It’s a month of love and presidents. We still are completely enamored with music and these are the titles we nominate as best of the batch. Just throw in one of these with a box of chocolates and you should be good to go with your main constituent.
When British heavy metal artists Judas Priest (www.judaspriest.com) released Turbo in the mid 1980’s it received mixed reactions. The band’s 10th studio album at that time was a major departure from their previous efforts. First there were more songs about romance than their usual sci-fi fantasy themes. Also the group was experimenting with guitar synthesizers thus the tracks were less hard rocking with elements of glam-metal and pop. Turbo was a commercial success reaching Gold and Platinum within a year but a contingent of Judas Priest’s established fan base did not care for the change in musical direction. The videos for the turbo charged “Turbo Lover” and the sexually charged “Locked In” were in heavy rotation on MTV thus furthering record sales. Now with so much more history under their belts it was a good time for Judas Priest to put out Turbo 30. The 3-CD set includes a re-mastered version of Turbo paired with a live concert recorded at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri on May 22, 1986. Turbo 30 is a celebration of a pivotal and powerful record in the Judas Priest canon reflecting the musical landscape of the 80’s. Plus, it was one of the band’s biggest selling records and well worth a revisit.
Hailed as the first commercial voice of Rainbow Graham Bonnet (www.grahambonnetband.com) has remained a colorful figure in the world of hard rock. Having worked with such heavyweights as Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Cozy Powell, Roger Glover and Don Airey throughout his career you know he’s got some stories to tell. On The Book he pens a disc-full of new music while rewriting some past chapters included on a second bonus platter. Backed and balanced by a capable band comprised of Conrado Pesinato/guitars, Jimmy Waldo & Angelo Vafeiadis/keyboards, Beth-Ami Heavenstone/bass and Mark Zonder/drums – Bonnet is up to the task proving he’s still ready to make an authoritative statement as heavy metal’s enigmatic elder statesmen. Graham and band sound right at home on the welcoming “Welcome to My Home” that is constructed on a hammer pounding beat that offers a glimpse into Bonnet’s world. “Rider” is a glorious metal anthem that finds the legendary singer proudly retaking the territory he’s roamed before. The title track opens with a driving force that leads to a pot of gold courtesy of power chords and a potent riff. We can’t wait for the sequel.
In between full length albums and touring the hard rocking, hardworking Halestorm (www.halestormrocks.com) have released their third covers EP – ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP”. Singer Lzzy Hale proves that she has got as much power as her male counterparts in the metal world starting with a sizzling “Still Of The Night” (Whitesnake) flowing into a daring “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” (Sophie B. Hawkins) followed by a potent “I Hate Myself For Loving You” a fine nod to another edgy leading lady – Joan Jett. The haunting “Heathens” paired with the dark “Fell On Black Days” (Soundgarden) are capped off with a menacing “Ride The Lightning” (Metallica). “We are so excited to finally unleash our latest cover EP, ReAniMate 3,” said Lzzy. “On this EP we were inspired to push the limits and challenge the ears of our fans. There are some surprises that you may not have expected from us, and there are also things that you’ve always wanted to hear from us. We were so incredibly honored to work alongside producer Nick Raskulinecz. He truly helped us bring these songs to life and find a way to make them Halestorm” – so check it out folks and see/hear for yourselves.
P.J. Farley (www.pjfarley.net) is the longtime bass player for the hard rocking Trixter. But, he’s been quietly hard at work on his solo debut Boutique Sound Frames for most of the past decade. This effort finds him up to many old tricks with new offerings as he opens the doors on his solo career. To get the job done P.J. enlisted bandmate and producer Steve Brown to bring his quality demos to life. That genesis is displayed on the opening track “Take It Straight” that starts off unpolished before the full production kicks in providing just a bit of insight into the process required for P.J. to set up shop and get the album’s 11 strong modern rock tracks out to the marketplace via MelodicRock Records. “Things We Hold Onto” is a mature and honest look at a relationship with a past powered by a strong structure that lifts up the most melancholic melodic rock track in the collection. “Suckerpunch” sneaks up on you with a memorable chorus while “What You Do” recalls the best of Farley and Brown’s previous band 40 Ft. Ringo with familiar strains seemingly cut from their song “Origami Mommy”. Being Jersey boys we couldn’t help miss their nod to the Boss on “Ain’t No Good” with verses that sound like they’ve been riding in the back of a “Pink Cadillac” for part of the trip! Still, this record is truly a grand opening on a solo flight that’s sounding real good, sounding real good!
Jason Minton (www.jasonminton.net) is a a native Tennessean who spent his life surrounded by the country music industry but grew up listening to the power pop pleasantries of British sensations like Squeeze and Crowded House. That mix of influences is compelling and should have widespread commercial appeal, too. In recent years Minton attended a songwriter’s workshop in Nashville where he was rudely rebuffed by the snarky hipsters. They told him he’d never “make it in this town”. His immediate response was, “But, I’m from here” but he saved his strongest reply via the humorous retort found in “The Short End of the Stick”. Another winning song from the same record, Somedays, was “Fight” that showed Minton was in the ring battling for his right to make the music that he loves. Minton has now put together a strong new band with some of Music City’s finest and we wouldn’t be surprised if this was the year he began to mint his name well beyond the region.
The Wood Brothers (www.thewoodbros.com) have performed at plenty of respectable venues in their travels but the late Levon Helm’s Barn in Woodstock, NY holds a special place in the their hearts. The trio – guitarist Oliver Wood, bassist Chris Wood, and drummer Jano Rix – were friends with Levon. They were heavily influenced by the man and his music. On August 19, 2016 the Wood Brothers recorded Live At The Barn (available on Honey Jar Records) for a career spanning set of eclectic and engaging tunes that run the range from blues, folk, funk, rock and soul by mixing acoustic and electric instruments. They started the set with an animated “Mary Anna” flowing into a fun “I Got Loaded” with a cool call and response with the crowd. “Tried And Tempted” along with “Who The Devil” and a swaggering yet sweet “Honey Jar” were propelled by feisty, funky grooves. In honor of Helm they played a perceptive “Postcards From Hell” and finished up the ramble with the classic “Ophelia”. Reflecting on the show Oliver shares “it’s so intimate and casual that it feels less like a concert and more like a living room jam, the spirit in there is strong, from the history and the intent that Levon had when he built the place to all the great music and musicians that have played there.”
Yoko Ono (www.imaginepeace.com) continues her nearly 16-year long love affair with electronic dance music. Her incendiary club single “HELL IN PARADISE 2016” (PART 1) recently reached #18 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart – alongside hits from The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Pet Shop Boys, Rihanna and Empire Of The Sun. The searing call to arms is the first official single from ONO’s critically-acclaimed remix collaborations album Yes, I’m A Witch Too. The release also includes productions by Miike Snow, Death Cab For Cutie, Tune-Yards, Peter Bjorn & John, Moby, Sparks, Portugal The Man, Danny Tenaglia and more. Yoko continues to cast a spell as she conjures up another chapter in an amazing career resurgence.
Enigmatic artist and musician Joseph Arthur (www.josepharthur.com) has recently released his highest profile project yet as his cover of the Louis Armstrong classic “What A Wonderful World” has been incorporated into a new public service announcement (PSA) featuring former First Lady Michelle Obama. The Food Policy Action Education Fund (FPA-EF) announced the launch of A Place at the Table, kicking off a three-year national media campaign to inspire America and our leaders to make ending hunger in the U.S. a national priority. The video features working Americans struggling with hunger and encourages viewers to fuel the potential of every child by demanding action from our nation’s leaders to fix the problem.
When Frontiers released Pride Of Lions’ (www.aprideoflions.com) groundbreaking debut record in 2003, many wondered “is this one of those project bands that do one or two CDs and then disappear – or a real band with staying power?” In 2017, the resounding reply is Pride Of Lions has been in it for the long run. Fearless is the group’s fifth studio album and it’s packed with a dozen daring power pop and rock tunes. Toby Hitchcock is king with his strong vocals as the rest of the pride keeps pace with roaring riffs and rhythms. Pride Of Lions come out strong with the two opening tracks. Both “All I See Is You” and the “The Tell” are insightful yet intense songs setting the tone for much of the record which also has a number of bold ballads such as “Everlasting Love” and “The Light In Your Eyes”. However, the leaders of the pack are the anthemic title track and the equally rousing “Rising Up”. Fearless proves that Pride Of Lions are still in courageous and creative form with music running the range from reflective to rocking with a nod to classic rock in a contemporary context.
Neon Alley (www.facebook.com/NeonAlley/) based out of Boston, Massachusetts specializes in living and breathing blues-based hard rock that reflects the past and present of the genre. The trio consists of David Vaccaro-guitar/vocals/producer, bassist Mike McDonald and drummer, Motor City Scott Marion. On their self-titled debut Neon Alley’s years of experience shine on tracks showcasing infectious, insightful lyrics paired with riveting rhythms topped off with layered, lusty guitar leads. The 8-track CD opens with a rousing “That How It Is” flowing into the melodic yet muscular “All I Want” then diving into a hard driving cover of “Jailhouse Rock”. “Only Want To Be With You” is a pleasant pop love ballad revealing a softer side of Neon Alley. The album concludes with a one two power punch pairing the anthemic “Got To Rock” (and it does) with “Til I’m Done” a swaggering statement of blazing riffs and rhythms. Neon Alley is street savvy rock and roll for the masses.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? – Crossfire Choir: If Thomas Dolby and Peter Garrett had a love child raised by Sid Vicious that would possibly begin to explain the curious sound Crossfire Choir was going for in the mid-80s. This choir surrounded themselves with greatness as their debut was produced by Steve Lillywhite while Hilly Kristal managed the quality quartet. The album’s 14-tracks conjure up images of cargo pants and Rubik’s Cubes with a dual guitar and keyboard attack prominently used in the era. “Nation of Thieves” was well ahead of it’s time and could work well in a modern setting. “To Be Young” is energetic and punky with a youthful chorus. “Walk Walk” marches with a purpose while “Whats It To Ya” was the one that generated the most buzz for the New Jersey rockers. As good as any of their peers from the decade somehow Crossfire Choir missed finding themselves in the cross-hairs of a commercial breakthrough. We recently caught up with their former frontman Jay Pounders (www.jpounders.com) in Nashville, Tennessee where he’s still pounding the pavement pursuing the elusive hit song while performing on the stages in Music City. Jay had some hilarious stories to tell while strumming country influenced contemporary tracks in a one-man singer/songwriter format.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! That Noise (www.thatnoisemusic.com) say that their post-election PTSD is so uncomfortably palpable that they decided to channel their energy into a new song entitled “Our Chance Is Now”. The resulting creative response from the band offers hope that the people united will never be defeated in a pleasing and incendiary rock track that merges genres from the past three decades seamlessly…
The furious full frontal assault from Findlay (www.findlaymusic.com) continues as she shakes and rattles her “Electric Bones” the second single from her debut album Forgotten Pleasures. Described as a cat scratching in her throat, full of banter and insolent, tearing cracks through nature all 13 tracks on the album reveal the ins and outs of her complex personality while cohesively blending the male-dominated rock sound of yesteryear with the indomitable spirit of a girl who isn’t to be reckoned with..
Nothing is quite as it seems as CEEM (www.musicbyceem.com) the dance pop specialist from Seattle preps his latest full-length release The Instigator for a summer 2017 release. He says it’s just his nature to be the instigator and the piercing and percussive title does really get things going. CEEM takes listeners on an autobiographical journey in hopes of connecting with his audience on a profound level, all while keeping the beat and energy pumping…
Tara Lynch (www.taralynch.com) is an American guitarist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist with a new single “Trustless” from her forthcoming debut album Evil Enough. The concept behind the music is about overcoming life’s toughest moments and coming through the other side much stronger for it. The record features a cast of competent characters including Tony MacAlpine, Derek Sherinian, Brian Tichy and Glen Sobel. Trust us, this one is sounding good…
R&B and Soul progenitor Chris Jasper (www.goldcitymusic.com) shares the love on the mid-tempo “I Love You” from his recent Share With Me album. The New York-based Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee scored early and often with The Isley Brothers during the 1970s and 1980s and he’s kept the golden touch going as a prolific solo artist. We love it…
From the rarefied air of rock royalty we move to RESD’s (soundcloud.com/resdmusic) No Oxygen the acclaimed debut EP from Australia’s producer and songwriter Paul Carpenter who set out working in a home studio programming beats and textures on an iPad resulting in this stunning collection of songs that will take your breath away. Early press says the music evokes the icy, baroque sounds of Radiohead circa Kid A with touches of James Blake, Icehouse and Four Tet thrown in to creative an explosive mix…
There’s a new poisonous shade of punk courtesy of The Venomous Pinks (www.thevenomouspinks.com) an all girl punk rock band hailing from the viper infested region of Phoenix, Arizona. Influenced by Joan Jett and The Ramones, these four talented musicians are ready to break your heart and bust your balls with a sound that is 100% rock and roll. Their brand new EP “We Do It Better” features Drea Doll on guitar/vocals, Gaby Kaos on guitar/bass/vocals, Corrie Zazzera on guitar and Jukie on drums. Together, the foursome will intoxicates with their skills, high energy, and no holds barred attitude. With their salacious sound, they’ve cultivated quite the following, putting on a spectacle that showcases their girl power and leaves audiences wanting more…
See ya next month!
ABOUT US: Sights and Sounds of Note column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are longtime activists in the music industry. Together, they have reviewed thousands of concerts and music releases through their network of websites including www.soundpress.net, www.kweevak.com and www.musiccitynashville.net. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z (www.positivepowersecrets.net). Rich regularly interviews famous rock stars for the site’s radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at (www.richlynchband.com).