Dave Lawrence New Release Blog

Monday, June 25 2012

Tonight, the Van Halen / Kool and the Gang tour comes to an end. Since February, the unusual, historic combo of classic hard rock and classic funk has toured the mainland. Last month when they reached Vancouver, HPR's Dave Lawrence followed up a pair of phone interviews with this special conversation.

 

HPR's Dave Lawrence with Robert "Kool" Bell

 

 

Get more on the band at their website, koolandthegang.com. Also find Kool on Facebook.

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Friday, April 20 2012

Bob Marley film

 

Recently Bob Marley's life has been captured in the official new film from the family, released today. Last month, Ziggy played Honolulu and we spoke about the film and his father in detail. See this new interview here.

 

 

The new Bob Marley film is out now; it was released today, on 4/20. Check out a trailer for it below, and find out more at http://bobmarley.com/.

 

Tuesday, April 10 2012

Blues fans and music history buffs, there is a new live release from B.B. King worth taking note of. HPR's Dave Lawrence reviews “Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2011.”

 

 BB Albert Hall

 

The new CD and DVD release from the legendary bluesman documents how he continues to tour and record, despite his ever increasing age and the territorial realities that go along with it.

Early in the show, King makes it clear this night is not a usual concert, either. Not only is the venue a special place in and of itself, the blues master has toted along a few “surprises” as he alludes to as opening number “I Need You So” gets underway.

The guitar sound is classic BB, as he quietly and soulfully plays. His voice sounds a bit sleepy compared with the BB King of old, but he still gives the impression of being in command as the band grooves through “Key to the Highway,” and you feel like it’s the story of his own life so perfectly told to music.

The third track “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” brings out a story about the genesis of the song back when he was 84. It’s a humorous moment but it captures the essence of the longevity of his career.

On “All Over Again” the slow, slinky blues come with a thick guitar tone for a solo that drips with the kind of sound that made BB King the preeminent blues man of his generation. The authority that comes with his mean delivery of “Rock Me Baby” showed King in fine form for the evening, belting out the classic with soul and feel. Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks along with wife and blues musician Susan Tedeschi wail along with him on the extended track.

“You Are My Sunshine” also was a tasty treat to enjoy.

It paved the way for the heavy guest session ahead. “B.B. Jams with Guests” delivers over fifteen minutes of raw blues power as everyone from Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood to Guns N’ Roses’ Slash also join the fun, showcasing the multi-generational power of King’s legacy. “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Guess Who” add nice flavor but it’s the all-star “When The Saints Go Marching In” that seals the deal. Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall also shines on the set that both gives spotlight to BB and his interpretations on these blues classics at this point in his life, and equal presence to the collaborative element that the various guests add. All in all, it’s an action-packed exploration of blues and genuine reverence for one of the genre’s most important figures, bar none.

See two videos from the concert below.

 

Wednesday, March 14 2012

"Sixteen Saltines" from Jack White's debut album, available April 23/24. More info at http://jackwhite.thirdmanrecordsstore.com.

  

 

Jack White

Monday, February 27 2012

 HPR's Dave Lawrence reviews the new Paul McCartney documentary The Love We Make.

 

The Love We Make

 

Out in December of 2011, The Love We Make is a moving documentary of just a few weeks in the life of Sir Paul McCartney. Directed by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan, The Love We Make chronicles the time from September 11, 2001 through to the Concert for New York at Madison Square Garden a few weeks later on October 20th.

McCartney was on the runway getting ready to depart on a plane that fateful morning. Seizing on the energy of the moment, the DVD takes you on the trip with Sir Paul toward realizing he wants to give back, and help out, culminating with the star-studded MSG event. But the story is a bit more detailed than that; you learn how Paul’s father was a firefighter during World War II, and how Paul looks at this as a chance to give back on that score. He adds to it his connection to New York City and America in Beatles history, and so from the tragedy of 9/11, a concert is born.

Paul’s vision for a small benefit concert is merged with a VH1 plan to stage a larger show with layers of artists. The Love We Make shows how that comes together, with entertainment heavy Harvey Weinstein key in the mix. Over the course of several weeks, the viewer is taken behind the scenes as Paul rehearses for the performance, and does a series of interviews. Going along with Sir Paul for interview sessions with Dan Rather and Howard Stern, among others, shows some insight into Paul’s confident, relaxed demeanor. Seemingly unflappable in the face of typical racy questioning from radio legend Stern, and equally at ease communicating with veteran broadcaster Rather, McCartney seems largely unaffected by anything. He has a removed, thousand-yard stare even in his most engaged moments.

A way that The Love We Make really drives that point home is watching McCartney stroll the streets of New York, for a series of film shoots where he never stops walking, as random New Yorkers approach for pictures, autographs, or even to just share memories with the affable Beatle. Never rattled, always slightly on the move, Sir Paul mixes it up with everyone from business people from his past that he bumps into, to one guy who appears homeless, and unsuccessfully seeks assistance from Paul, who nonchalantly keeps the walk train rolling through all encounters.

Seeing Paul hanging out with James Taylor is a treat. The two recount their long history and the key role McCartney played in Taylor’s discovery. The humble JT gets a second feature in the film when another scene features he, Macca, and former President Clinton all BSing backstage at the Madison Square Garden show. The moments are wild perhaps for what they reveal about James Taylor more than anything; his strong connection to McCartney and Clinton is impressive; they both treat the Fire and Rain songwriter like an old friend.

Other musicians and celebs who drop by in the days and hours prior to the Garden soiree include Sheryl Crow, Billy Crystal, Jim Carrey, and Eric Clapton. The Carrey exchange is interesting; he seems to meet Sir Paul quickly backstage, gushing to him (as almost all those who meet him do). When he’s done with Sir Paul, he’s back into a crowd and headed out of the VIP area when Paul’s daughter Stella, un-introduced, attempts to lure Carrey into wearing a New York policeman’s hat. Carrey appears to completely blow off her request, saying something like “Somebody else does that”, unaware it’s Sir Paul’s daughter he’s dismissing. Funny moment, and perhaps one Carrey would cringe at seeing. It’s fun to watch stars like Ritchie Sambora of Bon Jovi gawking at Sir Paul up-close, trying to get his attention and get a word in with the megastar.

There are quite a few moments showing McCartney’s band practicing. It’s kept entertaining with shots of rehearsals with Billy Joel and is the only part of the documentary that ever gets tedious.

The heaviest moments are from the concert itself. Somehow, all the years in between do not take away knowledge of what happened to bring together this line-up of artists. It’s the shots of the firefighters in the crowd that got this reviewer most directly in the heart. Seeing the colleagues of the men who perished in that horrific morning… there is a strong wave of emotion it produces, remembering the raw emotions swirling in the air just weeks after the attacks. Suddenly the rock show part is not as important. Seeing The Who’s deadly serious take on Won’t Get Fooled Again, one of the anthem’s of the post-9/11 era, interspersed with shots of firefighters and first responders watching… those moments were tearjerkers. The enormous all-star “Freedom” sing-along winds up a show that carries the weight of thousands of souls. Few rock concerts -- if any other concert ever did -- end up being so serious. Few DVD’s of rock concerts evoke the kind of emotional response The Love We Make concludes with, between the live shots showing the faces of firemen, to the final scene at a firehouse in New York where many brave men lost their lives on September 11th, 2001.

 

 Here is the official trailer for the film:

 

Friday, February 17 2012

Gary Sinise

 

Making another of his regular visits to the islands, actor and musician Gary Sinise last weekend played Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Marine Corps Base Hawai`i. His Lt. Dan Band performs around the world providing entertainment to our armed forces at USO and other military events.  Ahead of the Kaneohe date for the Marines, HPR's Dave Lawrence spoke with him about his musical mission.

 

 

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Monday, January 30 2012

Over nearly five decades, George Clinton has been a critical figure in music. HPR's Dave Lawrence connected with the head of the Funk Mob shortly after the emergence of Mothership: The Decatur Connection, a collaborative effort with hip-hop artist Aleon Craft.

 

 George Clinton

 

Hear about this new mash-up, plus highlights from across the generations of his career in this exclusive, once in a lifetime conversation. Also hear the new project below in this posting. For more information, go to georgeclinton.com.

 

 

 

 

In addition to featuring this current new release, check out some classic early George Clinton going all the way back to 1969:

 

 

 

 

George and Parliament-Funkadelic in the mid-70's on the classic Dave sang to George, with live 1977 video featuring Red Hot Momma:

 

 

 

In 1999 George brought a deluxe version of the Funk Mob to Woodstock '99:

 

 

 

Last year George did a rare TV appearance on Craig Ferguson in February 2011:

 

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Monday, December 19 2011

Guitarist and songwriter Kenny Wayne Shepherd is back with a new release, How I Go. He took time to speak with HPR's Dave Lawrence about the album and his colorful background.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Check out the video for Never Lookin' Back from the album:

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Thursday, November 24 2011

Deep Purple with Orchestra - Live in Montreux 2011

 

A new release documents one of the important performances at the 2011 Montreux Jazz Festival. Deep Purple with Orchestra - Live at Montreux 2011 captures the band whose song Smoke On The Water popularized the festival, live in concert, performing there earlier this year during the annual summer festival. Purple closed out the final night of the 2011 edition, which was the 45th version of the long running European event.

Deep Purple today features Ian Gillan on vocals, Ian Paice on drums, Roger Glover on bass, Steve Morse on guitar, and Don Airey on keyboards. They’ve recently resurrected the orchestra concept for Purple, who were in many ways pioneers of the blending of rock and classical, via their late 60’s initial experiments with the idea.

The show opens with the typical Purple opener of Highway Star, arguably the best way to get a Purple show rolling. Everyone is in fine form and the show starts with the orchestra, then joined by the band. They blend tunes from throughout the many eras of the group, and fans are treated to many less familiar numbers, as well as Purple favorites, and concert classics they’ve included in shows since day one.

Some of the early classics fans may appreciate after the roaring opening include Maybe I’m A Leo, and Strange Kind Of Woman (see the smoking video of this from the DVD below). Steve Morse has been in Deep Purple now longer than any other guitarist (by far), and it shows. He’s so familiar with the material, recreating the sounds like Ritchie Blackmore might have in some spots, or perhaps Tommy Bolin, and adding his own feel in other moments. He’s a masterful player.

Woman From Tokyo showcases Ian Gillan’s more R n’ B style these days, and the arrangements of tunes like that help make it a more organic groove filled performance than a heavy rock show. Ian’s voice still sounds great; worn from years of work, and his appearance is more like a rocking grandfather than imposing hard rock front man.

A highpoint in the concert is Knocking At Your Back Door, one of the Perfect Strangers numbers that evolved into a must-have classic in the repertoire. Don Airey shows why he was so in-demand with Ozzy and bands like Jethro Tull over the years; he’s such a valuable player, and still looks fantastic. His work on Lazy and his solo also are highpoints in the show. So many incredible sounds he delivers over the course of the night, always complimenting the rich sound of the orchestra. The orchestra players, for their part, look to thoroughly enjoy the performance.

Perfect Strangers continues the nod to the mid-80’s revival of Deep Purple, and the songs contours provide the perfect run for the orchestra to cut loose. Space Truckin’ is as raucous and hard rockin’ as ever, yet brought to a new level of massiveness via the addition of the orchestral arrangements.

Smoke On The Water is the song of the night, and delivered as a huge climax, though Hush and Black Night are additional numbers to wrap up what is a memorable concert.

Added bonuses with the package include band interviews which provide some insight into the Purple mindset with this line-up. After meeting them in person a few times, their good-natured quality displayed in the interview segment comes across as an accurate portrayal of some of the nicest guys in rock.

 

 See "Strange Kind Of Woman" from the DVD below:

Sunday, November 13 2011

When it comes to enduring rock credibility or musical trailblazing, some names carry enormous weight: Henry Rollins, Rick Rubin, and Black Sabbath are among those. It was ironic all three shared the stage last week to announce the forthcoming 2012 reunion of the original Sabbath. Rollins, as announcement MC, toted confirmation that a Rubin-produced new album (their first together since 1978's Never Say Die) was, in fact, on the way. Days before the historic 11.11.11 reunion event, pioneering Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi sat down with HPR's Dave Lawrence, Honolulu Host of NPR's All Things Considered, heard statewide in Hawaii weekday afternoons. This nearly one hour conversation centered on the volume of Sabbath stories covered in Iommi's new book "Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath."

Arguably the guitarist whose style is the root of heavy metal guitar, one of rock's most-pioneering players, Tony Iommi created -- invented -- much of the sonic landscape that changed the face of rock numerous times. Iommi has achieved this longevity through generations of players and even genres that have followed his musical map, from Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoades and Slash to Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and the entire influential 90's 'Seattle Scene,' or Grunge. Black Sabbath wrote that book.

Tony Iommi "Iron Man" book cover

Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath demonstrated what underground was, as the original alternative, the first band that defined 'heavy.' Anything remotely serious or sonically heavy in popular music prior to the arrival of Black Sabbath, and with it Iommi's innovative sound, paled by comparison to their ferocious assault. Equally, his riffs were accompanied by deadly serious tackling of, at the time, new themes in pop music: Vietnam, drug abuse, depression, religion, societal dysfunction and many other subjects yet to be exploited topically.

Estimating the critical role Sabbath and Iommi's style have played on popular music is difficult. It is hard to imagine Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains without Black Sabbath, and without Tony Iommi. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Metallica, Slayer, Pantera and essentially every metal band can be traced to the musical framework found in Iommi compositions. The original Black Sabbath albums (and even the first two with Dio) are textbooks in a study of the origins of heavy metal, and nearly all forms of hard rock. It's in the crunchy guitar thump of 311, minor key downer rock of The Arctic Monkeys, and even the power chord work-outs of Kings of Leon; you'll find Sabbath's influence in a lot of places. Their relevance, and Iommi's, as the architect of that guitar-driven sound which has informed so many other genres and artists, is hard to overstate. His website is iommi.com; Black Sabbath's website is blacksabbath.com. On a technical note, the video is shot in 1080p HD, so the players may be set to that for best performance. Mahalo to WNYC, New York for providing the studio and engineer George Wellington, and Anthony Gemignani of All-Star Music Academy in New Jersey for assisting with the video recording.

Monday, October 17 2011

Drum legend Carmine Appice has been sharing his gifts of ferocious playing and tasty songwriting with the world for decades. From his days with Vanilla Fudge in the sixties, when they had, among others, Led Zeppelin as openers, to his time with BBA -- Beck, Bogert and Appice -- through to tours and albums with Rod Stewart, Ted Nugent, Cactus, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Schenker and many others. Recently he released the VBA album -- Vargas, Bogert and Appice, and HPR's Dave Lawrence caught up with his old friend for an update.

VBA album cover

Find out more about Carmine Appice at carmineappice.net. See a couple videos for tracks on this new album below.

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Thursday, September 29 2011

 

Rainbow Live in Germany 1976

If you're a fan of Ritchie Blackmore, Rainbow, or Ronnie James Dio, you likely have known about the tasty "Live In Germany" 2CD Rainbow 1976 recordings for some time. Many years ago the collection was released to legions of waiting fans eager for more live material from this classic line-up of Rainbow. The band at the time featured Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, the late great Cozy Powell on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass, and Tony Carey on keyboards. Rainbow fans, Blackmore enthusiasts, Dio connoisseurs, and other music fans have considered this second line-up of Rainbow the ultimate group to perform under that name. The combination of the young Dio rising, the post-Purple Blackmore looking to shine again, one of rock’s greatest drummers bar none, and two upcoming talents together in a new group is something that offered a savage live vehicle. While they chose a similar set for most dates on each tour, the group could weave and bend through the songs to come up with powerful improvisations and emotional renditions of the handful of songs in their catalog. After all, they only had two records as of Rising, when these live recordings were made during a run of dates in 1976. The recent Purple number Mistreated was also included, and almost every song had a long jam quality. Simply put, it was epic.


The show opens with the standard pre-recorded Wizard of Oz sequence and off into a startling Kill The King. Dio leans into it like it’s his last live performance; Cozy Powell explodes with the force he’s known for; and Tony Carey lays into the organ for Leslie cabinet-fueled wailing. It’s a Rainbow fans dream. Cozy bears down with double-bass thumping and the show is off to an adrenaline-filled start.

 

Mistreated is the first taste of the improvisation to come. The blues power session opens with the psychedelic delayed guitar lines of Ritchie, who keeps the delay sending torrents of screaming guitar into your face throughout the thirteen minute plus odyssey. A lengthy guitar solo is met with Ronnie coming up with his own emotional climax of vocalizing. Cozy is relentless with a thundering steady drum line that picks up during the songs outro journey on the “losing my mind” refrain. These guys are on fire.

 

Sixteenth Century Greensleeves has never been one of my favorite lyrical compositions, but the riff is stomping and the band plow it down like they own it, riffing around this classic theme. Dio is right at home with the scene of something out of the era of royalty and medieval times.

 

One of the bands sort of namesake songs, Catch The Rainbow, wraps up the first disc, with a mellow start and bombastic, over the top finish. Clearly one of the real gems from the first Rainbow album, they smoke it, filled with emotion, and some fine, clean guitar work from Ritchie. His fluid playing is masterful yet experimental. For some this is a signature Dio-era Rainbow anthem. While repeated listening over the course of one’s life does give the song the sort of overplayed feel a Stairway To Heaven has, this live version is one of the most powerful examples of it to be found, commercially or through bootleg trades.

 

Disc two is powered up with a massive jammy Man On The Silver Mountain. This track contains little of the laid back approach found on the Rainbow debut, and instead launches like a rocket, with the very tempo of the song at a much faster clip. Inside, it’s a journey to the rock n roll roots that started the band, and Ronnie takes a lot of vocal improv and interplay with Ritchie to emotional mountaintops. Cozy rips this thing apart, but then again, every song on the record has his patented, Bonham-with-two-feet approach settling all scores and leaving a listener stunned by his heavy, dead-on playing.

 

The Dio-era of Rainbow was the one containing the wizards, dragons, witches and medieval themes Ronnie constantly touched on throughout his colorful career. Of those compositions, one in particular, from Rising, has always been a stand-out. Joined by a musical track that is one of Blackmore’s finest, Stargazer tells the story of the wizard who built the tower to the sky, only to, at the end, watch it crumble to the ground. Within, it’s a tale of sacrilege, and the costs of not respecting the forces at work relating to life's harmony and balance. The cost of greed, of megalomania, perhaps. Ritchie Blackmore never quite matches his studio guitar solo for this live, but it’s a lot of fun listening to the heavy metal work-out this true epic gets.

 

The Yardbirds Still I’m Sad is treated to the typical Rainbow marathon jamming, pushing the limits of song lengths as many of the cuts on this compilation do. Cozy’s drum solo lights up the night, and it’s the one moment for this listener that a video track would have been nice accompaniment. Still I’m Sad is a great cover for these guys.

 

Do You Close Your Eyes is another Rising track that is not jammed out to the usual 70’s style album-side length, yet the boys tackle it like troopers. Ritchie would often smash his guitar during this one.

 

Overall, a must-have recording of Rainbow. If you’ve never gotten into the band, this album will deliver the ultimate in-concert listening experience, and perhaps push a new fan to grab the first Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album, Rising, or perhaps Long Live Rock n’ Roll, the three Dio-fronted studio albums from Rainbow. Rainbow Onstage is the official live release, and also a nice addition to any music fan’s collection.

 Here's a little of Rainbow captured live in Germany the following year, to give you an idea what that era of the band was like.

 

Monday, August 29 2011

Over the years, Bayfest has brought a lot of artists to the islands, some for their first-ever performances. One of those acts would be Puddle of Mudd. Wes Scantlin and Paul Phillips of the band sat down with HPR's Dave Lawrence before the show for an extensive chat of all things Mudd. Dave Lawrence speaks with Puddle of Mudd at Bayfest

Below also hear their first single from the new Puddle of Mudd all covers album "Re(disc)covered" and their version of Gimmie Shelter. Find more about the band at their website, puddleofmudd.com. Gimme Shelter by puddleofmudd. Uploaded with BandPage by RootMusic

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Friday, July 8 2011

Queensryche continue to be inventive almost thirty years after their formation, and are back with a new album. Vocalist and songwriter Geoff Tate is often called one of the great hard rock or metal singers, and the classy, talented front man took time for HPR's Dave Lawrence, speaking with him last week on the day their new album Dedicated to Chaos dropped.

Queensryche -- Dedicated to Chaos

The first single from the album is "Get Started":

 

You can hear samples of Dedicated to Chaos at the Queensryche website.

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Friday, July 1 2011

Doobie Brothers Farewell Tour 1982

The Doobie Brothers have just released the tasty “Farewell Tour” 1983 album again, as a remastered, expanded collection. The original concert recording of their final show on the 1982 farewell tour includes a bonus four tracks from the Berkeley, California Greek Theatre date that wrapped up the Doobies for a brief time.

What you get on this newly released CD and DVD is a beat-down of Doobies hits that starts out “eighties-fast” – that… unusual phenomenon where most live acts from the seventies had those blazing fast versions of their classics throughout the eighties. Many of the songs seem to have that feel, as you relive the original album’s majesty, and relearn these sped-up live tracks that in some cases drastically rework the originals.

“Listen to the Music” leads the way, and the energy is on fire through the next track, “Sweet Maxine;” it continues with Doobie standard “Rockin’ Down the Highway,” which always is a crowd favorite of the biker-heavy audience. This was not just The Doobie Brothers, of course, but Michael McDonald, too.

Mike had joined the line-up in the mid-seventies and brought along a lot of melody, great vocals, keyboard playing, and a string of hits. His first real mark on this record is the “You Belong to Me” which pours out the soul, reminding this listener of the raw power Michael McDonald consistently brings to the table. The version of this jam is easily one of the stand-out tracks of the album.

The band blisters through “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)” with a kind of energy that shows off the tightness of the group at that moment; what you have here is the final date on a tour, plus being performed in their hometown, so the precision level is high. Everybody is firing on all cylinders from the get-go. “Long Train Runnin’” keeps the frenzy at full-tilt, with ferocious playing all around. “Black Water” delivers the sing-along session of the night, though at a Doobies show, there are a lot of moments to join in.

“Minute By Minute” is another chestnut of the Michael McDonald years; it leads into the “Slat Key Soquel Rag” and “Out on the Streets,” which is a nice dip into slightly deeper Doobie territory. What the album keeps doing is maintain the hit atmosphere, but occasionally take you on a deeper ride, like with these last couple of gems.

“What A Fool Believes” has always been one of my favorite Doobie Brothers songs. Maybe it’s the lyrics you can relate to, and put yourself into, through tales of missed opportunities and squandered love; maybe it’s the catchy phrasing and familiarity of the song, bringing you back in time via the nostalgia invariably created. It’s a dead-on smash live on this farewell tour recording.

The old classic spiritual remake “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “Takin’ it to the Streets” burn with the soul of the band at high, with soaring guitar solos and climactic vocals. “China Grove” with Tom Johnston doing that legendary appearance he made with the boys, nailing his song, and the raging reunion with Porter, Hossack and Hartman on "Listen to the Music" as the finale.

Bonus tracks fill-out the disc, including the absolutely lifting version of “Real Love” included. Such soulful vocals, and everyone shining, especially showcasing how much our Maui ohana, guitarist and good friend Pat Simmons and brother Michael McDonald, bring to the Doobies party. Nice work boys.

Saturday, June 25 2011

Albert Lee's new CD/DVD Live At The Tivoli

Albert Lee is thought of as among the true greats in guitar today. A guitarist's favorite guitarist, he's continued over decades to showcase amazing technical expertise, and complex finger-picking skill through gigs with Eric Clapton, The Everly Brothers, Joe Cocker, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and countless other projects. His latest effort is the live CD/DVD Live at the Tivoli. HPR's Dave Lawrence connected with him in between dates on his busy summer tour.

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Wednesday, June 22 2011

Who Cares

Last month, a new two-song project was released from Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan. According to the press materials, “Who Cares” re-teams the former Sabbath cohorts and long-time friends for the first time since the 1983 Black Sabbath “Born Again” album. In between, however, fans may also recall the celebrity all-star “Smoke On The Water” that Iommi and Gillan collaborated on back in 1989, released in 1990. That project is really the lead-in to this reunion, as the Purple and Sabbath stars return to sharing a project in the name of aiding people affected by the 1988 Armenia earthquake. Of course, not only did Iommi and Gillan team again since “Born Again” with the Armenia Aid project of 1989/1990, they worked together another time, even more recently: Ian Gillan’s 2006 solo album “Gillans Inn,” which Iommi appears on, performing a stunning remake of the ’83 Sabbath single “Trashed.”

Now that we’ve corrected the bio details relating to Iommi and Gillan’s occasional work over the last several decades, back to the new songs… Apparently, the area in Armenia affected by the earthquake of 1988 never really recovered, and despite the generosity twenty years ago, as Iommi says on the CD sleeve, “here was a music school doing their best, forgotten, in basic tin sheds.” It was that realization on Iommi’s part -- witnessing the continued devastation and poverty resulting from the quake -- that pushed him to realize perhaps their efforts needed a reprise… It was with that dose of reality that this latest benefit recording was produced.

“Out Of My Mind” is an interesting metal number with an all-star cast: ex-Metallica/Flotsam & Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted, Iron Maiden/ex-Pat Travers drummer Nicko McBrain, ex-Deep Purple keyboard maestro Jon Lord, and Iommi’s son-in-law, Swedish guitarist Linde Lindstrom, and of course Tony and Ian… It has a few changes that are typical for any classic-style metal song or composition by older metal guys. Nicko McBrain seems to be somewhat restrained on this cut, too. Iommi floors it, but one has to wonder why he needed to get the son-in-law on this otherwise all-star song. With Lindstrom on-board, it’s very hard to really call it all-star. Did Tony really need to give this guy the space? Couldn’t another star have done the other guitar work?

“Holy Water” is a second track arriving as part of “Who Cares” and is fitting as a B-side… after all, we are rapidly heading back into the era of singles-only… This track starts with an atmospheric, spacey segment complete with synthesizer moodiness and ethnic instrument the duduk providing an equally moody vibe for the track. Now backed by guitarists Michael Lee Jackson and Steve Morris, drummer Randy Clarke, keyboardists Jessie O’Brien and Ara Gevorgyan, duduk player Arshak Sahakyan. It has a bit more of an exploratory feel than “Out Of My Mind” but retains the trademark Iommi crunching power-chord riffing, and minor key sense of doom.

Adding to the two tracks is a short video documentary revealing how the heavy star talent coalesced around the songs and recorded the project. Clocking in at just under a half-hour, it’s a nice finale and bit of insight into this effort. Funds raised from the digital internet release of the two-song single will benefit the music school in Armenia which moved Iommi, in the comment above. All in all, a good pair of songs, interesting video documentary, and great cause.

Monday, June 20 2011

David Byrne Ride, Rise, Roar

 

Focusing on David Byrne is like focusing on a chameleon; right before your eyes, for the decades we've enjoyed his work, he transforms and transmutates into varying forms. It's been his MO from the beginning. He crackles sharp wit, defuses pomp and bombast with a sneering cynicism that is usually on track and rarely lets up. On "Ride, Rise, Roar" we get to experience a nice snapshot of one of those transitional moments. The venerable David Byrne, dressed sharply in a collared white shirt, white slacks and white belt and tie to match his fertile shock of silvery hair, begins the concert film “Ride, Rise, Roar” in an odd crab dance. Of course, in Byrne’s world, “odd” is simply a matter of perspective.  And that's really what makes it so much fun.

Kicking off the festivities, the quirky, visionary 59 year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, backed by a similarly attired ensemble and a small cadre of gyrating, leapfrogging dancers, appeals to his audience with a multi-disciplined take on his well-known Talking Heads anthem, “Once in a Lifetime.” These songs have become, in many ways, timeless. Recharged with new blood in the way of musicians and arrangements that let the songs shine in different ways, the live film rewards with it's familiarity that's... not entirely familiar, thanks to the creative re-working.

Flash to artsy black and white chat session, and we peek at private rehearsals and enjoy a behind-the-scenes view to the creative process behind Byrne’s stage show. Byrne has never been a man whose vision can be easily explained, though he attempts it in some of the candid moments where he devulges the inner-workings of his magic. “I thought it’d be nice to do something unexpected that also makes it a little bit more of a show,” says Byrne in his opening interview, “that adds a kind of a visual element.”

As he explains, Byrne invited choreographers normally not associated with pop acts to put together a troupe of artistic and earnest, if unglamorous, dancers for this concert tour. Think of it as adding flair and nuance that often his densely thick songs may conjure. In “Life Is Long,“ the limber performers uncoil and flail about in office chairs, which if attributed to any rock artist but David Byrne, might seem self-conscious and hammy. Perhaps extensions of themes already contained in the music, other times appearing as added art value or additonal storyline possibility. The results are surprisingly refreshing, however, as it becomes clear the inventive dancers are as integral to the whole sum of the program as the band or Byrne’s hit songs.

From the new wave gospel of “Road To Nowhere” to the excitable palpitation of “The Great Curve” and “Air,” Byrne and company takes its audience through a musical tour of his expansive trove of celebrated compositions. Like his opening, he goes for the jugular when bringing things to a close. When “Burning Down the House” rolls around, the band performs the hit song with verve and panache. Naturally, they also happen to be outfitted in little white tutus for visual effect. After all, this is David Byrne we’re talking about, and what would a David Byrne show be without a curveball? Or several?

Monday, June 13 2011

Marillion Live at Cadogan

Marillion have a new CD and DVD out, Live At Cadogan Hall, catching them live in concert and delivering a reasonable set of their prog-rock stew. This is not a band that have ever really caught on in a significant way in the US, or made even a small dent in the US mainstream rock market. Yet, prog-rock enthusiasts, British music fans, and a small group of devoted Marillion loyalists dispersed the world over have kept the band stumbling around just under the radar line for decades.

It is, of course, to any number of hard-core Marillion fans, totally not the same band without Fish, and with, Steve Hogarth. It's a major issue to some fans, and sort of like to many, Aerosmith without Steven Tyler, or a similar comparison. But, on the other side, there are another group of fans that could care less if Fish was there singing or not, and will take the band any way they are offered. Hence, the Marillion the world has known since after 1988. It's been that long, so perhaps folks may want to start getting used to Steve...

Onward we go, into the Cadogan Hall, and an intimate set from the tail end of their acoustic tour. This is of course... the "Less Is More" acoustic tour, and the date was December 9th, 2009, for those of you die-hard Marillion fans who just have to know.

It's esoteric stuff, and no amount of unplugging them can really take that away. Hogarth, to his credit, tries very hard, and the diverse musicianship of the band members helps keep things afloat - the multi-talented Pete Trawavas makes magic on the vibraphone, and everyone's overall contribution on the percussion-front throughout the show was a great way to allow the acoustic tour to bring a little extra spice and seasoning.

Hogarth has some incredible gear in the way of keyboards, hammer dulcimer and other toys positioned around him. His long and tedious intros to pieces were, at times, as painful as the dramatic prog arrangements he'd use the odd instruments for. It was hard not to find that an adoring Marillion crowd would be the only group of folks who'd stand for this kind of ultra, uber-eclectic stuff. Those would be the same crew still able to stomach late 70's ELP, album-length tracks broken into movements and other music that by today's dry and cynical standards, seems bloated, irrelevant, and awfully disconnected from reality.

But, I will say, the lights on the hammer dulcimer were grand, and it is a show, isn't it? Certainly the selection of material was gobbled up by the adoring throng in the small theatre audience, but getting through it on your own... that is another matter altogether. Take, for example Wrapped Up In Time... while you may be inclined to run for the door as Hogarth delivers a mercifully short introduction, this reviewer advises you fight it out, and stick with it. This tasty treat grows and the guitar work from Steve Rothery is totally worth the listen.

The Space is another gem, as is Quartz from the first disc. The largely male audience is shown seldom, but there was some definite head-nodding going on. Looked like a happy crowd at the Cadogan. Oh sure. Great lights during that one. Woo hoo.

Memory Of Water is a genuinely well-written song, and you can relax on this one. Perhaps you're hoping for no worries about needing to manage siting quietly through another Steve Hogarth song intro; he'll just get us right into this one. Mmm.... Not exactly. But hey, the next one, This Is The 21st Century, has a bit quicker arrival at music after Steve's always eloquent and verbose intro. You're in for a real nice cookie this time around. This one turned out quite nicely. Grows slowly -- like many Marillion treasures do -- and eventually rewards with a nice hammer dulcimer segment. Look at the cool blue light. Look at the Hogarth man go. Go, Steve, go. Good stuff.

No One Can is on here and gets a bit of pleased reaction from the crowd. But did you expect different? Beautiful had a great Steve Rothery guitar line on the beginning, showing why so many feel he's the most redeeming aspect of the group. The man is a savage monster and can play anything with such ease.

This Train Is My Life was fabulous and you would've thought the song was the highlight of the second disc, but no, no, no... more was still to come, despite the fantastic vocal layers that Marillion are known for, being delivered at among their best performance all night. The theatre, glowing red and showing a good use of their minimal lighting rig, also was working out during this jam.

The house was up and on their feet - can I get a hand clap thang, y'all? This was perhaps the most rocking and mainstream moment of the night. You're Gone, a fine Marillion tune that offered a raucous and soulful bit of pain we can all relate to, eased us along.

The venue does look great under all the colorful lights, and the hand clap upbeat vibe of You're Gone gets a shot with 80 Days backing it up, and as Ray Cruz here at HPR might say, keeping the rumba going, baby. Well, again, not really, but, it was as close as these boys come. Gazpacho was well-done, and that was when it became apparent they saved up the serious rhythmic numbers for a last minute rally. Oh, interesting. Crafty buggers, aren't they? And... it worked! There was a definite need for some spark in this thing, and mercifully, they arrive toting along more than a sack of energy as the two-disc set comes to a close. It was closer to... a wheelbarrow load. Maybe two, with a very festive vibe, and giant Christmas tree lit up above and behind them, with the whole December thing in the air... You can sort of feel it, and The Answering Machine pays-off as Marillion keep the groove tendency going. Hey this acoustic thing is working out, after all. Plus Steve is all talked-out. NICE. It's just song after song, with little of his earlier monologues that are long enough to go out to the corner store and back, or perhaps hit the local taco stand for take out. A moody Estonia takes the concert to the mellow space-rock mode, where some well-picked guitar work from Mr. Rothery makes the song, although even someone worn out on Hogarth's lengthy raps would have to praise him on his strong vocals during this cut.

Easter keeps the mellow side of Marillion, the soft and emo-like side, back in the spotlight, and it's a reflective stretch before their epic Three Minute Boy. Worth the wait, boys, worth the wait. And it is boys... there is not a female in sight during the brief crowd pans, and it's obvious why they keep the crowd shots to a minimum. Yikes. Is there a girl there? Who knows. The crowd sing-along makes it seem like it could be an Oasis jam, and it's chicken skin for sure to hear the theatrical interplay with the crowd filling in their screams on cue and singing the lines with such passion. Those passionate fans, after all, is what has kept Marillion alive all these years. It's appropriately in this finale.

Thursday, June 9 2011

Ben Waters Boogie 4 Stu

Boogie pianist Ben Waters has scored big with his tribute to late Stones keyboardist, and often forgotten about, original member Ian Andrew Robert Stewart.

Waters himself is unknown to many in the US, despite his ferocious playing and precision boogie piano style. For this album, he's brought together a roster of Stones and other talent that percolates interest just from reading. The first track is a solo piano number with Waters taking a quiet run through a song that makes the record start off feeling very slow. Boogie Woogie Stomp lacks stomp altogether, but does provide a chance for Waters to show off his formidable keyboard skills. The laid back, almost New Orleans Sunday afternoon-ish feel is a constant; it tends to maintain that energy throughout. This is mostly mellow stuff, and great background for a cocktail party that lacks a live band.

Rooming House Boogie features Keith Richards and Bill Wyman, together again, via Ben, on a slamming nugget with Keith roaring like he should, and bass in the pocket, from the monster that dealt out the bottom for the Stones until 1992, and now tours with his Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, selectively going outside Europe... It's a traditional bluesy boogie number, and it's great to get a shot of Keef the pirate working his distinctive blues-rock inspired guitar riffs with one of the greatest bassists ever in rock. Plus, Bill Wyman has an extraordinary grasp of the blues, which he's written about and dug into extensively. It's felt on this track.

Worried Life Blues keeps Keith around and adds Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Jools Holland, among others. Oh boy. The star power gets a bit heavy here. Excuse me, do you have the right pass for this area? The original Toxic Twins trade lead vocals and the dirty smoky blues is dealt with equally steely and plucked-sounding guitar work.

On the title track, Boogie For Stu has Charlie Watts on the drums for a bit of consistency -- he's on no less than six of the ten cuts. The man still cuts a mean groove and all the respect in the world to him for sticking with the game after all these years. The beats he's doing today are completely in-line with the direction he's sought personally through the last few decades, with his jazz-flavored side-projects and efforts outside the Stones.

Charlie stays with the program and Jools Holland is back (ex-Squeeze, has a TV show in England... you know Jools, right?). The party continues with another move to the late-night hotel bar, and more of that mix. Jools is the guy for the lounge singer job, too. He shines up front on lead vocals on this one. Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor. And snappy, please.

Mr. Watts is still with us for the instrumental blues number Midnight Blues. It meanders and again, transports you to the hotel lounge in the sky... it's smoky (you can't have that anymore indoors, unless it's fake smoke with dry ice or something). It's for the reflective moments, exploring memories, thinking things over... Midnight Blues makes a wonderful transition to Lonely Avenue's sultry spookiness. Ben's related to PJ Harvey, who is his cousin and appears on Lonely Avenue. The woman is stellar. Just that whispering, haunting voice cues you to her presence. It's like... the cats hair stands on end, the lightning starts with no thunder, and the clock wants to go backward. The woman is downright spooky... I still remember watching her mesmerize at Avalon, or was it at the Orpheum, in Boston? She's serious business.

From Mick's belting out "What's the matter with me?" you know "Watching The River Flow" is going to be explosive. Perhaps it's because you cheated, and read the inside CD jacket thoroughly, however, and were patiently waiting like a foaming mad-dog restrained, contemplating this Stones tour de force. It is a showstopper, and this is the sole track featuring this supergroup Stones reunion line-up jamming with Ben. Fans will have to make due with repeat listenings to this treasure. Yes, it really does feature, on one track -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts. It really is crazy... These people are taunting you, without question. One song is simply not enough with this kind of superb coalition of Stones. It is monstrous and worth the time.

Where do you go from there? Smartly, Waters' lets people down gently, with Roll 'Em Pete and the Rolling Stones rhythm section still reunited, and savagely demonstrating why the world continues to heap accolades on them for the contributions they've made. Bill Wyman, a kind wonderful man, joined by his life friend Charlie Watts, backing Ben with nice horn work providing some propulsion.

We started out at the hotel bar, and spent a great deal of time there, so Waters drops you off where you started, with another tasty solo piano piece, Suitcase Blues. It's a treat to listen to him nail the notes, obviously a gifted player. Currently doing some dates live with Charlie Watts, these legendary Stones figures make the Boogie With Stu: A Tribute to Ian Stewart a cool listen. But, the record has a sweet bonus: the final track is Ian Stewart live from 1984, at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Rocket 88. You'd swear it was Ben Waters, as his style so closely emulates Ian Stewart. Stewart died in 1985, so this recording is a fitting and classy way to close out the album.