Archive for Heavy Rock

America’s Best Kept Secret: Hannah Wicklund and the Steppin Stones

Posted in Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2018 by 80smetalman

As most of you already know, I’ve come to America these past two weeks for not the happiest of reasons. However, in between my mother’s memorial service, the scattering of her ashes into the ocean and my getting stuck into cleaning her house, (she was a heavy smoker), there have been other more happier events like the wine tasting day my sister and her husband took me to. I also got to hook up with my old friend and true metal fan, Frank Formica, at a karaoke night. He even sang “Battle Hyms” by Manowar for me. So, it hasn’t been all gloom for me while I’ve been here, something I’ve been really grateful for.

Having some wine

On one of these more happier occasions, while at my sister and her husband’s house, they told me about this new lady blues guitarist whom they happened to see at some fair in New Jersey not long ago. The guitarists’ name was Hannah Wicklund and my brother in law, Mark Pickeral, who is a pretty good guitarist himself, was so blown away by this lady that he bought two of her albums. I believe this self titled one is her fourth album. But before I get into what a great album “Hannah Wicklund and the Steppin Stones” is, I have to say that when they showed me concert footage of Hannah, I was just as blown away. The album is excellent, it’s going to move into my top 15 for sure, but she is even more kick ass live. I hope that one day I have the opportunity of seeing her do so.

Hannah Wicklund has been called a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I can see the comparison here because she has the power vocals of Janis and she can play guitar like Jimi. When I listen to her blues based guitar rock, I am reminded of other greats in this genre like Rory Gallagher, Robin Trower, Pat Travers, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and even  Eric Clapton. Her guitar playing can hold its own with any of these mentioned but none of them come close to her in her vocal ability. My God, can she sing! What we have here is a great singer who can shred brilliantly. For me, what’s not there to like?

The hardest thing I find to do when listening to “Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones” is to pick a favourite track. Every time I think I might have chosen, another comes along and vies for the title. This is down to the fact that there are ten great songs on the album. Her vocals come through straight away on the opener, “Bomb Through the Breeze” and her sheer power is stamped on “Ghost.” Then she changes up on “Looking Glass.” My vote, possibly, for best guitar solo comes on “On the Road.” Then just when you think you got her pegged, she surprises you with a near ballad like closer, “Shadow Boxes and Porcelain Faces.” But on every song, Hannah’s vocal and guitar skills shine through.

Track Listing:

  1. Bomb Through the Breeze
  2. Ghost
  3. Looking Glass
  4. Mama Said
  5. On the Road
  6. Crushin
  7. Strawberry Moon
  8. Too Close to You
  9. Meet You Again
  10. Shadow Boxes and Porcelain Faces

Hannah Wicklund

Hannah Wicklund- lead vocals, guitar

I can’t find his name anywhere- bass

Luke Mitchell- drums

Note: Luke is also Hannah’s brother who fronts his own band, The High Divers.

One song wasn’t enough to do Hannah justice here so that’s why you are getting three. Hopefully, you will find as I do that Hannah Wicklund kicks ass and she is destined for great things.

Next post, I’ll decided that when I get back to the UK next week.

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Waysted

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2018 by 80smetalman

Throughout my music listening career, EP’s have always been a bit of a paradox for me. I’ve visited quite a few of them over the years, Brian May’s “Star Fleet” for example. On the other hand, there has been some that I left out despite owning them myself. I’m surprised that while touring 1983, no one picked up on the fact that I never posted about Ratt’s EP. To many, it’s believed that EP’s aren’t proper albums so they don’t buy them and they’re intended to make money off dedicated followers of a band who will snap up anything they put out. While I see the point of the former, I see nothing wrong with a fan buying anything their heroes might release.

Waysted is a totally different story for me. I didn’t hear the name until 1985 and didn’t get to listen to them until I got over to England a year later and a friend was really into them. That was where I got to experience their “Vices” album and this 1984 self-titled, five song album, or EP. Every since, I have thanked that friend, even though he’s not into metal much these days, for the experience.

My overall opinion of “Waysted” is that it is just five really explosive songs. “Won’t Get Out Alive” is a great way to open any album. It definitely grabs my attention. “The Price You Pay” is just as rocking with a good harmony on the chorus and ends with a really good guitar solo. “Rock Steady” could have been the single on the album, although there is no indication that it was ever released as one. It has a good catchy vibe that might appeal to some who aren’t so keen on metal but this doesn’t make it any less rocking, especially with that guitar solo. Next comes the hidden gem on the album for me. “Hurt So Good,” no it’s not a cover of the John Cougar classic, it is a cowboyesque rock song, even before such songs would be made popular by a certain band from New Jersey. The acoustic intro pulls you in before blasting you with dual six strings. The chorus is very catchy and the vibe makes you want bob your head to it all the way through. Finally, the album closes with the eight minute long “Cinderella Boys.” This is a blues induced number that definitely grabs your curiosity. I sense that the band had a good time recording this and when it’s done, you feel that you’ve had a full album’s enjoyment despite the fact it only being five songs long.

Track Listing:

  1. Won’t Get Out Alive
  2. The Price You Pay
  3. Rock Steady
  4. Hurt So Good
  5. Cinderella Boys


Fin Muir- vocals

Paul Chapman- guitar

Neil Shepard- guitar

Pete Way- bass

Andy Parker- drums

Like I said, “Waysted” by the band with the same name might only be five songs long but you remember all of them. It’s simply a case of quality over quantity.

Next post: I can’t say when that will be. I have had sad news this week. My mother has passed away and I will be flying to the States Monday morning and will be there for two weeks. Since the situation requires my full attention, I might not get to any albums while I’m there. I hope you all understand.

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Sammy Hagar- VOA

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2018 by 80smetalman

Sammy Hagar was most definitely a busy boy in 1984. In the early part of the year, he made the one album with HSAS along with Neil Schon from Journey. When I reviewed that album, I wrote a follow up post of what music life would have been like if HSAS had stayed together and released more albums. On the plus side, there would have been a couple more great albums from that quartet and we would have have been spared from Van Hagar, whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the individual conscience to determine. Furthermore, Neil Schon’s career would have been still going strong because Journey was fading from view by then. On the minus side, had that band remained in tact, we might have not been able to feast upon Sammy’s solo album from later on in 1984, “VOA.”

As a result of the big single from the album, Sammy would be described as the “red haired rocker who couldn’t drive fifty-five.” “I Can’t Drive 55” received constant airplay on radio and MTV, not that I ever complained about that. It is my favourite Sammy song of all time, a great tune about driving really fast. Funny thing was that I have no recollection of anyone calling for the song to be banned because it encouraged people to break speed limits. All I know is that I love that song.

Seven other songs also adorn the “VOA” album and all of them are really good. “Rock is In My Blood” is a good power song where Sammy declares that rock is in his blood and his soul. It also demonstrates that Sammy can play a guitar a little bit as well. Two songs come closest to being a power ballad here. One of them is “Two Sides of Love.” It’s not slow enough in my opinion to be a ballad but it is a song about a failing relationship. The guitars are good and the keyboards punctuate the song very effectively. Sammy’s solo is pretty good too.

Now let’s talk about the hidden gem on the album and man, do I love this song. I’m talking about “Dick in the Dirt.” The song is about a man named Richard to is a bit of a ladies’ man. The innuendo behind the lyrics is comical and remains so throughout the song. I always laugh my ass off whenever I listen to the song, even after more than thirty years! Apart from that, it is a good power song and comes with another cool guitar solo. So, I guess you could say that the song hits you from both sides.

For me, the least strongest song, (I call it such as none of the songs are weak), is the title track. Maybe it because it was used so much for patriotic purposes in the days of 80s Reagan America. Actually, it’s because the keyboards take over too much of the song. It’s good but not as much as the other seven songs. Fortunately, the last two songs are much stronger and end the album on a high. “Don’t Make Me Wait” is another song that comes near to being a power ballad but not near enough. It starts as if it’s going to be one but it just rocks. There is some great  guitar work from Sammy and the closer, “Burning Down the City,” all I can say is “Wow! What a great song to end the album with.”

Track Listing:

  1. I Can’t Drive 55
  2. Swept Away
  3. Rock is in My Blood
  4. Two Sides of Love
  5. Dick in the Dirt
  6. VOA
  7. Don’t Make Me Wait
  8. Burning Down the City

Sammy Hagar

Sammy Hagar- lead vocals, lead guitar

Gary Pihl- rhythm guitar, backing vocals

Jesse Harms- keyboards, backing vocals

Bill Church- bass, backing vocals

David Lauser- drums, backing vocals

Whatever your thoughts might be on the path Sammy Hagar took in 1984 and after, you can’t fault that “VOA” is a great solo album. Things have moved on in the past three decades and in most American states, the speed limit is above 55. Maybe the big single influenced government to raise the speed limits.

Next post: Waysted

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Krokus- The Blitz

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2018 by 80smetalman

Sometimes when an artist comes out with a great song, people expect them to duplicate it every time. This was the case with Swiss metal band Krokus in 1984. A year earlier, they completely blew me and many other metalheads away with their classic song, “Screaming in the Night.” That is definitely in my top 20 as all time favourite songs. However, in 1984, when Krokus released their album, “The Blitz,” many expected another song with the blow away potential as “Screaming in the Night.” Unfortunately, no such song exists on the album and as a result, a lot of people went off Krokus.

Despite the fact that there is no song that completely blows me away on “The Blitz,” I still enjoy listening to the album. There are still some very good songs on here. I’ll be the first to admit that the first single, “Midnight Maniac,” does not compare to the all time great but it has a catchy chorus which I still find myself singing now and again. I have been singing more lately as I have gotten reacquainted with the album. I only wish the guitar solo was a little longer.

Good 80s style metal continues on after “Midnight Maniac” with “Out of Control” and my vote for hidden gem on the album, “Boys Night Out.” This is a great hard rocking song, so much so that I can’t believe that it was co-written with Bryan Adams! The guitar solo on it is longer, at least the appropriate length a decent guitar solo should be. Things continue on nicely after that. “Our Love” has a cool intro and I think that Marc Storace does his best singing on it. It helps that there is a good metal rhythm behind him on the song. “Out to Lunch” is another hidden gem on the album, a good rocker. It’s chorus is just as catchy as “Midnight Maniac” and has a better guitar solo.

The one low point is their cover of The Sweet’s classic, “Ballroom Blitz.” I’m not impressed with it and that could be down to the fact that I saw Krokus live before listening to the album. From what I remember, they nailed it on that night and the recorded version isn’t up to it. Fortunately, three great rockers come after to erase any lack of impression I have on account of “Ballroom Blitz” and so, the album ends on a good high. In fact, “Rock the Nation” is a rather good song that has some cool guitar playing. I can say the same for “Hot Stuff” and “Ready to Rock” is a more credible closer. I do like the live feeling the song has.

Track Listing:

  1. Midnight Maniac
  2. Out of Control
  3. Boys Night Out
  4. Our Love
  5. Out to Lunch
  6. Ballroom Blitz
  7. Rock the Nation
  8. Hot Stuff
  9. Ready to Rock


Marc Storace- lead vocals

Fernando Von Arb- guitar, backing vocals

Marc Kohler- bass

Jeff Klaven- drums, percussion

Note: On the tour for “The Blitz,” Marc Kohler would move to guitar and the bass duties would be taken over by Andy Tanas.

Before I close out on what a misunderstandingly good album “The Blitz” is, let me share a bit from “Rock and Roll Children.” When Krokus played live in the story, Marc Storace accepts a joint from someone in the crowd and takes a sly puff on it before handing it back. That actually happened! I know because I was in the fifth row. Anyway, this is an album that deserves a listen or a second chance as it’s better than what some thought at the time.

Next post: Sammy Hagar- VOA

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Lee Aaron- Metal Queen

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2018 by 80smetalman

Probably the first thing anyone talks about in relation to Canadian metal singer Lee Aaron’s second album, “Metal Queen,” is the album cover. For those who might not know, that is actually the Lee on the cover. I wouldn’t debate anyone who thought her outfit on the cover was bought at a dime store but hey, even if it was, she makes it look good. Even more than thirty years on, looking at this cover still gives me a warm feeling.

While the cover might be nice to look at, it’s the music contained on the record, wait I had this on cassette, that counts. Let me just sidestep for one second. I once read in an interview that Lee stated that she use to laugh when she heard her first album, I said such when I visited that album. Well, she can laugh as much as she wants at her first album because her second album is much much better. Lee and guitarist John Albani have a brilliant chemistry and that started with the live track from the first album and gets even stronger on “Metal Queen.” Another reason for the massive improvement over the first album is that Lee had more control over things and she has a hand in writing all of the songs.

The title track just happens to be my all time favourite Lee Aaron song. Okay, the chains at the beginning may be a little unnecessary but the song just explodes into a mad metal frenzy. Lee’s powerful voice and John’s guitar solo team up to make a great song. Then again, they do so throughout the entire album. The next two songs move the album along very well and I’ve always wondered who the lady of the darkest night is. After reading the lyrics and listening to the song many times, I still haven’t figured it out.

Lee proves her vocal versatility with the ballad like “Got to Be the One.” It’s as good a power ballad as any and I don’t mind that she repeats the title so much at the end. Her voice is a delight to hear on the song. The two songs following continue to roll things along and I do really enjoy hearing John’s guitar ability on “Deceiver.” He is an underrated guitarist and would have been my first alternate for guitarist in the 80smetalman’s band of underrated musicians.

“Steal Away Your Love” is the hidden gem on the album. It tackles a very serious and sensitive subject, the song is about a rape and the perpetrator getting away with it. These are lyrics that make you think and even the great guitar solos by John don’t dampen the message behind the song. Plus, I think the footsteps walking away at the end make the point. Then after two more good tracks, “Hold Out” being the better of the two, we come to the closer, “We Will Be Rockin.'” Definitely the best song to end the album here.

Track Listing:

  1. Metal Queen
  2. Lady of the Darkest Night
  3. Head Above Water
  4. Got to Be the One
  5. Shake It Up
  6. Deceiver
  7. Steal Away Your Love
  8. Hold Out
  9. Breakdown
  10. We Will Be Rockin’

Lee Aaron

Lee Aaron- vocals

John Albani- guitar, backing vocals

George Bernhardt- guitar, backing vocals

Atilla Demjen- drums

Frannk Russell- drums

Jack Meli- bass, backing vocals

It was “Metal Queen” that got people South of the Border and across the Atlantic to take notice of this Canadian fire cracker. Then again, with an album as good as this one, it’s pretty hard not to.

Next post: Krokus- The Blitz

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Anthrax- Fistful of Metal

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2018 by 80smetalman

Normally, when I hear a band’s second album before their first one, I appreciate what a great album the debut was, even if I prefer the second one. That was the case with Twisted Sister, Van Halen and Molly Hatchet for sure. However, there’s always an exception and that comes in the form of Anthrax. My first experience with this band was the second album, “Spreading the Disease,” and you will hear me sing its praises to the heavens. Now, I in no way, shape or form, dislike Anthrax’s debut album, “Fistful of Metal,” it has some great songs which I will elaborate on in a minute. What I do think is that “Spreading the Disease” was a major improvement from this one.

The big improvement comes in the form of the lead singer. While I have nothing against the vocal ability of Neil Turbin, he does some great things on “Fistful of Metal,” it’s just I think Joey Belladonna is a far superior singer. That’s just my opinion. Therefore, I will cease the negative and go for the positive because I have always thought this was a brilliant, in your face, thrash album. In fact, I’ll change my personal history and pretend that I first heard “Fistful of Metal” when it first came out in 1984.

Power chords of Scott Ian and Dan Spitz, combined the shrieks of Neil begin the album in a totally mad metal mayhem. Even though I hadn’t yet heard the term ‘thrash,’ I would have thought that the opening song “Deathrider” comes out and grabs your attention. With the exception of Motorhead, I would have thought it was the most aggressive sound I ever heard back then. Following on immediately after is my favourite song on the album, “Metal Thrashing Mad.” It’s just as thrashy as its predecessor but there is a slight melody to the chorus and I do mean slight. Of all the tracks on the album, this one highlights Neil Turbin’s voice the best.

What I have always liked about the cover of the Alice Cooper classic, “I’m Eighteen,” is the fact that they don’t thrash it up and they pretty much stick to Alice’s formula. Hell, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The next three tracks go back to more mad thrash. It is on the tracks, “Panic” and especially “Subjugator” that I fully hear the brilliant guitar work from Dan Spitz. Also on “Subjugator,” rhythm guitarist Scott Ian has a cool guitar bit on it. It’s certainly the best song of the three and I’ve always questioned why “Soldiers of Metal” was released as a single as there are better tracks to choose from. It still gives you a good mosh. Oops, that word didn’t come out til 1985.

Scott Ian- Anthrax

“Death From Above” is my second favourite song on here. I can’t explain the semantics as to why but I really love this song. Maybe it’s how the song starts with a cool guitar solo from Dan but it just does it for me. The album concludes with “Anthrax,” followed by a very cool instrumental, “Across the River” and probably the best song for the closer, “Howling Furies.” Now there’s a song that lets you know you’ve just had year ears bashed by a cool album.

Track Listing:

  1. Deathrider
  2. Metal Thrashing Mad
  3. I’m Eighteen
  4. Panic
  5. Subjugator
  6. Soldiers of Metal
  7. Death From Above
  8. Anthrax
  9. Across the River
  10. Howling Furies


Neil Turbin- vocals

Scott Ian- rhythm guitar

Dan Spitz- lead guitar

Dan Lilker- bass

Charlie Benante- drums

Looking back at history, I now realize how important “Fistful of Metal” was in establishing Anthrax in the metal world and laying down a foundation for them to go onto to better things. The band is certainly hungry on this album, no doubt. The weird thing is that shortly after the album’s released, Dan Lilker would be forced out of the band by the same two band members whom he’d join up with a year later to make my all time favourite album. Still, that’s something to worry about in the future but if you want a thrashing good mosh, then “Fistful of Metal” is one to have.

Next post: Lee Aaron- Metal Queen

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Metallica- Ride the Lightning

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2018 by 80smetalman

I have said many times throughout the journey through 1984, it was the golden year of the golden decade for heavy metal. Many metal bands got mainstream exposure on radio and MTV. Not only that, the exposure gave many metalheads a look into bands that were up and coming or just out of the limelight. One of these up and coming bands was Metallica with their second album, “Ride the Lightning.”

Thinking back to that year, I don’t ever recall Metallica getting any airplay on the radio or MTV. As I listen to the album, I have to conclude that while mainstream media gave many metal bands some great exposure, I don’t think they were quite ready for a band like Metallica, even if metalheads were. After spending the year listening to all the great bands, Metallica was something different but interesting. It definitely had my attention. When I heard this album, I was blown away by the sheer power and hunger of this band.

While their debut album, “Kill’Em All,” just wants to pound the crap out of you, “Ride the Lightning” does offer some, I stress some, melodic moments. One gets that impression on the opening notes of the first track, “Fight Fire With Fire,” because it starts out with a full acoustic intro. However, it goes right into some very hard chords which lasts for three songs. In fact, all the times I’ve listened to the album, I seem to miss where “Fight Fire With Fire” ends and the title track begins. The comes the great “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” a loud pounding but at the same time rhythmic tune. I really like this track but I was disappointed when they played it at Donington 1987. It just didn’t grab me the way that it always does on vinyl.

Afterwards comes what I mean about melodic moments, my favourite track on the album, “Fade to Black.” The first half of this song is a near power ballad and while it would be another seven years before we got to hear their most famous ballad, “Nothing Else Matters,” I do hear some resemblances on “Fade to Black.” But it doesn’t stay melodic as the second half of the song goes back to more traditional Metallica soundings. An added bonus is the way that Kirk Hamett rips his guitar solo at the end.

With “Trapped Under Ice” and “Escape,” you get more great Metallica mashing and like the first two songs on the album, you have to listen carefully or you’ll miss where the one ends and the other begins. Then, if you thought your eardrums might get some relief, you’d would be sorely disappointed because “Creeping Death” comes along to kick your ass. This is a power song only slowing down slightly to deliver a more melodic chorus but then goes back to ear bashing. “Creeping Death” is decidedly my second favourite track on “Ride the Lightning.” It may not have the melodic approach of my number one but it lets you know it’s there and says you will like this song. Kirk’s solo on here is very cool too. The album ends with the very interesting instrumental “The Call of Ktulu.” All in all, this is a fantastic album and it reminds me of when Metallica were hard and hungry. The music on “Ride the Lightning” bears witness.

Track Listing:

  1. Fight Fire With Fire
  2. Ride the Lightning
  3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  4. Fade to Black
  5. Trapped Under Ice
  6. Escape
  7. Creeping Death
  8. The Call of Ktulu


James Hetfield- lead vocals, rhythm guitar

Kirk Hammett- lead guitar

Cliff Burton- bass

Lars Ulrich- drums, backing vocals on “Ride the Lightning”

In the opening pages of “Rock and Roll Children,” while the main characters are driving to the first concert in the book, one of them introduces the others to a new band called Metallica. It was the “Kill’Em All” album. Yes, back then, they were still making their way in the world and “Ride the Lightning” provided a springboard that would help launch them to greater things.

On another note, this album has been labelled thrash and speed metal. These were terms which I wouldn’t hear for another year. I just considered Metallica great metal at the time. Furthermore, this trip down memory lane makes me sad that I missed the Metallica, WASP and Armoured Saint show. That must have been fantastic.

Next post: Anthrax- Fistful of Metal

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