Built on Budokan – Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick is a unique band. They’re from the Midwest, yet they sound a little like a British pop band. They have elements of heavy rock/metal, 60s rock, pop, and a little punk in their music too. Rick Nielsen is known for his wild onstage antics and his flashy, crazy guitar collection, Robin Zander for his mysterious, sometimes-aloof mannerisms, Bun E. Carlos for his tight drumming on a sparse kit, and Tom Petersson for his 12-string bass. They have a loyal fan base and they’re still making albums today. With all of this said, Cheap Trick has really built their career on the back of one huge success, the live album At Budokan. I’m not saying anything here the band itself hasn’t said before. They know the importance of that album to their career. Their first three albums, Cheap Trick, In Color, and Heaven Tonight built a cult following of sorts. In Color is a masterpiece to me. They released At Budokan and it just blew up, sending Cheap Trick into superstardom. That album remains one of the all-time great live albums for me. Even with the release of At Budokan . . . the Complete Concert many years later, the original release of the album is still my favorite edition. It feels complete. It packs a punch. The tracks they chose, the production, all of it is intense. Most of the songs on it came off In Color. The complete concert has additional songs from the other albums.

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After At Budokan they released  Dream Police. The title track and Voices were pretty big hits. They were still riding high off the success of At Budokan and the Dream Police album was a really good album. Their next three albums, All Shook Up, One on One, and Next Position Please didn’t do so well from a singles standpoint, but they had a following from, once again, At Budokan, now aided by the success of Dream Police. It was enough to carry them through to the album Standing on the Edge, which threw off the minor hit Tonight It’s You. They did all right, though, even with just a minor hit on that album. Cheap Trick fans are loyal and we loved it. In fact, I loved everything they did. I still do.

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The next next album, The Doctor, didn’t do so well. It should have. There are a lot of catchy tunes on it. Again, though, Cheap Trick fans remained loyal and bought the album. Next up, Lap of Luxury. It was huge for them. Released in 1988, Lap of Luxury had a lot of great singles. The Flame was enough to elevate them to the top once again. They used some outside songwriters on the album, but the band remained involved in the writing process and the result was a really good set of Cheap Trick songs that added new Cheap Trick fans to the mix.

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There hasn’t been a successful album since Lap of Luxury, if your definition of “success” is hit singles. Cheap Trick, however,  isn’t a band that relies on singles for their success. They still make great albums and they still sell those albums. There are plenty of Cheap Trick fans, myself included. Once a Cheap Trick fan, always a Cheap Trick fan. That’s because the success they built on the back of At Budokan has been celebrated by Cheap Trick fans who are loyal to the band. My first Cheap Trick album was At Budokan, but I quickly bought the first three albums and have purchased every new Cheap Trick release since then. Why? Because Cheap Trick kicks ass. I’m not alone in that belief.

Find Cheap Trick Online:

Twitter: @cheaptrick
Instagram: @officialcheaptrick
Cheap Trick Facebook
Cheap Trick.com
Cheap Trick iTunes

Shredding with Stephanie

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Stephanie Bradley is a shred queen. Lately she’s been busy with her ESP endorsements, her with Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy camp, and a whole new business venture with her husband Steven Bradley, and lots more. Amidst all of the chaos, I was lucky enough to get some time to interview her. Here it is:

Carl Hose: Stephanie, I’m happy to get to interview you for Playing the Muse. You’ve been busy as hell. You’re married, so those who don’t know it, Stephanie Bradley is your name now. Before that you were Stephanie Pickard. Same shredder, though. First, I have to address your use of the word “shred.” You’ve practically invented a whole dictionary of words incorporating that. It’s your signature. When did you start doing that and what are a couple of your favorites? I think you do it for every holiday.

Stephanie Bradley: Hahaha oh my gosh… I have been doing that for an incredibly long time now… I’m not sure when it started but it’s been years! I just always loved shred music and I thought it was so funny how the word fits into so many other words. A few of my favorites have to be inshredible instead of incredible… I’ve used shrediquette when teaching, and it may not be the most creative one, but the good old 4th of July “Shred, white and blue” gets me every time too!

CH: When did you start playing guitar and what was your first band?

SB: I started playing guitar when I was 14. I always felt like that was late, but when I started playing guitar, I just never put it down. I became immediately obsessed. I played in a bunch of different projects as a “hired gun” but I would say the majority of my guitar career has been teaching and doing my own thing.

CH: Who are some of your biggest influences?

SB: My biggest influences are kinda all over the place. When I first started playing, it went from Nirvana to Hendrix/Cream/Zeppelin to Children of Bodom and then I found Instrumental Shred guitar music. That’s when I really think I found my biggest influences. I was into everything from Paul Gibert/Racer X to Vai to Cacophony and more. These days I really like metal music that incorporates symphonic sounds but still stays really heavy and of course has lots of shred guitar!

CH: Did you have to overcome any of the prejudices associated with girls playing guitar or was that idea before your time?

SB: I think we all always are, but I do have to say that I think a lot of girls, and myself included, feel like we don’t know any other way since we’ve always been on this side of it. I try to just remember that I see no difference so who cares!

CH: You’ve been busy. I see you do endorsements, you’ve been involved with the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy camp . . . . Talk a about the products you endorse and how the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp came about. You also make the rounds at NAMM, right?

SB: Yes! I am very proud to be an ESP endorsee! They have just been so awesome to me and amazing to work with. It’s really cool to have a company you truly would love regardless also treat you so well! Not to mention my rep at ESP actually introduced me to my husband Steven! So, I mean  . . . what more could you ask for?! Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp was so much fun. I got connected to them through my wonderful, extremely talented friend Gretchen Menn. Gretchen is an incredible guitarist and person and has been such a light in my life! She recommended me and from there I jumped on to the Nashville Camp with Journey, Tesla, Nuno Bettencourt and more. I also got to teach at Vai Academy last summer and that was truly amazing! The whole vibe of that camp and everyone involved is a true testament to Steve Vai himself! He played with every single person there including me and it was really an incredible experience. I’ll be teaching at John Petrucci’s camp and Paul Gilbert’s this summer as well!

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CH: You did Billy Ray Cyrus’ website. Do you still do that? Also, I know you and your husband started a business. What is the name of the business and what do you do?

SB: My husband actually designed and maintains Billy’s website and together we own a digital/social media company name after our wedding date: 9/9 (wwww.9slash9.com). It’s been a lot of fun and a really interesting way for us to mix all of our different life/work experiences. Steven is the founder of a metal band called iwrestledabearonce and has an incredible background of touring with his band as well as Diplo, Major Lazer and more, and he is a great producer/writer, and just incredibly smart! I have a very random background of shred guitar, video demo work, teaching lessons, and working in studios so it’s been really cool to blend all of those things together!

CH: In what ways do you and Steven collaborate musically? What’s it like being married to another guitar player? I can imagine the house is rocking a lot of the time.

SB: Steven and I collaborate musically all the time! And I do have to say, not just because he’s my husband, writing and jamming with him has challenged me the most and in a great way! Steven’s writing is super technical but also really interesting. I feel like I used to be a little bit more safe till we started working on music together. Not putting myself down, but it was really cool to jam with someone that thinks so outside of the box because if you’re gonna have a solo follow that… it better be interesting! Steven also produces and creates the backing tracks for all the holiday videos we do together and helps produce all the songs I put out. I feel VERY lucky! I love that we both play! I think for us, we both like heavy music but we also both sound way different from on another so it makes it a lot of fun. I also think no matter who you’re jamming with… it should always be fun and not a competition. That’s a sure-fire way to make it not fun and to not grow from the experience.

CH: Talk about some of your favorite current projects and what you’ve got coming up. What about an album?

SB: I can’t really talk about some of them BUT the ones I can talk about are the John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert camps. I am so excited to be a part of these and to work with Dreamcatcher Events again! They are truly incredible and I really did have the best time at Vai Academy, so I’m looking forward to these! The Shrapnel aspect of Paul’s camp totally has the shred kid in me way too excited too! I am working on more and more new music which I am really excited about, and I just released two new videos for ESP that I wrote original songs for just based off the guitars they sent me! I have so much fun demoing their guitars and am so glad to get to do it! For the guitar nerd in me… why not get to play as many ESPs as humanly possible… I love them all! AND it totally pushes me to think differently.

CH: Do you write a lot of songs? If so, what is your process like. Do you just record them as they come around, do you work them out in advance?

SB: It’s always different for me. If it’s one of the funny holiday videos we do where we make metal version of classic songs, then of course the song is actually already written but I have to find a cool way to sneak some shred in! If it’s one of mine, I either write the melody or solo first and then I have to find a way to support it rhythmically that feels right. Or sometimes I get the foundation of the song set, then I just jam on it over and over until something I like sticks and then I break that down. I do most of my writing either with a loop pedal and practice amp or at my studio computer recording it all.

CH: Thank you so much for talking with me, Stephanie.

Find and follow Stephanie Bradley online:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/shredanie
YouTube: www.youtube.com/stephaniebradley
Facebook: www.facebook.com/shredanie
Twitter: www.twitter.com/shredanie

Playing the Muse (Music Through My Ears)

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What does the title Playing the Muse (Music Through My Ears) mean? The first part of the phrase, “playing the muse,” is something I came up with as the title of a song I wrote. It can be read as a shortened version of the phrase “playing the music,” but it has another meaning. You’ve heard songwriters and other creative people talk about waiting for inspiration, or waiting on the muse, a mythological being that inspires the creation of something special. I don’t believe in waiting for the muse. In other words, I don’t let the muse play me, I play the muse. The second part of the title, “music through my ears,” is just that. This blog is my way of examining the music that has inspired me and sharing it with others who love music. We all hear music differently. I’m sharing with you the music through my ears.

Whether you are a songwriter, play in a band, or just a fan who loves to listen to music, my goal with this blog is to share the magic of music with you. Sometimes I might veer off course and write about something that isn’t directly music related, but that’s only because I do have other interests outside of music. We all do. There’s nothing wrong with sharing those experiences too, but for me, at least, it always comes back to music.

As a songwriter, there’s always noise inside my head. I’m either listening to some of my favorite music, singing to myself, or writing my own songs. The world would be a quiet place for me without the music. Much too quiet. I like the noise in my head and I’ll keep it, thank you very much.

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I started thinking about seriously about music when I was six. I vividly remember sitting in the back of a car, going down the road, and the song Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)  by John Fred & His Playboys came on the radio. This was 1967. I loved the way that song made me feel and I listened intently, trying to figure out what the hell he was singing about. There were other songs around that time too. I would try to understand the lyrics and even compare the way the songs were structured. I didn’t actually think of it as structure at the time, but that’s what I was listening for. The lyrics, however, were always the most important thing to me. I wanted to know what they were singing about. What was I supposed to take away from the song?

Flash forward to about 1973. I wrote what I was sure was going to be my first smash hit, Catchin’ Angels. That’s really what I called it. I wrote it on a guitar I didn’t even know how to tune. The guitar belonged to my mom’s boyfriend. My musical influences at the time were singer/songwriters of the 70s. I didn’t think in terms of bands or specific artists yet. I just paid attention to songs that I liked. There were, of course, artists that had a plenty of great songs I listened frequently listened to. There were lots of Rod Stewart and Jim Croce songs that inspired me. I couldn’t get enough of them.

The 70’s were a musical goldmine for me. I listened and absorbed all of it. There were some fantastic songs in the 70’s. One of my favorites, from 1972, was Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl), written by Elliot Lurie and performed by Looking Glass. That song has everything a good song should have. It tells a cohesive story, has a killer rhyme scheme, and a melody that sticks with you. It’s still one of my favorite songs of all time. That wasn’t the only one, though. Take a look at the Billboard Top 100 charts from any year during the 70’s and you’ll see what inspired me. There’s James Taylor’s Fire and Rain from 1970. Don McLean’s American Pie and Elvis Presley singing Burning Love are two from 1971 that I couldn’t get enough of. I also loved We’re an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad) and You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) from 1973. That same year also produced Shambala (Three Dog Night), Midnight Train to Georgia (Gladys Knight and the Pips), Crocodile Rock (Elton John), and Dobie Gray singing Drift Away. Are you kidding me? How could you not be inspired? Songs from the 70’s are like no other. Radar Love (Golden Earring, 1974), Smokin’ in the Boys Room (Brownsville Station, 1974), Philadelphia Freedom and Island Girl (Elton John, 1975), Rhinestone Cowboy (Glen Campbell, 1975), and Sister Golden Hair (America, 1975) are a few more nuggets of musical magic from the decade that started it all for me.

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It was around 1975 when I started paying attention to artists more, not just songs. I recognized a lot of the same artists were putting out stuff that inspired me. I got into buying records by the artists who made the songs I loved listening to, which got me started listening to the deep cuts, not just the hits. I became pretty all-inclusive about the artists I liked. I’m still that way. If I really like an artist, I can’t just have one or a few of their albums. I need everything they’ve ever recorded, even hits packages. These days I don’t buy hits packages unless there are “extras” like unreleased demos, alternate takes, etc. There are too many bands putting out the same greatest hits over and over.

One morning in 1976, a friend of mine rushed into my house before school with a 45 record, telling me he had something I had to hear. He put the record on the turntable and let it rip. It was Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak. That opening chord and driving riff had me hooked. A year later, I was hanging at out another friend’s house. He was an older guy named Terry, who I thought was cool because he worked at a record store called Peaches. The store actually stocked their albums in peach crates. Terry had his record collection in a bunch of the crates he’d “borrowed” from the store. I went through his collection, which was primarily stuff from the UK (mostly British). He had Rod Stewart albums, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc. He wasn’t into U.S. bands at all, which didn’t really make sense to me, but he still had some cool albums. As I was browsing his collection, I came across the album Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy. I recognized the title Jailbreak as the one I’d heard a year earlier, and I recognized The Boys Are back in Town from the radio. I stared at the front and back cover of the album as I listened to it from start to finish. I especially liked the pictures of the guys in the band on back, and Phil Lynott in particular. He looked so cool. Thin Lizzy became my favorite band right then, and they remain so to this day. I’ve purchased all their official albums in every format, as well as all of the unofficial releases as I could find. There’s never been a band that hit me quite the same way that Thin Lizzy has.

A lot of the bands I discovered in my teen years came from my mom. She had great taste in music and a lot of 8-track tapes. She also drove a Trans-Am, which she was crazy enough to let me drive from time to time. There were a couple of minor mishaps involving her beloved car, a girl, and rain, but I’ll leave that alone for now. When I was lucky enough to drive her car, I listened to her tapes, discovering bands she loved first and that went on to become lifelong favorites of mine. Among them are Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, the Eagles, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Other bands I discovered that blew me away include Boston and REO Speedwagon. To this day, the first Boston album and REO’s You Can Tune a Piano but You Can’t Tuna Fish never fail to make me remember cruising with the top down on a summer day.

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I got into KISS in about ’76. They were one of my earliest influences. The way they looked, the theatrics, and the songs. I loved it all. I bought every KISS album and all of the memorabilia I could get my hands on. That’s where I learned how to go big or go home, and that attitude was only intensified by my love for another 70’s icon, the Motor City Madman himself, Ted Nugent. The first Nugent album I heard was Free-for-All and it was a non-stop love affair with Ted Nugent from that point on.

In 1979 I discovered one of my favorite songwriters ever. His name is John Mellencamp, He was still John Cougar then. His album, simply called John Cougar, played a fundamental role in my learning how to play bass. It was one of the five albums I practiced bass to constantly. John Cougar was a great album with songs I could really understand and could feel in my soul. It didn’t take me long to wear out the record, then I bought the cassette, and finally the CD. Mellencamp has become a lifelong favorite.

In 1977 I heard a song on the radio that blew me away and further inspired my desire to write better songs. The song was Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. It was delivered by one of the most powerful voices I’d ever heard. The album was Bat out of Hell, the performer was Meat Loaf, and the songwriter was Jim Steinman. There’s not a better combination than Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman. The sheer intensity of Meat’s voice coupled with the epic lyrics, melodies, and harmonies of Jim’s songwriting just go together. It never fails to move me. Bat out of Hell is as relevant now as it ever was. From the explosive build-up of the opening song Bat out of Hell to the fading heartfelt notes of For Crying out Loud, Meat Loaf and Steinman’s Bat out of Hell is a masterpiece. I’d never heard anything like it at the time and I’ve never heard anything like it since.

Throughout the 70’s I continued to work on my songwriting, concentrating primarily on writing better lyrics. I still had no real grounding in music theory, but none of that mattered. I knew what I wanted when I wrote a song and I could play guitar, bass, and keyboards well enough to get it out. With each song I wrote, I heard my songs getting better. I was writing songs I was proud to be writing. That’s all I needed. It wasn’t until the early 80’s that I started to seriously study music theory, all while digging the birth of hair metal bands and all the other great music the 80’s offered.

I can’t do anything half way. When I’m in, I’m all the way in. I immerse myself. That’s what I did with music. I got a job at a sheet music store (St. Ann Music), owned by a jazz player and band leader named Bob Waggoner. I was fortunate enough to learn from Bob and his family, all of whom are accomplished musicians. They were then, and still are, wonderful, musical people who make up a big part of my early musical foundation. Working at the music store, especially with people who had such a rich musical background, allowed me to broaden my knowledge of music and experience different types of music than I was used to hearing, including jazz, big band, marching band, choir, and classical music. It was all ingredients for the musical stew I was cooking.

Working at a music store gave me access to lots of musical material. I set out to learn everything I could about writing and playing music. I had sheet music, instruction books, theory books, and a family of talented musicians who helped guide me. Our customers included music teachers, conductors, choir directors, and people who played in bands of all types. It was the perfect environment for me and I soaked it all in. I learned how to read and write musical notation, I learned about scales and modes, I learned chord construction, I learned melody and harmony, and I kept working on playing bass, guitar, and keyboards. I’ve never become a virtuoso on any of those instruments, but I play well enough to write songs, and hell, I can even hold it together onstage when it’s time to rock.

It was around this same time I started a band called Storm Warning. I was the singer and occasional rhythm guitar player. There was also a lead guitar player, a bass player, and a drummer. As much as I loved rocking with those guys, I got my biggest thrill writing music. We were doing covers, and while it was fun, I wanted to do original songs. When I wasn’t playing with the band, I was working on writing new songs. We had a lot of fun as a band, but I think I got more out of writing, so we eventually all went our separate ways. Great times with those guys, though, and a valuable experience.

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Music makes me happy. I love writing songs. There’s really no better way to entertain or communicate with people. Think about it. Not everybody reads books, and while a lot of people watch movies, not everybody does. Music, on the other hand, is everywhere. Almost everybody has, does, or will listen to music. I write songs I want to hear, and in the process, I hope I write songs other people can enjoy. As a songwriter, I want to be heard. I obviously want people to listen to what I write, but more than that, I want to be able to make them feel better, entertain them, or maybe even give them food for thought. Songwriting is all about that and so much more. I appreciate those artists who’ve entertained and inspired me musically throughout my life. Part of paying them back is to carry on that rich musical history.

Follow me on Twitter: @Carlhose

Poison Me

I’ve been a Poison fan since the day their first album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, came out. I’ve taken a lot of flak about it from some of my “serious” rock buddies through the years, but I’ve never wavered. Now, let me clarify. When I first saw the cover of the album and all the make-up, I wondered if they were going to be a band I could get onboard with. Sure, lots of bands wore make-up in the 80s, but damn, these guys made up to the hilt. Not that there is now, or ever has been, anything wrong with guys in make-up. Whatever works, that’s how I see it. I heard Talk Dirty to Me on MTV, though, and that was all it took to convince me to give Poison a listen. I went out and bought Look What the Cat Dragged In and I’ve been hooked ever since.

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I’m going to be honest. The guys in my band thought I was nuts. They weren’t Poison fans and they were never going to be. That turned out not to be true. By the time the second album came out, the guys in my band were willing to give Poison a chance. For the first album, though, it was all me. I couldn’t get anybody on board. I didn’t care because I loved Look What the Cat Dragged In and I played it constantly. These guys were considered a “hair band” and classified as “glam metal” or “glam rock.” They’ve long since transcended those labels, but in the 80s, those were titles of honor.

What about the sound? A combination of catchy pop metal with great hooks and melodies you could sing all night (and day). Poison knew how to have fun then and they let it shine through in their music. Are they the greatest musicians in the world? I’m sure even they’d tell you there are more skilled musicians, but I’ll tell you this. These guys can write, play, and perform at a level that’s kept them alive through the decades. Look What the Cat Dragged In was, and still is, a fun record. Songs like the already-mentioned Talk Dirty to Me, I Want Action, and the title track, Look What the Cat Dragged In are fun songs. Add to that the mid-tempo ballad I Won’t Forget You and the lyrically inspired Cry Tough and you’ve got an awesome debut album. The rest of the songs hold up too, proving that Poison was going to be around for a while. MTV loved them.

The second album, Open Up and Say… Ahh!, came on like a freight train. I got my band to start playing Every Rose Has Its Thorn. I’ve probably sung that one has many times as Poison has. Other great songs on the record include Love on the Rocks, Nothin’ but a Good Time, Look but You Can’t Touch, and of course, Fallen Angel. Again, the whole album holds up. I don’t think I’ve heard a Poison song I don’t like.

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The next album showed the band had more in them than just sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. The make-up started to fade away on the second album, and by the time they released Flesh & Blood, they were starting to cultivate a more focused rock image. There was a lot more of the blues incorporated on this album. Tracks like Swamp Juice (Soul-Oh) and Poor Boys Blues showcased the blues-based rock a little more obviously, but bits of it are present all over the album. There’s more straightforward rock sounds in great songs like Let It Play and Ride the Wind (and on lots of others too), plus you get the awesome Unskinny Bop and Somethin’ To Believe In Life Goes On, which showcase a more serious side to the band. In fact, from a lyrical standpoint, this album is a bit wider in scope.

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C.C. Deville wasn’t with Poison for the next album, Native Tongue. I wasn’t happy about that because C.C. is a great guitar player. He’s very melodic. Listen to his solos and how he weaves them around the melody. His replacement for the album was Richie Kotzen, who did a damn good job. I would have preferred to have C.C. stick around, but what came out on Native Tongue was even more rooted in the blues-based rock sound.  I don’t think the album had any singles that really did the kind of business Poison was used to doing, but the songs are great. Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice), Stand, and Body Talk are all stand-out tracks. Even without C.C., who once again I need to stress should have been there, there isn’t a bad song on the album. I enjoy it a lot.

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Richie Kotzen left the band after Native Tongue and Blues Saraceno entered the picture. He played guitar on two new tracks for the album Poison’s Greatest Hits: 1986–1996. The songs are Sexual Thing and Lay Your Body Down, two of my favorite Poison songs. He also played guitar on the new studio tracks for the next studio album, Crack a Smile… and More! In addition to the new songs, Crack and Smile and More! included the two songs Blues had recorded previously for Poison’s Greatest Hits: 1986–1996. Additionally, there were bonus tracks that included a couple of outtakes and demos with Blues and an outtake from when C.C. was in the band, as well as a couple of MTV Unplugged live recordings featuring the band with C.C.  Shut up and Make Love, Baby Gets Around a Bit, Doin’ As I Seen on My TV, and the previously released tracks are highlights of the Blues Saraceno studio tracks, but once again, the whole album is great, and the bonus tracks are pretty damn cool.

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The next album, Hollyweird, saw the return of C.C. Deville, thank you very much. That was a big enough deal on its own, but this album delivers. Hollyweird, Stupid, Stoned, and Dumb, Shooting Star (a continuation of Fallen Angel), and a nice cover of the Who’s Squeeze Box and Rockstar really stand out.

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What I really like about Poison is that the band pretty much writes all of the songs on their albums. There’s an occasional cover on studio albums, like Squeeze Box mentioned above and Your Mama Don’t Dance from Open Up and Say… Ahh! They also did an instrumental demo of the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen for the Open Up and Say… Ahh! album, but it didn’t get released until the 20th anniversary edition of Flesh & Blood. They put covers of Rock and Roll all Nite and We’re American Band on their The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock album and they did Cover of the Rolling Stone on their Crack a Smile… and More! album.

They also recorded an album of covers called Poison’d! It’s a great album where they do some kick ass songs you wouldn’t expect them to do, including Little Willy by Sweet, I Never Cry by Alice Cooper, Can’t You See by the Marshall Tucker Band, I Need To Know by Tom Petty, Just What I Needed by the Cars, and You Don’t Mess Around with Jim by Jim Croce. Poison’d! includes all of the covers they’d done previously (minus Cover of the Rolling Stone and God Save the Queen), but most of the album consists of brand new cover songs. It’s a really fun album.

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Poison’s live albums are great to listen to and their compilation albums usually include extra goodies like the cover songs I mentioned earlier, alternate takes, or new songs. It’s amazing to me that this band hasn’t really recorded that many studio albums, but they’ve managed to carve out a name in music history that most people are aware of. I’ve been to a few Poison concerts and I can tell you one thing; it’s a party. The audience sings on damn near every song, there’s dancing, there’s screaming, and there’s a good time to be had. Sure, I’ve had to endure some criticism for my support of Poison, but it’s worth it. The music is fun, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s just as good today as it was when it came out.

Official Poison Website
Official Poison Twitter
Official Poison Facebook
Official Bret Michaels Twitter
Official Rikki Rocket Twitter
Poison on Apple Music

Black Star Riders – Classic Rock for a New Generation

The first Black Star Riders album came out in 2013. The guys who’d been carrying on the Thin Lizzy legacy wanted to record new music, but they didn’t feel it would be right to record new music under the Thin Lizzy name. The guys in the band at the time consisted of Ricky Warwick (vocals, guitar), Scott Gorham (guitar), Damon Johnson (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass), and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums). They had been doing a great job of keeping the Thin Lizzy legacy alive. I’m a huge Thin Lizzy fan. I have been since the age of 16, which was in 1977. I haven’t stopped listening since, and even after we lost Phil, I tried to carry on with the guys who tried to carry on the Thin Lizzy name. They didn’t get it right until this lineup. These guys were worthy.

Still, an album of new music under the name Thin Lizzy wouldn’t have worked. I’m glad they knew it. I’m glad for two reasons. First, there would have been no respect for a new Thin Lizzy album without Phil, and second, we wouldn’t have gotten Black Star Riders. I’ve said this before, and some hardcore Thin Lizzy fans turn their noses up, but Black Star Riders is the natural evolution of Thin Lizzy. The band is Thin Lizzy without being Thin Lizzy. Let’s face it, we can’t have new Thin Lizzy. Black Star Riders is as close as we will ever get, and believe me, it’s pretty damn close. The songwriting is something Phil would be proud of. The performances are devastatingly great. That’s because the band, these days, primarily led by Ricky Warwick and Scott Gorham, are on point. Black Star Riders are Thin Lizzy without being Thin Lizzy. When I listen to my Thin Lizzy albums, I listen to my Black Star Riders right along beside them.

The first album, All Hell Breaks Loose (2013), blew me away. Songs like Bound for Glory,  Kingdom of the Lost, Kissin’ the Ground, and Hey Judas could have been Thin Lizzy songs. Phil Lynott could have and would have proudly recorded any of these songs, and with Ricky Warwick being Irish, he delivers the songs much the same way as Phil. They are brothers by design. Other songs on the album Hoodoo Voodoo and Blues Ain’t So Bad are just as good, although not as hook-laden. In fact, there isn’t a bad song on the record. Lyrically, these songs will keep any Thin Lizzy fan happy, and from a musical standpoint, the band is on point with every note they play. Great hooks, driving rhythms, brilliant melodies, and hard rock you can bite into.

allhell

I would have treasured that one album, but Black Star Riders have done something I didn’t think could be done these days. They’ve built a musical legacy for a new band that sounds like the classic rock we love. They have literally released an album every two years since 2013. They followed the first album with The Killer Instinct (2015), Heavy Fire (2017), and their latest, Another State of Grace (2019). I’ve bought every album and will continue buying as long as they put them out. At this rate, we’ll have a great Black Star Riders legacy in no time.

killerinstinct heavyfire anotherstate

Each of the three albums following the first album are just as good as the first. Great songs on every one of the Black Star Riders albums. A few of the standout tracks include The Killer Instinct, Finest Hour, Through the Motions, Gabrielle, When the Night Comes In, Dancing with the Wrong Girl, Testify to Say Goodbye, Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down, Another State of Grace, and Poisoned Heart. As with the first album, there isn’t a bad song to be found anywhere. Every Black Star Riders album is a great ride from start to finish.

The music industry has changed. We don’t often get the great stuff we did in the 70’s and 80’s. It just doesn’t work the same way it did then. Black Star Riders seems to be spitting in the face of all that. They are making albums like albums were made when music was still being made by bands that wrote songs together, rehearsed together, and did shows. They record, they tour their asses off, and they record again. That ain’t an easy path to take and certainly not one that a lot of bands take today. The music is fresh yet reminiscent of the classic rock we love, the guys in the band love what they’re doing, and they are giving us we were missing. This is a relevant rock ‘n’ roll entity unto itself.

Black Star Riders isn’t Thin Lizzy. Get that out of your head. They are, however, as close to another Thin Lizzy as we are ever going to get. Black Star Riders shows its Thin Lizzy influence while giving us something original. Yes, they are the natural evolution of Thin Lizzy. Ricky Warwick and Scott Gorham see to that. They do it with love, passion, and respect for the past while looking to the future. It doesn’t get better than that.

Black Star Riders Online
Black Star Riders Twitter
Ricky Warwick Twitter
Scott Gorham Twitter
Black Star Riders Facebook
Black Star Riders Apple Music

Killer Dwarfs – A Band Apart

Canada has produced some of the finest fucking music in the history of music. I look back over my many years as a songwriter, or even as a fan just digging the music, and a lot of the bands that have inspired me are Canadian bands. In 1986 I saw an MTV video for a song called Keep the Spirit Alive. Funny video and one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. I mean, could you ask for a more uplifting, positive lyric? I fell in love with the song instantly. Yes, fell in love with the song. The guys probably get tired of hearing about Keep the Spirit Alive, but when you have an anthem that special, it doesn’t go away.

The band was Killer Dwarfs, and with a name like Killer Dwarfs, they had to be good. I immediately bought the album, Stand Tall, and the whole thing kicked ass. Everybody said Killer Dwarfs was metal, but what I heard was a great hard rock band that had hooks, melodies, riffs, and everything else that makes a band shine. If you went based on the video, you’d say these guys were just goofing around, but one listen to Stand Tall and you knew right away they took the music serious. Not too serious, mind you. They didn’t have sticks up their asses or anything. They knew how to have a great time, as evidenced by the video, but the music isn’t a joke. The singing is top notch and unique; the guitar, the bass, and the drums are handled by musicians who can hang with the best of them; the songs are some of the best I’ve ever heard, and a definite refreshing change from a lot of the stuff going that was going on at that time.

standtall

It didn’t take me long to start telling all my friends about a new band I’d “discovered.” Imagine that, I “discovered” Killer Dwarfs. I soon got my hands on their self-titled first album and  found it to be just as enjoyable as Stand Tall. I’ve bought every Killer Dwarf album they’ve come out with, including Wireless by Russ Dwarf, the band’s lead singer. That’s a beautiful piece of work in which Russ does some fantastic acoustic stuff with classic Killer Dwarf songs. I listen to it a lot.

wireless

Before I go any further, let me clear something up. All of the guys in the band have adopted the last name Dwarf. They aren’t related and that isn’t really their last name. The original lineup of the band was Russ Graham (vocals), Darrell Millar (drums), Bryce Trewin (guitar), and Angelo Fodero (bass). The latter two left after the first album and were replaced by Mike Hall (guitar) and Ron Mayer (bass). This classic lineup recorded three albums together, Stand Tall, Big Deal, and Dirty Weapons. Gerry Finn replaced Mike Hall on guitar in 1992, just before the release of Method to the Madness. The classic lineup came back together for an awesome live offering called Reunion of Scribes: Live 2001 – 2002. That album was a treat for me. The band sounds great live, and their live shows are about as good a time as you’ll get going to a concert. The current lineup, I believe, of Killer Dwarf consists of Russ, Darrell, Gerry, and a new bass player, Johnny Fenton. At least, that’s the lineup on their latest awesome live album Live No Guff!

reunionscribes live no guff

Now that I’ve got the Dwarf name covered and the band members checked off, let me talk a little bit about the songs. For me, it’s always about the songs. Their last studio album, Start @ One, touched on a bootleg album that circulated for a while called Just Another Day. Some of the songs from this bootleg appeared on Start @ One. Darrell Dwarf, when I asked him about Just Another Day,  said,  “We recorded it after Method to the Madness, when the grunge era hit. It never got picked up and sat in a studio vault. We re-visited it and released it in modern times (2013). A DWaRf time capsule.”

justanotherday startone

I’d love to do an authorized biography of the band that focuses on the albums and on the songs. I’d really like to dig into their writing process, the rehearsal process, the recording process. I think it would be great to talk to the guys to get the stories behind the songs. As much research as I do online, finding out a lot of these details is hard. There’s not a lot out there that gives a lot of insight into how they guys work, and honestly, I think a comprehensive book about their music is needed. For now, however, let’s take a look at some of the songs a little closer. I’m just going to be random here and discuss a couple of the tracks that really stand out, but to fully experience these guys, you have to buy the albums. There’s not a disappointing album in the batch.

One of the common threads in a lot of Killer Dwarf songs is empowerment. These guys are a walking positive statement. Keep the Spirit Alive from Stand Tall and and Doesn’t Matter from Dirty Weapons are two of the most positive, uplifting songs I’ve ever heard. These guys tell you that it’s possible to get what you want in life if you fight for it. They tell you that nobody can bring you down if you don’t allow it. If you feel bad about yourself, there are plenty of Killer Dwarf songs that will tell you how special you are and why you shouldn’t let anybody tell you otherwise. That’s the magic of Killer Dwarf. They believe and they want you to believe too. If there’s one song that truly sums it all up, man, it’s Keep the Spirit Alive, and Doesn’t Matter is a beautiful power ballad about loving yourself. You only need these two songs to believe it all gets better and that you can win.

It doesn’t stop with those two songs, though. There are god songs on every album. In fact, I’m hard pressed to find a bad song on any of their albums. Some of my favorites are Hard Luck Town and G.T.Y. (Goodbye To Yesterday) from Method to the Madness, Tell Me Please and We Stand Alone from Big Deal, Stand Tall and Believe in Me from Stand Tall, and Lonely Road, Solid Ground, and Down in Hollywood from Start @ One. Dirty Weapons, All That We Dream, and Comin’ Through are standouts from Dirty Weapons and the self-titled first album standouts include Heavy Mental Breakdown, Gotta Lose to Win, Fire in Your Eyes, and if you buy the right version of the album, the previously unreleased Rock N Roll Allstars and Wasted Time.

The aforementioned songs are just off the top of my head favorites, but like I said, Killer Dwarfs is all about goof songs. Whether you consider these guys a metal band or just a really fucking good hard rock band is up to you. Classification doesn’t matter. These guys are top shelf musicians, all of them, that write killer songs with great hooks, great melodies, and fine musicianship at every level. Vocals, guitar, bass, and drums are all on point all the time. It’s that simple. Killer Dwarfs deliver the goods.

Killer Dwarfs Website
Killer Dwarfs Facebook
Twitter: @KillerDwarfs
Twitter: @RussDwarf
Twitter: @DarrellDwarf

A Rock ‘N’ Roll Christmas

It’s that time of year. If you celebrate Christmas, you’re in full swing now, baby, and there’s no better time to listen to some of your favorite rock stars belting out their favorite Christmas jams. There’s a bunch of rockin’ Christmas albums out there and I can’t list them all, so I’ll just drop a couple of my favorites.

veryspecialchristmas

There’s a whole bunch of volumes of A Very Special Christmas. All of them have some great tracks on them, but I am still pretty fond of the first one.

1. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town — By The Pointer Sisters
2. Winter Wonderland — By Eurythmics
3. Do You Hear What I Hear? — By Whitney Houston
4. Merry Christmas Baby — By Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band
5. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas — By The Pretenders
6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus — By John Cougar Mellencamp
7. Gabriel’s Message — By Sting
8. Christmas In Hollis — By Run-D.M.C.
9. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) — By U2
10. Santa Baby — By Madonna
11. The Little Drummer Boy — By Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
12. Run Rudolph Run — By Bryan Adams
13. I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas — By Jon Bon Jovi
14. The Coventry Carol — By Alison Moyet
15. Silent Night — By Stevie Nicks

I mean, John Mellencamp doing I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Bob Seger doing The Little Drummer Boy, Bryan Adams with Run Rudolph Run, Madonna with Santa Baby, Stevie Nicks singing Silent Night, and Bruce Springsteen singing Merry Christmas, Baby are all worth the price of admission, not to mention all of the other great songs that make up this awesome celebration of the season.

A Twisted Christmas

twisted christmas

Look, if you are a heavy metal fan and you love Christmas, there is no better way to celebrate the season than with Twisted Sister’s bad ass A Twisted Christmas. This is Christmas tunes like you’ve never heard them before. This is a Christmas album like you’ve never heard before. The band manages to capture the spirit of the season without losing its personality. Dee Snider is one of my favorite rockers of all time, not to mention one of my favorite guys in general, and I have followed him through Twisted sister and  his current successful album (For the Love of Metal). I read, and loved, his autobiography Shut up and Give me the Mic. This Christmas album is a Christmas tradition for me. Put it on, turn it up, and celebrate Christmas Twisted-Sister Style. By the way, you can also get a live version of this album, A Twisted Christmas Live. It includes some of the songs from this album as well as other Twisted Sister classics.

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
3. White Christmas
4. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
5. Silver Bells
6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
7. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
8. Deck The Halls
9. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
10. Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days Of Christmas) (trad., lyrics Twisted Sister)
11. We Wish You a Twisted Christmas (Twisted Sister original)

A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night

wildeyedchristmas

No Christmas is complete without the boys in .38 Special kicking it up with songs from A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night. This album features a great mix of originals and traditional Christmas songs. I love this band and really dig this album. No holiday season is complete without giving this one a spin.

1. Jingle Bell Rock
2. Here Comes Santa Claus
3. Little Drummer Boy
4. Hallelujah! It’s Christmas
5. It’s Christmas And I Miss You
6. A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night
7. That Old Rockin Chair
8. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
9. O’ Holy Night
10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman (instrumental)

Chicago Christmas 2019

chicagochristmas

I love Chicago’s sound. They manage to make it rock with horns included. They do it here Christmas style. Chicago has done Christmas albums before; this is only the latest of them. You can check out others as well, with more traditional Christmas stuff. The Chicago sound is perfect for Christmas and this is a really good example why.

  1. (Because) It’s Christmastime
  2. All Over the World
  3. Bring My Baby Back
  4. Merry Christmas, I Love You (R&B Version)
  5. What the World Needs Now Is Love
  6. All Is Right
  7. Sleigh Ride (2019)
  8. I’d Do It All Again (Christmas Moon)
  9. I’m Your Santa Claus
  10. Here We Come A-Caroling
  11. Merry Christmas, I Love You (Ballad Version)

Bryan Adams just released an EP entitled Christmas. It’s a five-song EP that includes both original and classic Christmas offerings. Well worth listening to.

christmas

1. Joe and Mary
2. Must Be Santa
3. Christmas Time
4. Reggae Christmas
5. Merry Christmas

Like I said, these are just a few of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll Christmas albums. I highly recommend them. Also, don’t forget the song Everybody Loves Christmas by the late, great Eddie Money. It’s a personal favorite. It originally appeared on his Shakin’ with the Money Man album and can be found on Rock 4 Xmas, Vol. 3, along with another Christmas song he sings on that album, On a Clear Night.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and all that good stuff.

Spinning Like a (ZZ) Top

Everybody probably knows the Eliminator album. At least, everybody who listened to radio or watched MTV in the 80s. That record as the first introduction to ZZ Top for a lot of people. They hit the “big time.” Except that ZZ Top had already hit the big time for fans that had been following the band since the beginning. The first album I heard was in 1975. I’m that old. It was the Fandango album.  I picked the album up because I’d been hearing the song Tush. That riff was catchy. The album was half live and half studio tracks. Billy Gibbons, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the band, said, “The live capture wound up being in the can first. We had enough live material to make up one side of the disc, so we decided to go with the unusual move of making the album half live, half studio. It turned out to be a winning combination for us.”

Fandango

One of the biggest songs on the album was Tush. The word means “expressing disapproval, impatience, or dismissal.” As most of us know, the word has another meaning that you can probably figure out by listening to the lyrics. Let’s just say that the boys in the band weren’t looking for disapproval, impatience, or dismissal. They were looking for something a bit more fun. I heard this album and immediately went in search of ZZ Top’s previous albums. I was hooked, so by the time Eliminator came out, I was already pretty damn familiar with the band and their style of writing songs.

elloco

El Loco is a favorite of mine. It was a pivotal album for the band because it was the album before Eliminator. It still has some of that bluesy Texas boogie from their previous albums, but you could hear hints of what they would be doing on Eliminator. El Loco was the perfect combination of ZZ Top’s sound before and after the Eliminator album.

There are a lot of great songs on El Loco. ZZ Top can write about anything. Their lyrics are dripping with humor, double entendres, and sometimes outright vulgarities. When I started writing songs, I definitely took a lot of my influence from these guys. They write songs like no other band I know. Just take a look at some of the tracks on El Loco. There’s Tube Snake Boogie, which isn’t too hard to figure out, and Pearl Necklace is a sexual reference I’ll let you look up. The lyrics, “She was gettin’ bombed and I was gettin’ blown away . . . She took it in her hand and this is what she had to say . . .” should give you a little hint about what the band is referring to.

Eliminator, of course, is one of their best known albums. It was a huge shift in ZZ Top’s sound, and while it may have lost them a few fans who had been listening to the dirty grind of their earlier Texas boogie sound, it gained them many fans who couldn’t get enough of that “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas.” Eliminator produced no less than 5 hit singles, with the rest of the album kicking as much ass as the hits did. You simply could not go anywhere in the 80s without hearing Sharp Dressed Man, Gimme all Your Lovin’, Got Me Under Pressure, or Legs. There was even a cool track called TV Dinners, proving once again these guys could get away with writing about anything.

Afterburner and Recycler followed Eliminator, throwing off some really cool hits of their own while maintaining the style of the Eliminator album. There was Sleeping Bag, Stages, Rough Boy (proving that ZZ could throw down a serious ballad), and Velcro Fly from Afterburner. There’s also a song called Woke up with Wood about, yeah . . . waking up a little stiff. Recycler featured Give It Up, My Head’s in Mississippi, and Doubleback from the soundtrack to “Back to the Future III.” Both were great albums.

eliminator afterburner recycler

Other albums followed Recycler, meeting with a little less success of Eliminator, Afterburner, and Recycler. Some of the albums made use of the sound ZZ Top had been developing throughout the 80s, others reverted to the earlier Texas blue boogie of earlier albums, and a couple combined the two styles nicely. Albums like Antenna, Rhythmeen, XXX, Mescalero, and La Futura all deliver that special ZZ Top charm and are worth listening to again and again.

While you’re at it, though, don’t forget the albums before Eliminator. They prove that there was life for ZZ Top before that huge hit. ZZ Top’s First Album, Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres, Fandango, Tejas, Degüello, and the previously-mentioned El Loco are all kick ass, dirty blues rock ‘n’ roll records. Bedroom Thang, Backdoor Love Affair, Francine, Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers, Waitin’ for the Bus, La Grange, It’s Only Love, Ten Dollar Man, Arrested for Driving While Blind, I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide, I Thank You, She Love My Automobile, A Fool for Your Stockings, and Cheap Sunglasses are just a sampling of the gems you’ll find on those albums.

ZZ Top is a decidedly American institution (but popular worldwide). It’s worth noting they have been around for 50 years (formed in 1969) and are still going strong with the same lineup, which is a feat unto itself. Billy Gibbons on guitar and lead vocals, Dusty Hill on bass and lead vocals, and Frank Beard on drums. This band makes me happy. I listen to ZZ Top and the world makes sense. A combination of Texas boogie, dirty blues, and a whole lot of rock ‘n’ roll. Give me some ZZ Top anytime.

ZZ Top on Twitter: @ZZTop
Official ZZ Top Website
Zz Top on Facebook: @ZZTop

 

Bob Seger Live Bullet

One of the greatest live albums ever is Bob Seger’s Live Bullet. I’ve been listening to it since I was fifteen. Live Bullet was recorded after the Beautiful Loser album and before Night Moves, showcasing Bob Seger at the height of regional fame and on the brink of worldwide fame. It’s a moment in time that can never be recreated.

A lot of live albums are tweaked in the studio. Some are nearly constructed in the studio using some of the live recordings. A few are completely live, with no overdubs at all. I’m not sure how much tweaking was done to Live Bullet, but I’d be comfortable saying there was very little studio interference. There’s so much raw energy on the album that it almost has to be completely live. If it isn’t, it’s pretty damn close.

BobSegerLiveBullet

Live Bullet is loaded with classic early Bob Seger. Nutbush City Limits kicks it off with a high level of energy, followed by the iconic blending of Travelin’ Man and Beautiiful Loser that would forever marry those two songs. Jody Girl, I’ve Been Workin’, Turn the Page, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, Katmandu, Lookin’ Back, Get out of Denver, and Let It Rock are a few more of the goodies on Live Bullet. This is Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band  burning up the stage with all the energy of a band about to become a worldwide sensation. They were only regional at this point, but they play it like they’s been superstars for decades. As a fifteen year old kid, man, I couldn’t get enough of this album. This is the live album that made me love live albums. When I got a band together, this is how I wanted to sound. This represented everything a band should be.

Decades have gone by, my friends, and I’ve heard a lot of great live albums. Still, not one of them matches this gem in my humble opinion.

01 Nutbush City Limits
02 Travelin’ Man
03 Beautiful Loser
04 Jody Girl
05 I’ve Been Working
06 Turn The Page
07 U. M. C. (Upper Middle Class)
08 Bo Diddley
09 Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
10 Heavy Music
11 Katmandu
12 Lookin’ Back
13 Get Out Of Denver
14 Let It Rock

BobSeger.com
Bob Seger Twitter: @BobSeger
Alto Reed Twitter: @Alto_Reed

 

Favorite Sammy Hagar-Era Van Halen

I was not happy when I heard David Lee Roth was leaving Van Halen and Sammy Hagar was taking over. I didn’t want to hear Van Halen without David Lee Roth, and I didn’t want Sammy Hagar to leave his awesome solo career to sing for Van Halen. I am a die-hard Sammy fan and always have been. He didn’t need Van Halen. Still, he did join, and it wasn’t long before I realized that Sammy Hagar and Van Halen (Van Hagar, as the lineup is sometimes called) were a good fit. Here are the Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen albums in order of my favorites:

5150
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
OU812
Balance

5150
It only took one listen to 5150 to realize that Sammy Hagar in Van Halen was going to work out just fine. Why Can’t This Be Love, Dreams, Best of Both Worlds, and Love Walks In all on the same album? Are you kidding me? Throw in Summer Nights, Good Enough and all the others and you’ve got a fucking masterpiece. I remember the first time I heard this album. Very satisfying.

carnal
Another awesome entry to the Van Halen catalog. My favorite from this album is Top of the World followed by Right Now. I’m also pretty fond of Spanked and Poundcake, but the whole damn album is great. Great Sammy vocals and killer Eddie riffs; For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is a kick ass album all the way around.

ou812
It was hard to choose between OU812 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Could have gone either way. Finish What You Started is a great track here, but Mine all Mine, When It’s Love, Feels So Good, Black and Blue, and Sucker in a 3 Piece all hold their own. Again, another great Van Halen album with Sammy on vocals.

balance
While Balance Comes in last on my list, it is by no means a bad album. Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, Amsterdam, Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do), Aftershock, and Big Fat Money are stand out tracks for me, but again, great album all the way around. This album demonstrates that Van Halen with Sammy Hagar could sustain a solid, powerful sound even when they were just about to go their separate ways by this point.

As much as I love Sammy’s time with Van Halen, I was okay when he left. They made some absolutely fantastic music together, but Sammy went back to being Sammy. He continued to make great records and continues doing so to this day. That works for me.

RedRocker.com
Sammy Hagar Twitter: @sammyhagar

Also read Favorite David Lee Roth-Era Van Halen