just as much power as those that have come before. The song’s musical side is just one part of what makes the song a solid anchor for Rocker’s new album. Rocker wrote the song’s lyrics as well as handling vocal duties. Rocker’s lyrics come across as a commentary of sorts as he sings in the song’s lead verse, “Can somebody hear this scream of mine/Is the world goin’ blind/Hard to carry on/Without wiseman guidance/Can’t see/Nothing but dreams of foregone times/Facing the final frontier/I’ve faced this road before/Innocence calms down/Before the storm/The hurt I know is true.” Later in the song’s run Rocker asks, “Will I/Who else can I call/What’s done is done/It’s written in the stars.” In examining the song in whole Rocker comes across as making a statement about staying strong even in the most uncertain times with such lyrics. Of course that is just this critic’s own interpretation. It could be completely off the mark. Hopefully it isn’t. but the possibility is there. When that possibility is coupled with the song’s forward-driving musical content, the two together really build their own fire that will spread to listeners when they hear the song for themselves. Keeping that in mind, it is clear in the end why ‘Burning in the Fire’ is this record’s anchor. It is just one of the many songs in this album that can be cited as an example of what makes Rocker’s debut album hard to hate. The ballads that are included in this album do just as much to make it worth at least one listen. That is exemplified even later in the album’s run in the form of the bass-driven ballad ‘How Does It Feel.’

‘Burning in the Fire’ is a solid anchor for Phil Rocker’s debut album. That is thanks to the combination of its classic rock-influenced sound and its equally thought-provoking lyrical content. As solid as it is in the grand scheme of the record it is only one example of what makes it a *rock* solid record. ‘How Does It Feel’ is another good example of what makes Rocker’s new album worth hearing. Unlike ‘Burning in the Fire’ this song is a classic ballad style composition. From Rocker’s own vocal delivery to Ricardo Fernandes’ gentler melody to [Brian] Tichy’s own work behind the kit, this song is a direct throw back to the power ballads of the late 80s and early 90s. In regards to its lyrical content, the song’s lyrics will have listeners just as engaged. Rocker writes in this song, “This conspiracy doesn’t help to see my destiny/Fighting this battle/I’m more than you can be/Psycho maniacs/Rule what you can/Ask for what you need/That’s where I begin/Straight to the unknown.” This comes across as someone dealing with some inner personal issues. And the song’s chorus would seem to hint even more at that as Rocker writes, “Paranoia/In a troubled mind/Agonized by a wounded heart/Self-inflicted victim/In this unfair world/Is it real/What’s going on/How does it feel to walk away/How does it feel to taste the pain/How does it feel to go away/One more day.” The song’s final verse is just as intriguing as Rocker writes about a figure suffering from a number of emotional issues that have essentially crippled said figure. It is definitely an interesting piece that is certain to leave listeners talking just as much as ‘Burning in the Fire.’ Audiences can hear the song for themselves now via Rocker’s official website at http://www.phillrocker.com. It’s just one more example of what makes this record a record worth hearing at least once. It still is not the final example of what makes the album stand out. The album’s opener, ‘Wasted Generation (In Me) is one more example of what makes Hard To Bleed hard to hate.

Phil Rocker offers quite a bit for rock purists in his debut album; so much so that the album proves rather hard to hate. That is obvious in the album’s hard rock anchor ‘Burning in the Fire’ and its polar opposite ‘How Does It Feel.’ While both songs are clear examples of what makes this record worth hearing they are not the only songs that could be cited as examples of the record’s strengths. ‘Wasted Generation (In Me),’ the album’s opener, is one more of the album’s strengths. Much like ‘Burning in the Fire’ Rocker and his fellow musicians waste little time getting things going here. There is a little bit more set up here but very little at the most. Luckily for listeners it isn’t one of those “slow boil” setups that takes its time building up to the song’s real body. Far too many bands today take that route. And it is anything but original or enjoyable. Keeping that in mind, the overall musical composition of ‘Wasted Generation (In Me),’ by itself makes the song both an enjoyable work in itself and an equally solid first impression for Rocker. The song’s lyrical content is just as important to its overall composition as its musical side. Rocker writes in the song’s second verse, “Confused and alone/Left on my own/I can’t find a place to rest/My mind’s so stressed/In between now and then/Yeah, here I am/I feel that I am always somewhere.” He goes on to write, “Come and have a look/Seek what you want/Come and have a look/Seek what you need/Come and have a look/You will find/A wasted generation in me.” The song feels, at least in regards to its lyrical content, as if it comes from the point of someone in a difficult emotional spot. It is almost as if the figure in this song is looking back on certain events of the past and comparing those events to the present, thus leading to the revelations presented here. What is really interesting about all of this is that when set against the song’s musical content there is quite a separation between the two. One would expect considering the song’s lyrical content that this song’s musical content would not have as much fire as it does. Yet somehow in its own way it proves to work just as well alongside that content. Because it does (and surprisingly so) it proves in the end why it is yet another solid first impression for Rocker and another example of what makes his debut worth the listen. Together with the previously noted songs, all three offerings show collectively that not only is this record just worth the listen but they also make this record hard to hate. They are not the only songs that could be used to prove that argument either. There are twelve other songs include in this record that could be cited in making both arguments. Audiences can hear every one of those songs for themselves when they order Hard To Bleed for themselves.

Hard To Bleed is a good first effort from Phill Rocker. The album proves this time and again throughout the course of its fifteen songs and sixty-seven minutes. From the hard rocking anchor that is ‘Burning in the Fire’ to the more melodic classic ballad style ‘How Does It Feel’ to the equally solid opener ‘Wasted Generation (In Me)’ there is plenty for any purist rocker to enjoy. That includes the other dozen songs not directly noted here. All things considered Hard To Bleed proves in the end to be a good first effort from Phill Rocker and an album that is both worth hearing at least once and in turn hard to hate. It can be ordered online now via Rocker’s official Bandcamp website at http://phillrocker.bandcamp.com/releases. More information on Hard To Bleed is available online now along with music videos, news, and more at:

Website: http://www.phillrocker.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhillRockerMusic

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Armoury Records Gives Sherinian’s Latest Solo Effort A Proper Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle Rock Entertainment

Every year, consumers see any number of albums re-issued from a variety of artists, groups, and bands. The reasons for those re-issues are as varied as the re-issues themselves. It goes without saying that among that annual mass of music, some of it is worth the purchase, while some of it is not as worthwhile. Keyboardist Derek Sherinian saw all of his solo releases re-issued this week. Those albums are among the re-issues that are worth purchasing. This is especially the case for those that are long-time fans of his music. Sherinian proved throughout each of his solo releases that he was just as good on his own as he was with any of the bands and artists with whom he had already worked over the course of his career. One of the best examples of that talent is his 2009 release, Molecular Heinosity.

Molecular Heinosityis the fifth and most recent of Sherinian’s solo releases. As with his previous four solo releases, this record is largely an instrumental release. The sole song on this album that includes any lyrics is one of two pieces he recorded with long-time friend and Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde. The song in question is ‘So Far Gone.’ Audiences will also be interested to note that Brian Tichy joins Sherinian on this track. Tichy has also played drums for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, and Zakk WYlde on Wylde’s 199 release Pride& Glory. Most recently, Tichy played with the hard rock supergroup Something Unto Nothing. So it goes without saying that there is a certain level of familiarity between the trio. And it shows in this song, too. The trio–along with fellow musicians Tina Guo (cello) and Tony Franklin (fretless bass)–come together to make this one of the album’s best pieces. Wylde proves once again on this song why he is one of the most revered guitarists in the music business. And Tichy’s timekeeping is rock solid despite the various time signature changes throughout the song. Sherinian’s work on the keys is not to be ignored, either. Whether by himself, partnered with Tina Guo’s performance on cello or even the semi-call and response with Wylde in the song’s bridge, Sherinian shows time and again in this song why he is such a sought after musician even after so many decades in the business. This isn’t the only point at which he exhibits such talent on this record. Another of the album’s high points comes in the album’s second track, titled ‘Ascension.’

‘Ascension’ is one of this album’s high points especially in that it boasts something of a similarity to the music he wrote with his former band mates in Dream Theater. To be even more precise, it sounds stylistically like the music that he wrote with his now ex-band mates for the band’s 1997 album Falling Into Infinity.  What is most interesting of all in this song is just how much is going on within the context of the song’s near three-minute run time.  That’s right.  This song comes in at less than three minutes in length.  To be more exact, it clocks in at two minutes and fifteen seconds.  That’s pretty short.  Yet, the way that it gradually builds, from start to finish makes it so interesting.  Making it even more interesting is what would appear to be Sherinian mimicking a guitar part with his keyboard in this song.  If that is indeed the case, he is to be even more highly commended.  That’s because that part could easily pass as a guitar.  And it shows even more his understanding of and appreciation for his instrument.  The song’s musical effect overall shows his knowledge of music and his talent just as much.  All of that together makes this song all the more enjoyable.

The songs that comprise Molecular Heinosity each have their own musical identity.  Collectively, they make the entire album one that any fan of Sherinian will enjoy.  Now that it has been re-issued courtesy of Armoury Records, the music is just part of the album’s success.  Just as important to this re-issue is the new companion booklet.  Most people don’t pay too much attention to the liner notes that come with albums in their physical form.  But as audiences will see in the album’s new liner notes, there’s plenty to take in.  This album for instance gives listeners a bio of sorts on Sherinian and his career.  It goes all the way back to his days playing with Alice Cooper and Billy Idol as well as a little surprise background on his departure from Dream Theater.  This critic was surprised to learn that he didn’t leave Dream Theater, but was in fact let go from the band.    Along with the semi-career bio, Armoury Records also included background notes from Sherinian on a handful of songs.  That background info gives extra insight into said songs.  It’s too bad that more bands, artists, and musicians don’t do this.  It’s one more reason that the physical object will never be fully replaced by the digital.  Little things like background notes on songs as art of the liner notes serve to enhance one’s listening experience.  And this album is no exception to that rule.  The bonus liner notes and bio included in this new re-issue are wonderful compliments to the album’s music.  Together, they make the whole product again, one that any fan of Derek Sherinian will want to add to their library especially if they do not already own this record.  It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Derek Sherinian’s official website at http://www.dereksherinian.com/merchandise.htm.  More information on this and other releases from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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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