Thursday, September 26, 2013

Revisiting some hair metal - Hericane Alice!


Originally formed in 1984 as a trio, Hurricane Alice started out with Leni DiMancari on guitar and vocals, Scott Werner on bass and Rusty Miller on drums. They eventually recruited Bruce Nauman (formerly of The Employers) to be the lead singer.

This lineup gained a considerable amount of success in their hometown of Minnesota, winning best band at the 1987 Minnesota Music Awards. This lineup changed when Bruce and Rusty decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue their music careers. Bruce and Rusty joined up with bassist Ian Mayo and guitarist Danny Gill and performed under the name Danger City (Ian and Danny’s former band). They soon agreed to change their name to Hurricane Alice to take advantage of their former fan base. Somewhere along the way Rusty Miller left the band as well (I read somewhere that it involved some legal troubles but I cannot confirm) and was replaced by drummer Jackie Ramos.

It was this lineup that was signed to Atlantic Records and recorded their sole LP called Tear the House Down (they had previously only released an EP with the original lineup). When they signed with Atlantic, they were forced to change the spelling of their name to Hericane Alice to avoid conflict with another metal band called Hurricane.

This album is your typical middle of the road glam metal album, filled with ten fun catchy songs full of high range screaming vocals, steady rhythm and crazy guitar solos. The success of the album was limited, probably mainly due to the fact that it was released in 1990 at the tail end of hair metal madness. This being the case, the band parted ways shortly after its release; therefore, this is their sole full length album

Check out this video of Wild Young and Crazy:


Monday, September 23, 2013

Phantom, Rocker and Slick - A brief history

I am a big fan of Rockabilly music, in particular Elvis Presley, Bill Haley & His Comets, Robert Gordon, and The Stray Cats. I recently picked up a few 45’s from the band Phantom, Rocker and Slick and they have proven to be a nice addition my Rockabilly collection.

Phantom, Rocker and Slick consists of Slim Jim Phantom on drums, Lee Rocker on bass and vocals, and Earl Slick on lead guitar. Phantom and Rocker were previously the rhythm section for The Stray Cats with Brian Setzer completing the trio. When The Stray Cats parted ways (the first time) in 1984, Phantom and Rocker began looking for a new guitarist to form a fresh new band.

Earl Slick got the gig, and with his impressive resume it’s not hard to figure out why. He had a long history with David Bowie, in particular. He first went on tour with Bowie in 1974 replacing guitarist Mick Ronson. The LP David Live was recorded from this tour. After this tour he continued with Bowie and played lead guitar on the albums Young Americans and Station to Station. Slick stayed with Bowie until 1976, then returned in 1983 for a tour replacing Bowie’s lead guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. Slick also rejoined Bowie in the early 2000’s for albums Heathen and Reality, as well as the corresponding tours. It was a welcome surprise to also see Slick on the liner notes of the newest Bowie album The Next Day.

Besides his work with Bowie, Slick also released two solo albums in 1976 called Razor Sharp and Earl Slick Band. Oh yeah, he did some guitar work with another few artists you may have heard of too…… playing guitar on John and Yoko’s album Double Fantasy as well as on Yoko Ono’s solo album Season of Glass.

BUT, besides all that, he was a member of this great little band: Phantom, Rocker and Slick. Lee Rocker took care of the lead vocals in this band and he handled it nicely. Their first single, Men Without Shame opens with Slick’s dirty guitar filled with nasty squeals and distortion. Phantom’s thunderous sounding drums follow, not normal sounding drums mind you; I’m talking about those stadium filler sounding drums that only existed in the 80’s. This decade was also well known for the battle of guitars sound, and Slick holds his own nicely. These songs lean more towards rock and roll than rockabilly, but the influence is clearly there. Phantom and Rockers long history together is evident in their tight rhythm. Sure the song is dated, but sometimes I strive for that 80’s rock and roll sound.

I really like how they never tried to make this band another Stray Cats, instead going for a fresh new sound. That being said, it never took off like the Stray Cats and, therefore, they only lasted a short while. Their debut self-titled album was released in 1985 followed by Cover Girl in 1986. They parted ways after Cover Girl with Slick returning to session work, while Phantom and Rocker returned to re-form The Stray Cats with Brian Setzer.  

The two singles I purchased are Men Without Shame, which was their first, and My Mistake, their second. Keith Richards makes an appearance on My Mistake which was very cool. Both these singles are from their debut self-titled album. Be sure to check them out!



Monday, September 16, 2013

The Suppliers - Noise - Review!

Tomorrow sees the release of the sophomore album by Calgary rock band, The Suppliers. Filled with high energy and rage, Noise takes elements of grunge and punk rock and pushes it to the extreme.

The Suppliers are: Ashtyn Beaudette on vocals, Kirill Telichev on guitar, Rob Smeltzer on bass, and Sean Friend on drums. The band formed in 2010 and spent their first two years completing their debut self-titled album. For their newest release, Noise, they decided to take a completely different approach. They recorded this entire album in one day. Now, don’t fear, the recording and production sure weren’t compromised by this quick approach to recording. On the contrary, this album sounds great! It has a very solid mix, and best of all has the raw and edgy sound only gained by a live performance (Neil Young would be so proud).

They have been gaining a fair amount of success in Alberta since they formed in 2010, including winning a local radio contest in Calgary where the prize included sharing a stage with Linkin Park and Incubus at Calgary's 2012 X-FEST.  

While there’s not a dull track on the album, they seemed to have saved the best song for last. This had me questioning the play order as I know many people judge an album by the first couple of tracks. Perhaps play order is not as important in this new world of playlists, but people like myself still play albums from beginning to end and well, we think about things like song sequence (ok probably most people don’t… but I sure do!). Now I am not saying that the opening songs are not good, they are just not the best on the album.

A song like I Don’t Want To Be Alone really highlights the bands individual talents. Starting with a slick guitar riff and leading into vocal breaks of Ashtyn screaming “I Don't Want To Be Alone” at the top of her lungs makes me think of 90’s Courtney Love.  There is so much energy and emotion in this song.   

The album closes with (not counting the small one minute tune “off”) Let Me Treat You. This song, in my opinion, is the best on the album. It has a great slower beginning of quiet singing to a sole electric guitar, upgrading to a mid-tempo rock and roll song and ending in a beautiful mess of noise filled with distortion, cymbals and Ashtyn’s screaming backing vocals. This song ends the album on a definite high note.

The Suppliers have a busy fall touring season ahead with many dates throughout Alberta and British Columbia. On their website they do have a tour section for Central and Eastern Canada, but it currently says “TBA”. So here is hoping we get a Maritime tour date or two in the near future. I have a feeling this album is really going to go far for this young band and that Noise is still only the beginning.   







Monday, September 9, 2013

Black Joe Lewis - Electric Slave - review!

Black Joe Lewis’ new album Electric Slave was released in late August and the band just started a month long tour supporting this new LP. Lucky for us, they are performing at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton this Saturday night and this new batch of songs is sure to make it a fun, rockin’ show.


Where do I begin to describe the sound of this album? Their Howlin’ Wolf influence is definitely obvious, funk can be heard often in the bass, the screaming distorted vocals sure gives it a rock and roll feel, and I can even hear bits of ska with the horns in the background. That’s what makes this album so great; it’s almost in a music genre of its own.  Lead singer Joe Lewis recently told CBC’s East Coast music man Bob Mersereau that Electric Slave is “the first of the three (albums) we've done that I actually like.”  

Filled with a huge guitar riff and Joe Lewis’ distorted shouting vocals, the opening track Skulldigging starts Electric Slave off with a huge punch. I love the heavy drums filled with constant crashing on the cymbals. The blues/soul never felt so heavy.

Come to My Party is another personal favorite. The cool trebly guitar riff is backed with the funky bass that I love so much, it gets my foot tapping with every listen. I love the horns in the background giving it a slight big band feel.

I would have never expected this blues/soul/funk sound coming from this album judging by the cover alone. The band members bearing arms and standing in a desert, I figured that I would be listening to an outlaw country or mariachi band - go figure.

Band members are: Joseph Lewis, Bill Stevenson, Eduardo Torres, Jason Frey, Joe Woullard and Derek Phelps. This gang will be performing this Saturday in the Bell Aliant Mojo Tent at the Harvest Jazz and Blues festival here in Fredericton. It should be a great show, sharing the bill with The Record Company, Garret Mason and Keith Hallett.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Questlove, John Mayer and Radiohead?? - coming to my own decisions on music!

“If you’re part of the segment of hip-hop that wants to be seen as thoughtful and progressive, then you don’t readily admit that you like Jay-Z’s Blueprint. If you’re part of the segment that needs to keep its thug-life street cred, you don’t readily admit that you like Things Fall Apart. What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.”

“It’s clear to me that there are certain critics who feel that they can’t champion The Roots because it somehow exposes them-and here I’m talking mainly about middle-class black writers. It makes me sad to write this, but it also makes me sad to see it: some of them, I have noticed, will purposely bash us for what they perceive as a lack of street credibility- not our street credibility, mind you, but the street credibility that they get (or do not get) from endorsing us.”

“Am I embracing Radiohead based on a genuine love of it, or is it a survival tactic because the band carries a certain amount of critical cachet? This question has been on the table since Things Fall Apart, and it’s not coming off the table. There are new rock records I love so much these days, but I’m gun-shy about saying so. Does that make sense? Is it all in my head? You’d think that at this point there’d be an understanding that I’m not faking, that I love music of all kinds. But there are so many signifiers whizzing around.”
                                                                                                                 - Questlove

These above quotes were taken from Ahmir “Questlove” Thomson’s new memoir titled Mo Meta Blues. Questlove, for those of you who don’t know him, is the drummer for the hip-hop band The Roots, and The Roots is the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Also, he is an avid record collector and his knowledge of music is uncanny. Just YouTube some Questlove interviews and see how he is an encyclopedia of music. This book describes his musical family lifestyle and art school upbringing, the foundation for his music knowledge.

Back to the quotations above…

Reading these I could swear that I was reading my own thoughts on paper. I, too, am guilty of falling for these ridiculous guidelines of liking or disliking bands because of what the “cool people” think. Now I try my best to steer clear of this thought process and develop my own opinions of bands and artists which is often a tough, uphill battle. I am always defending my taste and explaining what makes me see the music differently, but I guess I choose these battles. The albums that I listen to and enjoy are my business, and at the same time…. I strive to defend what I like (Hell.. I write about it here for all of you to read).

A great example of me falling into this ridiculous way of thinking is when I picked up the new John Mayer CD this week called Paradise Valley. I automatically thought that it was going to be junk. But, why? That’s what I can’t figure out. Why did I automatically expect the worst? I have one prior album from John Mayer, his debut Room For Squares. I loved that album when it was released, so why didn’t I expect this to be great? I was expecting the worst simply because I was sick of reading about the guy in tabloids. Stupid! In my defense, at least I smartened up and decided to give it a chance.  

Paradise Valley is easily in my top 5 of 2013 thus far. It features eleven awesome mellow songs that are filled with talented guitar and clever lyrics. He even seems to be singing more comfortably, with less rasp added to his voice. It almost seems like this is the first time we really get to hear John’s true voice.

Another example of this is Radiohead. I hated Radiohead for most of my life, yet I wouldn’t recognize one of their songs if it came on the radio. It seemed that so many Radiohead fans took on this “music snob” persona early on and many of them judged so many other people’s taste in music. They thought that somehow their own taste was right and everybody else’s was wrong. It was in spite of this that I chose to hate Radiohead right out the gate. Who the hell do these people think they are? Their taste is above ours? They think they know something we don’t? The only person who suffered from this silly personal boycott was me. Recently, I picked up OK Computer at a thrift store for a dollar, finally putting my hatred to rest and figuring I would see what the fuss was all about. Of course I liked the music! It’s a great album and rightfully loved by many, so this silly protest I was having with myself cost me many years of enjoying a great album.

So should I be ashamed of liking this John Mayer album because it’s not cool by most music connoisseurs? It seems that once an artist gets even a little bit of success that they appear as sellouts to music snobs and lose all credibility. Why should people be punished for success? Should I eliminate Radiohead from my music library because of a few annoying diehard fans? Why should I risk missing great music in spite of others? I proudly stand behind this new John Mayer album and will finally admit that Radiohead is a great band. If you dislike music simply because you don’t like the music, fair enough. But to dislike it because of what other people think just makes no sense.