Album Review : Ronnie Hawkins – Ronnie Hawkins (1970 Hawk Records Canadian pressing LP)

Ronnie Hawkins may very well be like the North American version of John Mayall. He had many musicians that have played with him over the years. Most moved on to bigger and better things. The most famous may be The Band. They went from playing bars backing up Ronnie to touring with Bob Dylan and selling millions of records on their own. Ronnie had a knack for finding the best talent to back him up. That may be why he ventured back down to his native land in the southern USA and recorded this album. What better place to record than Muscle Shoals. He of course had The Swampers along for the ride, but he also had an amazing harp player in King Biscuit Boy, and none other than Duane Allman on guitar.

One More Night (Bob Dylan) – This song was released by Bob Dylan on his Nashville Skyline album just before Ronnie covered it here. I much prefer Ronnie’s version as his voice suits country more as far as my ears are concerned.

Bitter Green (Gordon Lightfoot) – Gordon Lightfoot is a tough act to cover. He has such an amazing dual mix of great lyrics and gripping vocals, and he was in the zone back in the 60’s. Ronnie does a really commendable job here though, and the backing music is amazing. The drum work added especially sets this one apart from the original. Close on the vocals here and even better sounding backing band.

I May Never Get To Heaven (Buddy Killen & Bill Anderson) – This song has been a country song, a rockabilly song and a Motown song over the years. The most famous version may be Conway Twitty’s version that went to #1 on the country charts in 1979, but this version is pretty great too. It has an almost Elvis like quality that is pretty cool.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Traditional) – Fitting that a version of this song was played at Duane Allman’s funeral a year after this album was released.

Matchbox (Carl Perkins) – Another Elvis like song done in the great Carl Perkins 50’s style. Ronnie originally recorded this song in 1961, but I prefer this version with Duane’s amazing slide and King Biscuit Boy’s harp.

Little Bird (Jerry Jeff Walker) – I much prefer this version over the original. Better vocals and no guitar twang to be found.

One Too Many Mornings (Bob Dylan) – Great harp work here. Maybe even better than the original and a vocal style that many would find more appealing. The original is great, but so is this one.

Forty Days (Chuck Berry) – Ronnie had been playing this song since the early days of The Hawks. This version has a jumpier version than his earlier versions, and it suits a Chuck Berry cover better.

Down In The Alley (Jesse Stone and The Clovers) – The album cover wrongly credits Solomon Burke (he wrote Down In The Valley). This song was made famous by Elvis on his soundtrack album Spinout, and was featured in the movie of the same name. Very fitting since Ronnie has his Elvis mojo working.

Who Do You Love (Ellis McDaniel) – This song is most famous for either the original Bo Diddley (real name Ellis McDaniel) or George Thorogood version. Those versions are amazing, but this one is really cool as well. Especially the subtle slide guitar work.

Home From The Forest (Gordon Lightfoot) – Another Lightfoot penned song is ok in more books. The harp work is the star for me on this one.

This one is a great album. For fans of old school country, Gordon Lightfoot, Dylan, 50’s rock, 60’s folk, Muscle Shoals, King Biscuit Boy and Duane Allman. It may be an especially lucrative find for fans of Elvis though. Some may feel many of these songs are like unreleased Elvis recordings.

For me there are 2 knocks against this album. First, it is an album with all covers. Second, I feel that Duane Allman was not used correctly here. He should have been able to wail away, even on one song. You can tell he’s there, but it’s like a caged animal or a Ferrari driven in a shopping mall parking lot. Even one original song with King Biscuit Boy harping away and Duane wailing would have made this album much stronger.

8.5/10

 

 

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Beer Review : A Tout Le Monde – Megadeth Beer (Unibroue Brewery, Quebec)

The province of Quebec has always loved their metal. That may be why Megadeth has always had a strong connection there. The video for A Tout Le Monde (from the 1994 album Youthanasia) was immediately banned by MTV as it was thought to be pro suicide. Dave Mustaine has always stated that it is about love of friends and family. If he only had moments to live he would shout out A Tout Le Monde ( translation-To All The World or To Everyone). This would be his way of saying “To all my friends, I have to leave.”

The song is also unfortunately associated with Kimveer Gill. The gunman who killed 1, and wounded 19 others at Dawson College in Montreal, Quebec in 2006. He had left a message online that he enjoyed thie song the day of the shooting. Megadeth were blamed by some for the shooting, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Jerry Vietz is the owner of Unibroue brewery in Quebec and he is a metal fan. Dave Mustaine and Jerry met and they struck up a deal to produce a Megadeth beer. It is a bit surprising, but also cool that they named the beer A Tout Le Monde. My thoughts are that Dave didn’t want to bow to the pressure. Love him or hate him, he has always done things his way, so I say good on you Dave.

The packaging for this beer is really cool. Vic Rattlehead is standing below a fleur-de-lis. Nothing says Megadeth and Quebec to me like those 2 symbols. The bottle itself is a typical brown longneck with a twist off cap. There is another picture of Vic on the label. The aluminum foil wrap on the neck is a nice feature. This reminds me of a higher end European beer, and it sets the bottle off. The back label lists something I have never noticed on a beer before. It lists SRM : 5.5, and IBU : 22. SRM is Stadard Reference Method or basically the colour, and IBU is International Bitterness Scale. I like beer, but I’m not a beer snob, so these units mean nothing to me, but cool to have them listed.

As for the beer itself, I had a sip out of the bottle first. Then I poured the rest of the beer into a glass. I can tell you the glass is the way to go. This isn’t a Bud. This is a beer to be savoured. Pour it in a glass. Smell the aroma. Then take a sip.

It has a hint of citrus both in the smell and the taste. I rarely put citrus in my beer unless it’s a cerveza, but the citrus taste is refreshing here. This would be an amazing summer beer when it’s hot and sticky outside. Even though it’s -6 c outside I still really enjoyed it. This a refreshing beer with a hint of citrus smell and taste. I enjoyed it, plus Megadeth.

9/10

 

Album Review : Saxon – Thunderbolt (2018 LP)

Saxon is a band that slipped through the cracks for me, and I don’t feel I’m alone there. They are in that NWOBHM genre that I love, but I never seemed to get that urge to buy their new albums the way I did for the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Def Leppard. They are the also-rans, the bridesmaid’s that never quite got their much deserving due. That lack of urge ended today for me. I bought the new album the day it came out. I went to my local record store today with full intention on buying another new album. That other album was not in so I asked about this one. They looked but it was not in. That’s not surprising nowadays. In 2018 vinyl is a crapshoot. Release dates do not seem to matter. Vinyl often mysteriously shows up days, weeks, even months after the release date. Just as I was leaving empty handed they yelled out that this album was in fact in stock. It was set to be set out on the shelf. The only copy the store got. Zoinks. here, take my money please.

When I get the disc home I gaze upon the cool artwork. Paul Raymond Gregory was once again hired, and he’s amazing. Steph Byford did additional artwork. It’s really glossy and the artwork is spectacular. The back of the cover is a photo of the band. The inner sleeve has the song lyrics on one side and the other side has the credits and another photo of the band. I carefully kept the shrink on the gatefold jacket so I do not open it, however, all there is inside is another picture of the band. Apparently 3rd times the charm for these lads. The vinyl is a beautiful slab of cherry red goodness and the label has the album cover front artwork. I was hoping for a band photo, but I digress.

Olympus Rising – This instrumental is a dream for an Ontario boy. I get elements of Triumph and Rush in this little ditty then it morphs into almost Sabbathy spookiness.

Thunderbolt – There is no gap between the last song and this one. You’ll know when it kicks in though as the volume and heaviness pick up nicely. This one reminds me of a Judas Priest song, in other words it kicks ass.

The Secret Of Flight – I love the higher pitched guitar, the military drumming and the chants that begin this song off. I get a bit of a Maiden out of this one, what with the lyrics of Icarus flying too close to the sun. Not just that but the vocals have a bit of a Bruce Dickinson tone. Muffled whispers mixed with wailing guitars fill the middle of this one and back and forth guitars and vocals end it off on a great note.

Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz) – If this type of music had been in Twilight I might have even watched those movies. Or at least bought the soundtrack.

They Played Rock And Roll – Yes they did, and they did it wonderfully.

Predator – This one will shock and amaze you. It has something for old and new metal fans. It has something for fans of NWOBHM and black metal. The growls are a really cool touch that threw me for a loop. A really cool song.

Sons Of Odin – This song has a sort of a NWOBHM meets Deep Purple and maybe a pinch of southern rock vibe all mixed in an epic Norse tale.

Sniper – Note to any potential snipers out there. Do not play Saxon when you are lining up your target. There will be way too much head banging. I really enjoyed the difference in tone between the all out assault and the chugging on this one.

A Wizard’s Tale – With Ronnie James Dio like lyrics I have to like it. They could have burped and farted their way through this one and it would have enjoyed it.

Speed Merchants – Another Deep Purple meets NWOBHM song. The speed may be referring to the drums or the guitar. Not the fastest I’ve heard, but crisp and sounding just right.

Roadies’ Song – There was a time long ago when I contemplated becoming a roadie. I thought my life was shit and my parents were always nagging me. I spoke to a roadie and thankfully he set me straight. He told me the hardships and about being stranded in a strange city without 1 dollar to your name. Any band that pays tribute to the guys that work hard to make live music happen is ok in my book. “7 nights 7 days hauling gear this is our way. Another town it never stops. Keep moving on till you’re fit to drop. We fall asleep to the sound of the road. On through the night we move the load…”

“This album is dedicated to the memory of Lemmy Kilmister”. These are the last words printed on the inner album sleeve. That alone for me makes this an album worth purchasing. The fact that the band also sings a tribute song to Motorhead (as well a Motorhead homage song entitled Roadies’ Song), and uses a soundbite of Lemmy saying “We are Motorhead, and we play rock n roll” is just icing on the cake.

This album rocks. The dual guitar threat is right there. The bass booms and the drums pound. The production work by Andy Sneap is ace. Perhaps best of all, Biff Byford’s voice is in peak form. He sounds like he found the fountain of youth.

Buy this album people. You work hard. You deserve it.

9.5/10

Album Review : Spirit-Spirit (1968, 2005 Mono LP)

The band Spirit were a band that should have been bigger. They influenced Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (no matter what they say) and probably numerous others. They got a bit of success on FM radio back in the day, but never really struck it big. They broke up and were destined to go into history all but forgotten. That is until 2016. The family of the late Randy California attempted to sue Led Zeppelin for the song Stairway To Heaven. The family alleged Jimmy Page used the song composition from the song Taurus when he composed Stairway. Jimmy stated that although he owned a copy of the album Spirit, he never played it. I say bullshit Jimmy. I’ve listened to this album. There is no way you sit it on a shelf and never play it. I get Led Zeppelin’s stance though. They copied and pasted from so many musicians they would be broke paying everyone off. I think if this case had occurred in the early 70’s, Spirit would have won. Close to 50 years later though and Led Zep can hire the best lawyers and experts to trick a jury. Just like AC/DC says, money talks.

Fresh-Garbage – The first thing we hear on this song is the jazz background drummer Ed Cassidy(who also happened to be Randy California’s step father) exudes. His drumming is swaying, flowing, and picture perfect. The next is the amazing guitar work. Randy California was only 17 years old when this album was recorded. I can tell you he was better at 17 than 99% of the guitarists on the planet. The vocals are pretty awesome too. No wonder Pink Floyd sampled the song on Feel Good Time. This song is as far away from fresh garbage as a song can get. As a side note, Led Zeppelin played this song live in the early days. They were so good they could play a song by another band without listening to it.

Uncle Jack – This one has a very British feel to it. Sort of a early Floyd meets early The Who, and even though this may ruffle a few feathers, the guitar work may be even better.

Mechanical World – Horns, ticking cymbals dominate the start of this one. An almost cooler version of a circus song. Then Randy California wails and we submit.

Taurus – Jimmy Page snuck into Randy’s house and composed this one without any help from anyone. Ok.

Girl In Your Eye – The sitar playing dominates this one. It is really a period piece that suits the late 60’s, but yet somehow doesn’t sound dated. The song transitions into more amazing guitar work. Have I said that before?

Straight Arrow – More British flavoured pop goodness here. The coolest part of the song is the throat clearing and the gasping for air by the lead singer Jay Ferguson. It sounds like they recorded it first take with no dubs.

Topanga Windows – I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but the guitar work is ace. The subtle guitar work to start the song off is great, then the blues takes over. Almost a Bo Diddley meets early Steve Miller. Really good. The keyboard work by John Locke is really cool here too.

Gramophone Man – The start is very early Floyd like. I can almost hear Syd Barrett. Then the song morphs into a little jazz ditty. Then it morphs back again. Very cool indeed.

Water Woman – This is the only song on the album with writing credits by all of the band members. The bass work of Mark Andes is really cool and the sitar work is welcomed back. This song reminds me of a song The Guess Who would do.

The Great Canyon Fire In General – A cool mix of rock and jazz. Piano, guitar, amazing drumming and wonderful vocals dominate this one. The vocal harmony on the fade out of the song is great too.

Elijah – What would you get if Gene Krupa and Rick Wright had decided to do an instrumental jam with The Allman Brothers Band? This song right here.

Cd reissues of this album have bonus tracks. There was a SACD version released in 2017 I may also look into. It is so good it’s worth buying twice.

This is my first Spirit album. It will definitely not be my last.

9.9/10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Album Review : Monster Magnet – Powertrip (1998)

This is part of a one-hit wonder group post hosted by Danica at Living A Beautiful Life. Thanks Danica.

One-Hit Wonder. These words remind many people of artists such as Rick Astley and Chumbawumba. Crappy songs that earworm their way into our brains decades later. However, sometimes a band that technically is a one-hit wonder deserves to have a ton of hits. They put out awesome songs and albums, but don’t quite meet the expectations of the general public. Monster Magnet is one of those bands. They play an awesome fusion of stoner, psychedelic and garage rock. The band toiled about from the late 80’s until 1998 or so. They got airplay on mostly college radio but got little to no attention from rock radio or MTV.

That all changed for the band in the summer of 1998. The song Space Lord shot the band to the top 3 position on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and helped the album Power Trip to reach #1 on the Heatseekers Album Chart. 1998 was a bad time for rock with a legion of  Nu Metal wannabes flooding the charts. It was nice to see a band that didn’t fit into the cookie cutter mold hit the charts.

Crop Circle – Haunting sounds that would fit nicely into a Rob Zombie flick start this one off. Then guitar and pounding drums and a wailing “COME ON” shift this one into top gear. It has an almost Clutch meets Rob Zombie (speaking of other musicians that toiled around for years playing heavy music before their success) feel to it that I like.

Powertrip – The fast, quiet guitar work that begin this one off (and repeats later in the song) is cool, then the pounding hits you like a sledgehammer. “I’m never gonna work another day in my life. The gods told me to relax They said I’m gonna be fixed up right
I’m never gonna work another day in my life I’m way too busy power tripping
But I’m gonna shed you some light.” Words to live by for a musician.

Space Lord – Here is the hit single. The entire reason I joined this group post. A really catchy tune with nice acoustic guitar work and hard edged pounding drums, booming bass, ripping heavier guitars and great vocals. It deserved every accolade it got. The lyrics were changed to a more radio friendly Space Lord Mother (Mother), and the originals are only available on limited single releases and the greatest hits album.

Temple Of Your Dreams – A fuzzy, groovy rocker that has an almost Lenny Kravitz swagger.

Bummer – Another Clutch-like rocker that begins off with the lyrics “You’re looking for the one that f*cked your mom. It’s not me…”. and “Some people go to bed with Lucifer
Then they cry, cry, cry when they don’t greet the day with God..”  The song is about how some people blame everyone else for their problems. It sounds like it would suit 2018 just perfectly.

Baby Götterdämerung – The title may refer to the music drama by composer Wagner. Wagner is referring back to Norse Mythology about a mighty war that almost destroys the world, and after it is submerged in water, it can begin again. I guess the band considers this song to be a baby version of that. To me, this song is about how in 1998 we are bombarded with death and violence. This song mentions reading, teaches us about history and gets us to think. They may play stoner rock, but they haven’t killed all of their brain cells.

19 Witches – Ok. Confession time. I have a thing for witches. Any song with witches in the title puts it at the top of the list. The 60’s era, James Bond music meets Troggs in this song is a nice throwback touch. A few minutes in we also get a world music beat. This song has a cool vibe to it, and would suit perfectly in a Tarentino movie. Such an under-rated song. It didn’t even make it onto the greatest hits album, which means the band(or the label) didn’t even think it was one of their best. That’s a crying shame.

3rd Eye Landslide – A fun romp about free rides and landslides with amazing guitar licks. Sometimes simple can be fun.

See You In Hell – A song with a heavy meaning,  mostly geared toward a hippy that killed his baby. The keyboard work again harkens us back to the 60’s but also has a 90’s alternative feel to it. It has elements of Sloan, The Animals, Clutch, and some great Joe Walsh-like guitar.

Tractor – A slightly repetitive song that still rocks. The theme of the song is drugs, hallucination and paranoia. Sometimes stoner rock is about getting stoned.

Atomic Clock – This one has sort of a Fu Manchu meets Clutch feel to it. “So won’t you put my dick in plastic And put my brain in a jar If there’s something left of my spirit It’ll find you where you are Still so goddamn hungry I’m feeding off my own bones So lay me out in my crater And nuke me ’til I glow” That sounds like quite the last will and testament.

Goliath And The Vampires – That sounds like an epic battle. It also sounds like an awesome Sabbathy chugger mixed with the beginning of Thriller.

Your Lies Become You – It has sort of a Robbie Robertson meets 60’s pop meets Santana feel to it. A cool way to close this album off.

9.5/10

 

Concert Review: Corrosion of Conformity, Eyehategod, Pale Mare, Ol’ Time Moonshine – Opera House, Toronto Tuesday January 9, 2018

2018-01-09 22.27.40

I found out on Monday night that the show I had been wanting to attend for months was postponed. Zakk Wylde fell ill, and the headliner show that Black Label Society was supposed to put on the next night would get postponed to the summer. A lot of scrambling was done, and here is a shoutout to the promoter, Inertia Entertainment for getting this show arranged on super short notice. The original venue (where I proposed to my wife years earlier) was too large, and so the iconic Opera House was booked. The new concert was headlined by COC and could almost be considered a co-headline with Eyehategod. In under 2 days, the new venue was arranged. Tickets were only available at the door, and it looked pretty well sold out to me. The bands acknowledged this fact during their sets, and thanked us numerous times. I was a little bummed in missing Zakk and the boys, but I’ll see them eventually.

I have to first apologize to Ol’ Time Moonshine. I have wanted to see these local Toronto dudes play, but I’m always busy when they are playing, or in this case, late getting to the venue. That happens when you hit Toronto traffic and it takes 1.5-2 hours to get to the east end. Sorry dudes. Next time. I’m sure you slayed it though. I already own their newest cd, and I bought their older one at the show. These guys are cool, and have the Southern rock meets bluesy stoner doom thing down pat. Check out their Bandcamp page below.

https://oltimemoonshine.bandcamp.com/

The lads from Toronto that go by the handle of Pale Mare came on next. These dudes are pretty kick ass. The band broke in a new drummer for the show but you wouldn’t have known it. The 3 piece did a great job of warming up the crowd. I saw a lot of headbanging  and throwing of devil horns. I liked them, and even bought their new cassette(Yes, thankfully they still make those). I thought they have a little Motorhead in them (which is fitting this week), mixed with some heavy doom and a punk attitude. Check out their Bandcamp page below.

https://palemareband.bandcamp.com/merch

Eyehategod came on next. Brian Patton was not there as he was home helping out with his new baby. The band was great even without him though. They slayed their entire set. While warming up, Jimmy Bower came out on stage. the crowd was pumped, but none more than one guy yelling “Jimmy, Jimmy..” Jimmy told him to stop and when the dude wouldn’t he chucked something at him. I can only assume his goose egg will makea good story. Then there’s lead singer Mike IX Williams. He reminds me of Hugh Dillon. If you stand down front at a Headstones concert, Hugh would probably spit on you. If you are up front at a Eyehategod show, Mike will blow snot in your general direction(as was reported at the Detroit show, and I witnessed here). Either way, I stood one row back, left of stage and I came out clean. It’s good to see Mike back after stints in jail and almost dying from liver failure on stage earlier. He may have a new liver but still has the same old snarl. These boys know how to rock. They have the right mix of sludge and hardcore punk, along with just enough N’Orleans southern charm. The crowd was into it. Even the dude that did a face plant off the front barrier and landed a few feet away from me(Note to self: If crowd surfing, make sure there are enough willing people to hold you up). He got right back up, shook off his concussion symptoms, and got right back in the pit. Dude’s hardcore and so is the band.

2018-01-09 21.24.40

 

The night was closed off by Corrosion of Conformity. They played a few songs off the new album (I saw the band 3 days before the album release, and sadly it was not at the merch table), but mostly the favourites. The crowd was into it too. I moved back a bit and was not up front for this set as I am just getting too old for the slam dancing. Good news is Pepper Keenan is back in the band. You probably knew that if you are a fan, but all I can say is this dude is Awesome with a capital A. The only thing I could have wished for would have been an impromptu Down mini-set. Pepper could have gotten Jimmy up on stage and done a Down song or 2. Oh well.

 

 

A great night. Great sound. The bands involved more than made up for the lack of Black Label Society, and I didn’t get snotted on or crushed by falling dudes, so there’s that.

2018-01-09 22.26.55

 

9/10

 

 

 

Chris Tsangrides Top 10

Sadly Chris died yesterday from pneumonia. I just read that he had also been placed in a medically induced coma 3 years ago to combat Legionnaire’s disease. I’m not sure if that contributed to his death. He was a great producer, and behind the scenes guy on a ton of records for over 40 years. RIP Chris.

I know I posted it as a top 10, but I want to add this one in. So top 11.

11 – Tygers Of Pan Tang : Spellbound – Chris produced and engineered this early NWOBHM classic. The band never got the recognition they rightfully deserved. Chris really improved on the production, and cleaned up the sound of the vocals. He did a great job.

10 – Judas Priest : Sad Wings Of Destiny – While many would consider his work on Painkiller to be the pinnacle of his work with JP, Sad Wings Of Destiny was an amazing album, and this is my favourite song by the band.

9 – Black Sabbath : Sabotage – He was “just” a tape operator on this album, but Tony liked him so much, years later he had Chris come back and be the final producer on The Eternal Idol album.

8 Bruce Dickinson : Tatooed Millionaire – This was a great first solo effort by a metal god that wanted to go in a more hard rock direction. Chris delivered.

7 Concrete Blonde : Bloodletting – A shift away from his usual heavier albums. This one had a massive hit with the song Joey.

6 Thin Lizzy : Thunder And Lightning – While many people were first introduced to Thin Lizzy with the song Jailbreak, I first heard them in 1983 when the song Cold Sweat was in heavy rock radio rotation.

5 Y & T : Mean Streak – While not featuring the radio hits that the band released a few years later, this album had great production from you know who.

4 King Diamond : Conspiracy – This album was a continuation of the concept album entitled Them. Chris wanted to keep what was great with the band, but he changed the style as well. He put the guitars in front and turned them up, and lowered King Diamond’s mic volume a bit and removed some of the effects. Chris knew what he was doing.

3 Gary Moore : Back On The Streets – Gary Moore. Phil Lynott. Brian Downey. Chris Tsangrides. ‘Nuff said.

2 The Tragically Hip : Fully Completely – Probably the most popular Hip album, and many would say it was the high point of the band. It is near the top on my Hip album pile, and I love how Chris was both able to let the band be their creative self, but also keep them grounded and do what they do. Amazing album. If you don’t own a copy, run (literally) to the store and buy one. You won’t regret it.

1 Anvil : Metal On Metal – Chris produced and engineered this album. I remember cranking this sucker the first time I heard it on the radio back in the day. It became a rock radio staple for a long time, and the band rode the 80’s wave of metal.