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Top 5 Live Albums That Mean The Most Personally

Once again to get myself out of a writing drought I have stolen an idea for an article from a podcast. A recent episode of the Decibel Geek Podcast had Luc Carl the Ayatollah of Jack & Cola and a Sirius/XM host on their show. During this episode they listed their 5 most personal live albums. These are not the best live albums in their opinions but the ones that meant the most to them personally. It was an interesting episode and as one that liked making lists, sounded like a fun exercise.

Dokken_-_One_Live_Night
5)Dokken-One Night Live-There always has to be an odd choice, doesn’t there? I know people are thinking if you are going to chose a Dokken live album, why not Beast From The East? It is a great album after all. True but it came out when that genre was at it’s apex and I wasn’t that big a Dokken fan back then. Fast forward 8 years later and Seattle has wiped away Dokken and all of their contemporaries. After a couple years of the grunge scene, the morose flannel wearers had gotten boring and people remembered they liked blow jobs. While Japan did embrace grunge they never shunned bands like Dokken. So after a very good reunion album, get the Japanese version, they got the band to do an live acoustic one too. To be honest it is pseudo-acoustic as George in plugged in. One Night Live showed how great the band is and it is a nice snapshot of those guys enjoying the music they created with each other. They did a nice job of reworking their songs to fit acoustically. Plus it’s where we first heard their cover of “In The Beginning” and “Nowhere Man”. The reason this resonated with me so much as it was a life line in some dire music times. While I did enjoy a lot of the Seattle stuff , the Dokken reunion helped re-ignite my love for the cockrock of 80’s & 90’s Hard Rock.

Maiden
4)Iron Maiden-Live After Death-Iron Maiden is a gateway band and I mean that as a compliment. I think most rock fans around my age grew liking KISS and as we got older wanting something new, Iron Maiden filled that bill. The way their album covers attracted fans could not be overstated. They were a huge draw to the teenage metalhead. Then upon hearing them it was all over. The dueling guitars and Bruce Dickinson’s air raid vocals you were hooked. Maiden was a great pathway to the Metallica’s & Slayer’s we later discovered. Live After Death was the first live album that featured Bruce and the band was arguably at their peak. Even to this day it holds up. Plus, think how many American kids know the Churchill speech just from listening to this album.

Wings-over-America-2-cover-
3)-Wings-Wings Over America-If you have cable you’ve probably seen the Wings concert “Rock Show” in the past couple of months. That is the more or less visual equivalent of the Wings Over America album. And if you’ve seen it you know how good the band was. When I was a kid my Dad was a huge Beatles fan and in turn I became one too. I took his copy of the White Album and traced a ball pen over the raised logo. He was not happy. So he had this album and in turn I had this album playing the 3 LP release incessantly. At first I was drawn to “Magneto & Titanium Man” because it was a song about comic book villains and I loved comics. But in true McCartney brilliance it was also a very catchy song. “Jet”,”Live and Let Die”, “Silly Love Songs” and the Beatles tracks still hold up to this day.

thin-lizzy-life-live
2)-Thin Lizzy-Life Live-Much like my Dokken choice, you are wondering why I chose this Thin Lizzy album instead of the much ballyhooed Live & Dangerous. Well, I came to be a Thin Lizzy fan a bit late in the game. Late being, they had just broken up. I read a blurb in my copy of Hit Parader, remember those, about the band calling it quits and recording several of the farewell shows. Several months later I saw the finished product in my local Sound Warehouse. It is an absolute stunner. The playing on it is so goddamned good and Phil is Phil in all his glory. It is a great showing of the bands history but it really showcased the recently released Thunder & Lightning. Add on that you get to hear a young John Sykes showing what he is capable of. Around that time I had just started getting into Gary Moore and knew he was once a member of Thin Lizzy. He’s here too and all of them play together on the finale “Rocker” and Sykes blows everyone off the stage.
This is a big album for me as it started me down the road to Lizzy fandom. Been obsessed with them every since as well as Gary Moore and whatever John Sykes is doing. Hell, I even bought the 21 Guns album that Scott Gorham did. It’s strange reading the Lynott biography and seeing how people hate the sound because I love it.

Alive_2_cover
1)-KISS-Alive II-I don’t know if people nowadays understand just how huge KISS was back in the day. Being a teenager during this time, they were my biggest obsession. The first time I heard them was when my uncle gave me his copy of Originals. I still have that on my shelf. The first song I learned the words to was “Making Love” even tough I had no idea what making love meant. So by the time Alive II was released they were my band. When you opened the album’s gatefold the pics inside showing the band in all its glory is beyond spectacular. At that time the only other time you would’ve seen this was either at a show or in CREEM or Hit Parader. It was everything a fan could dream of. After dropping down the needle, what came through the speakers was bliss. 3 sides of the Hottest Band In The Land doing what they do best. Plus there was Side 4 that had new songs. WHAT?!?! New songs too ?!?! Out of the 5 tracks 3 of them are keepers. I think they played “All American Man” live a couple years ago. “Rocket Ride” is arguably one of the best Ace songs, top 5 at least.
Even though I haven’t listened to the live stuff in years, it’s still my favorite live album for how it sucked me into the KISS vortex.
So there is my list in all its’ confusing glory. Unlike some of the other lists I’ve done I am pretty confident these picks.
What are your Top 5 live albums?

PS

Here’s the link to the Decibel Geek Podcast episode

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Iced Earth-Plagues of Babylon

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I have never been that big a fan of Iced Earth. Every time I heard them, I enjoyed it but it never really grabbed me. Their brand of traditional metal has always been well executed and main man/guitarist Jon Schaffer seems like a cool guy. I remember reading interviews over his frustrations of being a metal band with Korn and Limp Bizkit being called “metal”. He wasn’t bitter or angry just adamant about his love for metal. Plus he’s a history geek and as a history major myself, GO COOGS!, I have to appreciate that.

Regardless of my previous indifference, Iced Earth has returned with a new offering in Plagues of Babylon. It is chock full of what has brought them this far, good ole metal and some above average lyrics. The title track starts us off with galloping guitars and some tasty duel playing between Schaffer and lead guitarist Troy Seele. With a lyrical theme that continues from the “Something Wicked” album, it tales a lovely tale of the ruling class suppressing the masses by unleashing deadly viruses. Several of the songs convey a deep hatred for the way society has gone but is done in such an open ended way that it allows the listener to draw on their own feelings.

The conveyor of said lyrics is vocalist Stu Block . His voice is pretty nondescript and average. He has a touch of gruffness but it is almost always mid-tone. He doesn’t get really high and subsequently his sound gets swallowed up by the music. And it’s not a mixing problem as the album sounds terrific. To be fair, on “Cthulu” and “Spirit of the Times” he sounds awesome. Those two tracks do have a ballad feel, “Cthulu” end up pretty heavy though, and his softer delivery works perfectly. Hansi Kursch takes the mic on “Among The Living” but you can’t really tell. I didn’t know it till I read the notes. Most surprisingly, Jon Schaffer takes his turn on the just as surprising cover of “Highwayman”. Cool idea but to “metal” that song up comes across as silly.

Plagues of Babylon is not a bad album. Good writing, great playing, terrific production, passable singing, but it just seems eh. I know that Iced Earth is a popular band but it just doesn’t click with me for some reason. I want to like them but just don’t.

It’s like a George Costanza break-up, its not you it’s me.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

$0-Not worth the drive space

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A look at Sirius/XM for the Metalheads

 

sirius-xm-radio

 

Satellite radio has been around for awhile and I finally jumped on board a year ago. My job requires me to drive a lot so I am in my car a lot. I used Pandora and my iTunes a lot but there is just something about a radio station. I heard Sirius/XM when I was with an ex. Driving around in her car I got a good opportunity to hear what was offered. Sadly, that was the only positive experience I got from that horrible horrible woman. I loved how this product satisfied my musical tastes, all of them. However I just want to focus on the ones that service the heavier stuff. With the Clear Channel effect all over our terrestrial radio dial, satellite is something that metalheads should really look into. The channels I want to concentrate on are Channels 38 to 40, Ozzy’s Boneyard, Hair Nation, and Liquid Metal.

ozzyBoneyard, I refuse to use the Ozzy label because of the horrible woman that is Sharon Osbourne, is a really good classic hard rock/metal station. They do a real nice job of mixing stuff up so you are not hearing “Iron Man” every 30 minutes. Band selection is nice, besides the obvious, Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, you get Tank, and Diamond Head and a plethora of others. You will find yourself saying “I haven’t heard that in a while” a lot. No shows except for an hour hosted by Jim Norton and Ultimate Sinner where a listener gets to pick 5 songs. A nice little feature. They occasionally play some new music from veteran bands already on the play list. Music wise, it is a great listen that you will have no problem leaving on for hours straight.

The big drawback to me is the Ozzy affiliation. Granted I probably hate Sharon way more than anyone else. And that hatred has tarnished Ozzy’s music to me. I cannot even listen to his era of Black Sabbath anymore because of her but I can overlook that most of the time. What bugs me is that every promo for the station is Ozzy related. From him mumbling about some story from 1984 or hearing Sharon or one of their idiotic kids tell a story about him, it’s stomach churning. The ball washing gets worse when they have famous metal musicians talk about how great Ozzy is. It is really sickening and it is the main reason I change the channel.

hairNext on the dial, is Channel 39 Hair Nation. As the name suggests it has all the bands from 80’s and 90’s with big hair that were the lifeblood of Headbangers Ball. This was the station that really hooked me one getting Sirius/XM. I remember driving with the awful ex and on came Sleez Beez. C’mon where else are you going to hear Sleez Beez? When I first got the radio I remember hearing a D:A:D song and thinking this was the greatest purchase that I ever made. What I didn’t realize is that they would play that same song over and over again. I know I am in my car a lot but it is like bad FM radio overkill. Then I noticed that they did this a lot. Heard “Gimme Your Love” from McAuley Schenker Group and got that D:A:D happy feeling. Then I heard it again and again. The station has a pattern of pulling out a band and playing their hit. Then they play that song over and over and then put that band back on the shelf. Why they won’t play another song I have no idea. They will however play the fuck out of Bon Jovi. Someone there loves them some Bon Jovi because you will l hear a BJ song every 30 minutes and that is not a good thing. I seriously think that Bon Jovi has a deal with this channel similar to what Ozzy has with Boneyard. This station never plays new music even though many of the bands the play have released new material. They did however play the new Richie Sambora single, furthering my Bon Jovi conspiracy theory. Plus they do not have a listener show like the other two stations do. This went from being one of my favorites to being one that I hit and run on. Hair Nation is also the home to Eddie Trunk who has a show on Monday night. However he plays more stuff you hear on Boneyard but that vile cunt Sharon had him kicked off that channel because he dared to criticize Ozzy.

sirius_xm_liquid_metalLast but not least is Channel 40, Liquid Metal. They play all of the new metal bands plus lots of the originators. When I say Metal I mean METAL. Cannibal Corpse, Slipknot, High On Fire, real heavy stuff. They do a nice job of crossing the many genres of Metal. Thrash, death, stoner, black you name it. Liquid Metal also does a great job on featuring new bands and letting listeners know when an important album is coming out. Occasionally they play some bands that are better off on Octane, a channel for new Hard Rock, but that is being picky. They also have Listener Domination, their show lets a listener a chance to pick three songs and say why. One of my favorite things about the station is Bloody Roots a show hosted by renowned Metal author Ian Christie. He will have a different theme for each show and does a fantastic job of giving tidbits and back story plus lots of the stuff he plays you will not hear any other time.

I think the reason that Boneyard and Liquid Metal are run so well is that Jose Mangin seemingly is in charge of both. His voice is on promos for both channels and they both have a listener show. He is the afternoon host and some may remember him when MTV did a Headbangers Ball special. He is a nice enough guy that obviously loves Metal. However he kind of bugs me. Maybe because he is always UP or maybe it is that he still has a faux hawk and still wears Affliction shirts. Logic would dictate that he would be in charge of Hair Nation as well and if so he is doing a shitty job.

Earlier I mentioned Octane on Channel 37. They play modern hard rock a long the lines of In This Moment, Chevelle, and Sevendust. It’s not a bad station I listen occasionally but a lot of what they play I don’t care for.

Yes I do realize there is a huge “Kids these days” factor present.

While I have become disappointed in Hair Nation and the Ozzy ass kissing makes me want to puke on my passenger seat, but I cannot recommend getting Sirius/XM enough. It really satisfies my musical desires plus there is a bunch of other great stuff available. I love being able to go from Mastodon to Glen Miller to listening to an Astros game. I got the Onyx model and I am able to take that from my car to another car or inside. Terrific if you drive more than one vehicle plus you can listen to it on your smartphone or online from your computer.

Seriously go get it.

Now.

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Fozzy-Sin and Bones

To paraphrase the influential Schoolhouse Rocks!, congratulations Fozzy now your a band. Up until the release of their new CD Sin and Bones, the band has had a novelty glow about them. I guess when your best known member is a pro wrestler that can happen.

However, Chis Jericho’s notoriety should no longer act as a hindrance as he and the band have made a very good hard rock/metal album. I mentioned both genres because Sin and Bones does have some variety. To use an example that satellite radio users will understand, Sin and Bones goes from Octane to Hair Nation to Liquid Metal.

It is a very modern metal sounding with “Spider In My Mouth”, “Sin and Bones” and “Sandpaper”. The later features some guest vocals from M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold. While “Sandpaper” may be the first single I like “Spider In My Mouth” a lot more. It has a more fun element to it that evokes some of the glam hard rock the band obviously likes. “She’s My Addiction” seems like and ode to the glory days of the Sunset Strip in music and lyrics. Topped off with a big gang vocal chorus.

Sin and Bones is rounded out with some surprisingly heavy offerings. “Blood Happens” is a big time metal track with the fitting “cookie monster” vocals that while shocking in that they were used but they sounded great and fit in well. The album finishes off with “Storm The Beaches” a ten-minute homage to Iron Maiden and all of their story telling epics.

This enjoyment of this album was quite surprising. Even though I am card carrying Jericho-holic, his music career has been “eh” for me. Sadly it was because of his voice, I never thought it was good enough. Cannot say that anymore as he has found his own voice. Pun somewhat intended. It is undeniably similar to Sebastian Bach at times but Jericho makes it his own with some raspy-ness and some deep registers. I think between his extended vacations from WWE and Rich Ward’s other band Stuck Mojo in hibernation, the two were able to give Fozzy some proper attention.

It is safe to say that Sin and Bones is a statement album in that it lets the music world know that while Fozzy may have started out as a fun side project it is now a legitimate metal band.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale

$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop

$0-Not worth the drive space

 

 

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Stryper-The Covering

Every time I see a band release one of these all covers albums, I cringe. For the most part they all reek of cash grabs or contract fulfillment. Usually they are without any hint of originality or fun, which is sad because the songs should reflect that music that got them excited as kids. Sadly, The Covering, the collection from Stryper is just like the ones I mentioned. I was curious to see which songs the band chose since everyone knows Stryper for being a Christian hard rock group. Most of the songs they picked are typical of what a group of guys growing up in the early 80’s would have listened to. There are the Scorpions, Black Sabbath, KISS, Ozzy, Maiden, Judas Priest and Van Halen songs present. About the only “surprise” is the opener, a cover of Sweet’s “Set Me Free”. While the band does a nice job in retaining the spirit of the original here, it cannot be said of the others. It all starts to sound like background noise at your local bar with a well produced cover act on stage.

What is most disappointing about The Covering is the song selection. Too many of them were obvious choices or did not fit the bands ability. So I will do something a little different and go track by track and review and offer my suggestion for what they should have done.

Set Me Free”, by The Sweet. I liked this one as it was a little different and also not the obvious song to pick from that bands catalog.

Blackout”, by The Scorpions. Not a bad cover but not a good one either. With Michael Sweet’s high range, one of the Scorps’ slower songs like “Still In Love With You” may have been better. I know that it is a hit but “Blackout” is one of that bands biggest songs as well.

Heaven and Hell”, by Black Sabbath. Great choice of a Dio era Sabbath song and no complaints about this one.

Lights Out”, by UFO. Such a great song and Stryper does it justice. My only other choice for them would have been “Love To Love”.

Carry On My Wayward Son”, by Kansas. This radio rock staple just comes across as so cover band. When I hear this I imagine drunk 50 year-old’s swaying in front of the stage and singing every other line as the struggle with consciousness. I think “Play the Game Tonight” would have been a lot more enjoyable.

Highway Star”, by Deep Purple. This was a bad idea. Robert’s voice sounds way too clean for this and Oz Fox cannot play Blackmore. I may have gone with “Comin Home” or another song that had Coverdale on vocals.

Shout It Out Loud”, by KISS. Not one of KISS’ best songs but we all have KISS songs that we love that we probably shouldn’t. The inherent obstacle with choosing a KISS song is that almost all of them are about sex and that does not jive with Stryper’s belief. So you have to go with a Paul song, especially since his vocals would work for Stryper. “Tomorrow” or maybe “100,000 years”

Over the Mountain”, by Ozzy. This is just plain atrocious. Micheal’s vocals do not work and the guitar playing is horrendous. I would have stayed away from Ozzy because his stuff is so iconic and his vocals do not easily match up with Michael’s range. “Rock N Roll Rebel” would have been the best choice just on song title alone.

The Trooper”, by Iron Maiden. As bad as you think the Ozzy track is, this is ten times worse. Just a really, really bad idea. It reeks of cover band at your corner sports bar so much that you actually feel bad. If anything they should have chosen one of Maiden’s poppier tracks to better ft them. “Can I Play with Madness” would have been so much better of a choice.

Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest. Again sports bar cover band here as well. Just very very blah and with these choices of heavier bands it sounds like the band is in over there head. They seem a pace behind and it does not work. “Love Bites” or “Hot Rockin” if someone would have asked me.

On Fire” by Van Halen. I do applaud the choice on this one. Not an obvious one but once again, the original vocals do not translate well to Stryper. God made only one Diamond Dave and we should all respect that. You figure that of all the bands, Stryper would know that. I really wish the band would have showed a little self deprecation and done “Runnin With The Devil” the high range would fit and the band would have gotten major points for it.

Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Covering Zeppelin is a very tricky endeavor. They are such an iconic band and their stuff is so well known that any deviation is almost heresy. So this is a almost no-win situation and they did a good job here.

The album finishes up with the lone original track, “God”. I will let you guess what the subject matter is but sonically it is definitely classic Stryper

After the disc finishes playing I do not know how many people will be anxiously waiting to replay it. Only a handle full of the covers are decent and while the new song is good, it is not that good. With The Covering, Stryper showed everyone the bands that caused them to start playing. While I think every band has makes up this kind of list, this one should have been left in the jam room.

 

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Iron Maiden-The Final Frontier

Metal stalwarts Iron Maiden have returned with the release on The Final Frontier. While most bands of their stature and age, are content with releasing Best Of’s and taking the easy payday with summer concerts. These guys have cranked out another stellar collection of songs that fit well with their classic catalog. Like many of their other album’s The Final Frontier has a loose theme, this one of  Space and exploration.. Hence the “Deluxe” package that resembles a porthole in a spaceship.
“El Dorado” was the first single released and it came out several weeks prior to the albums release. It served as a perfect taste of what was in store. This song along with the title track have a more “commercial” appeal that  “Can I Play With Madness” had which is great because it gives an easy access point for new fans. Let’s be honest with Guitar Hero and  Rock Band many of the classic metal bands are getting new looks from young fans from these video games. So by having tracks that are catchy and still showcase the band’s  trademark sound, everyone wins.
One of the hallmarks of the Iron Maiden sound is their lengthy songs that take the listener on a musical and lyrical journey. The latter half of Final Frontier is chockfull of these auditory adventures. To me the real standout is “Starblind”, a 9-minute trek that showcases some unique styling’s from Maiden.  What is so distinctive here is the off beat synchronization of Bruce Dickinson’s vocals to the music that the band is playing. At first is seems odd when heard but the genius of the track comes through the longer the song goes. The vocals are not always offbeat just on some of the choruses making it even more distinguishable and truly awesome.
The Final Frontier is another excellent chapter in Iron Maiden’s history. It shows that no matter a bands age, that creating good original music is a challenge that needs to be accepted and met.

www.ironmaiden.com

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