Archive for progressive rock

Great Pop Albums of 1984: Julian Lennon- Valotte

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2017 by 80smetalman

I’m taking a lead from a post from Rich and posting about one of my not guilty pleasures. By 1984, I was in full heavy metal mode and it might surprise some that I would even entertain a pop sounding album. My counter is that having been (and still am) a big fan of The Beatles, I thought an album by the son of the great John Lennon, whose life had been so tragically snuffed out just over three years prior, was worth a listen. To be frank, I do like Julian Lennon’s debut album, “Valotte.” While it’s called pop on Wikapedia, I have always and will continue to call it mellow out rock because that’s what it exactly is.

Julian’s old man’s influence can be heard straight away on the opening title track of the album and its head rises now and again throughout the album. My first reaction to the opening track was that he was trying to sound like his father and while there isn’t anything wrong with that, I was wondering on my first listen way back then that would there be any originality from the son. I can say there is. On the track, “On the Phone,” there is a venture near the waters of progressive rock and I do like the intro. The next track “Space” is an appropriate title for that song, It does sound rather spacey and goes even further into the prog rock zone.

“Well I Don’t Know” is for sure a pop tune but it does have the only true guitar solo I can discern on the album. (There is some lead guitar bridges in other songs but that’s all.) Unfortunately, as I am no longer in possession of the album and Wikapedia doesn’t say which guitarist plays the solo, we’ll never know. The next pop song is the big single from “Valotte” called “Too Late for Goodbyes,” which got a lot of play on radio and MTV at the time. Listening to it again after so many years, I do notice that he does walk the tightrope between sounding commercial pop and his father’s influences rather well. It is probably the best tune for a radio hit. But I much like better, songs like “Lonely” with the cool sax solo which is the highlight of this mellow tune. “Say You’re Wrong” goes more into 80s synth pop and while not terrible, is unspectacular. “Jesse” is the hardest track on “Valotte.” It’s not heavy, not even close, but there is an upbeat tempo and some cool guitar bridges on it. The closer, “Let Me Be” is interesting. It’s a kind of ragtime piano tune that’s only just over two minutes but it is the best way to close the album out. I think Julian might have been going for a non serious exit here.

Track Listing:

  1. Valotte
  2. O.K. for You
  3. On the Phone
  4. Space
  5. Well I Don’t Know
  6. Too Late for Goodbyes
  7. Lonely
  8. Say You’re Wrong
  9. Jesse
  10. Let Me Be

Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon- lead and backing vocals, bass, keyboards, drums

Justin Clayton- guitar

Carlton Morales- guitar

Barry Beckett- keyboards

David Lebolt- keyboards

Peter Wood- keyboards

Roger Hawkins- drums

Steve Holley- drums, percussion

David Hood- bass

Marcus Miller- bass

Carmine Rojas- bass

Robert Mac Donald- percussion

Rory Dodd- backing vocals

Eric Taylor- backing vocals

Jon Faddis- trumpet

Joe Shepley- trumpet

Michael Brecker- saxophone

George Young- saxophone

Lawrence Feldman- saxophone

Ron Cuber- saxophone

Guest Musicians

Jean ‘Toots’ Theilmans- harmonica on “Too Late For Goodbyes”

Martin Briley- guitar on “Too Late For Goodbyes”

Dennis Herring- guitar on “Jesse”

In one respect, Julian Lennon couldn’t win with the critics on “Valotte.” The either said he was trying to be too much like his father or not enough. While his father’s influence is there, he does have his own stamp on the album, even if it is a very mellow album. While I wouldn’t listen to it travelling to or from Bloodstock, if I was younger, I would use it in the same ways teenage boys used “Beth” by KISS in the 1970s or “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” in the late 80s. The album is all right.

Next post: The Alarm- Declaration

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Great Metal Albums of 1984: Van Halen- 1984

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by 80smetalman

History is the reason why I am beginning the journey through 1984 with Van Halen’s sixth album, which is also named after this same year. Going back to in time, minutes after the bells rang in 1984 as the new year, MTV started the year by playing the first single from the album, “Jump.” Like many a metalhead at the time, I wasn’t too sure about the large amount of keyboards used in the song. However, I didn’t think the song was bad and Eddie proved he knew his way around a keyboards almost as well as he does his guitar. That’s how the year started for me. I then proceeded to get rather sloppy drunk as you do on the new year.

After “Jump,” things go back to more traditional Van Halen territory, with one exception, which I’ll get to. “Panama” was also released as a single and I definitely like it more than “Jump.” Eddie works his magic with the guitar and David Lee Roth uses his mouth in the only way he knows. I’m not just talking about his singing either. I’ve always liked his talking bit in the middle of “Panama.” “I reached down and put the seat back.” It doesn’t translate well here in print but if you listen to the song, you’ll see what I mean.

“Top Jimmy” and “Drop Dead Legs” are both good songs and I like the little guitar bits done on both songs. However, whenever I hear “Drop Dead Legs,” my mind immediately goes to when I heard the song used in an episode of “Family Guy.” For those who don’t know, it’s the episode where Brian and Stewie travel to a parallel universe and find a world where Meg is hot.

Drop Dead Legs played to this scene

Another good thing about both of those songs is that they lead beautifully to my favourite song on the album, “Hot for Teacher.” Every thing you loved about Van Halen is found on this song. Roth’s little quips between the verses and don’t forget, he can sing some too. Eddie plays the longest solo of all the songs on the album and very well too and of course we can never forget the rhythm section of Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen. While these two remain tight on the whole album, they seem especially so on “Hot forTeacher.”

After my favourite song comes the other exception. “I’ll Wait” is another keyboard dominated song but I never disliked it. If Van Halen had been making albums in the 1970s, many people would have used this song to label them a progressive rock band. Still, Eddie plays a decent solo on it. “I’ll Wait” leads the way for the album to go out on the good foot. I do like the intro on “Girl Gone Bad” and “House of Pain” is a suitable closer. For me, though I hadn’t listened to “Diver Down” at the time, I still drew the conclusion that “1984” was three steps up from it. Now that I have listened to that album, I will stay say that this one is the better album.

Track Listing:

  1. 1984
  2. Jump
  3. Panama
  4. Top Jimmy
  5. Drop Dead Legs
  6. Hot for Teacher
  7. I’ll Wait
  8. Girl Gone Bad
  9. House of Pain

Van Halen

David Lee Roth- lead vocals

Eddie Van Halen- guitar, keyboards, backing vocals

Michael Anthony- bass, backing vocals

Alex Van Halen- drums, backing vocals

This was how my 1984 began. There aren’t too many better ways to ring in a new year but what I do know now is that Van Halen’s “1984” opened the port hole to all the great music that would come our way in this year.

Next post: U2- Under a Blood Red Sky

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Great Metal Albums of 1983: Virgin Steele- Guardians of the Flame

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2017 by 80smetalman

220px-virgin_steele_guardians_of_the_flame

Virgin Steele’s 1982 debut album might have passed me by, (I blame being in the service at the time), but their second album, “Guardians of the Flame,” didn’t. I have a friend of my sister’s to thank for that because she was a big Virgin Steele fan. It was this album that she played on cassette in her car one day and the rest was history.

What hooked me straight away is that my all time favourite Virgin Steele song is the opener on “Guardians of the Flame.” “Don’t Say Goodbye Tonight” is one of those with a fast catchy beat that hooks you immediately. One can’t helped to headbang away to this tune. It is helped by the guitar work of Jack Starr, then the entire album is as well, and the rhythm section sounds the tightest on this song. What’s best is that lead singer, David DeFeis doesn’t try so much to be Joe Cool metal singer on it. His vocals are good enough but his attempts at high screams have always been off putting for me. He doesn’t do that on “Don’t Say Goodbye Tonight.”

DeFeis does those things on the next two tracks but fortunately, Starr’s guitar work cancels out the screams and makes those songs enjoyable. Maybe he gets the hint by track four because he doesn’t scream on “The Redeemer” making it a strong, powerful track. I sense a little Black Sabbath influence here and done well. The song is seven minutes long but a lot of that is Jack laying down the jams, so it’s a very enjoyable track.

Following a brief instrumental is the title cut. It begins like any other straight forward Virgin Steele metal tune but then in the middle, it goes totally progressive rock. I mean that when I listen to this part, I could be listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. However, it works with the second longest song on the album, just shy of seven minutes. You got to give them credit for having the balls to stretch out a bit here and credit where do for pulling it off. Again, Jack Starr has an influence on it too.

Things go back to more power metal after that with three really strong metal tracks. Then the album closes with the ballad like, “A Cry in the Night.” Using a ballad as a closer is always risky but there is a great guitar solo towards the end that helps to take the song out in very good way and has me making mental notes to listen to it again.

Track Listing:

  1. Don’t Say Goodbye Tonight
  2. Burn the Sun
  3. Life of Crime
  4. The Redeemer
  5. Birth Through Fire
  6. Guardians of the Flame
  7. Metal City
  8. Hell or High Water
  9. Go All the Way
  10. A Cry in the Night
Virgin Steele

Virgin Steele

David DeFies- vocals, keyboards

Jack Starr- guitar

Joe O’Reilly- bass

Joey Avazian- drums

I was impressed by the second album from Virgin Steele, “Guardians of the Flame” and I would seek out their later material. So what I ask myself is why I never got their debut album. If any of you can shed light on whether I’ve committed a travesty or had a lucky escape by not listening to it, I would be very grateful.

Next post: Waysted- Vices

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Great Metal Albums of 1983: Diamond Head- Canterbury

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2016 by 80smetalman

diamond_head_canterbury_cover

It is quite possible that my mind is well and truly going. My memories from when I saw Diamond Head at the 1983 Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington Park in England, I thought that this band played some really hard metal. However, when I listen to their 1983 “Canterbury” album, which was released two months before their Donington appearance, I find myself asking, “Is this the same band?” The “Canterbury” album isn’t that straight forward in your face metal I remember from when I saw them all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a cool album and there are a couple of hard tracks on it, however, the album takes a more progressive rock, artsy direction.

The first two tracks are definitely in the progressive vein but still decent tracks. For some reason, the opener, “Makin’ Music” reminds me a little of the opening track from Pat Travers’ live album. Things go gradually harder with the tracks that follow. The first metal track in the sense of the word for me is “One More Night.” That song does knock your socks off. I could say the same thing for the next track as well but the vocals remind me too much of early U2. I don’t want to insult lead singer Sean Harris but he does sound like Bono a little on it. One could say that this track might be what U2 would sound like if they went metal, as if. Then again, maybe I think too damn much.

Thoughts of U2  don’t disappear immediately on the very next track. They linger for the first half of “Knight of the Swords” but they do go away when Brian Tatler lays down his best guitar solo on the album. For me, that alone makes it the best track on the album. You know all this thinking about U2, I have to remember that back in 1983, they were good in my eyes and ears as they were with many others. So, the comparisons shouldn’t be seen as a harsh criticism. After “Knight of the Swords,” things go more melodic hard rock with “Ishmael.” It’s an okay song but I don’t find it anything to get too excited about. With “I Need Your Love,” Diamond Head goes kind of new wave/metal. It is a good track to bop your head along to and it hosts the second best guitar solo on it, so pluses all around. The title track closes the album and this is definitely an artsy progressive rock tune. It begins with a piano to which Harris sings a ballad like tune for the first two and a half minutes. While the song doesn’t go crazy power metal after, it does pick up the tempo. There is some fine musicianship on it and it turns out to be a good way to end the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Makin’ Music
  2. Out of Phase
  3. The Kingmaker
  4. One More Night
  5. To the Devil His Due
  6. Knight of the Swords
  7. Ishmael
  8. I Need Your Love
  9. Cantebury
Sean Harris and  Brian Tatler who made up Diamond Head

Sean Harris and Brian Tatler who made up Diamond Head

Sean Harris- vocals

Brian Tatler- guitars

Additional Musicians:

Colin Kimberly- bass

Mervyn Goldsworthy- bass

Duncan Scott- drums

Robbie France- drums

Jamie Lane- drums

Chris Heaton- keyboards

Back in the early 1980s, Diamond were the best kept secret of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, (NWOBHM). While Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon to name some had established themselves as big names in the US, most Americans never heard of Diamond Head. One such person, when reading my Donington t-shirt thought that because the name Diamond Head was on it, the concert had taken place in Hawaii. I put him right on that one. “Canterbury” might not have been the metal album one would expect from Diamond Head, but it’s still good album nevertheless.

Next post: Saxon- Power and Glory

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Great Rock/Metal Albums of 1983: Rainbow- Bent Out of Shape

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2016 by 80smetalman

220px-bent_out_of_shape_rainbow

“Bent Out of Shape” would be the last album for Rainbow as we knew them. The band would break up after the tour for the album and members would go in different directions but that’s a story for further down the line of metal history. I have heard this album called lackluster and the final nail in Rainbow’s coffin but was it that bad? I’ll be the first to admit that “Bent Out of Shape” doesn’t come up to the level of the previous Rainbow album, “Straight Between the Eyes” but I don’t think it’s a bad album one bit.

With “Bent Out of Shape,” Rainbow go towards a more keyboard dominated sound meaning it’s less hard rock than what Rainbow fans were used to. Back in the 1980s, I could see how metalheads would have found that disappointing as many were distrustful of any band who incorporated keyboards in their sound. However, David Rosenthal had been with the band for several albums and had proven himself to be a more than capable keyboardist. Proof is his efforts on the intro to “Can’t Let You Go,” strictly superb and he does smoke on “Fire Dance.” The added bonus with that song is that Ritchie Blackmore still lets you know that he can still bend the six string to do his bidding. Rainbow has always been good at the keyboard-guitar solo trade off and “Fire Dance” shows that their ability to do so hadn’t gone away. If you want further proof, listen to the two instrumentals on the album. On “Anybody There” the keyboards play a support role for Ritchie to work his guitar magic and “Snowman” is a great piece of instrumental progressive rock!

It might have been that many metalheads were put off by the single, “Street of Dreams,” which got a considerable amount of airplay on MTV before it was supposedly banned for its hypnotic clip. It would later be accused of showing bondage but that again, is for a later post. It is a commercial track without argument but it’s not bad. In fact, it’s played well. “Desperate Heart” is more of a rocker, the second hardest on the album, with “Drinking With the Devil” being the hardest.  So not everything that Rainbow had stood for for nearly a decade went out the window on the album. Besides, the closer, “Make You Move” takes things out on a hard note very well. Overall, I won’t debate that “Bent Out of Shape” is more of a commercial AOR album but I didn’t hate it then and I appreciate more now.

Track Listing:

  1. Stranded
  2. Can’t Let You Go
  3. Fool For the Night
  4. Fire Dance
  5. Anybody There
  6. Desperate Heart
  7. Street of Dreams
  8. Drinking With the Devil
  9. Snowman
  10. Make Your Move
Rainbow

Rainbow

Ritchie Blackmore- guitar

Roger Glover- bass

Joe Lynn Turner- vocals

David Rosenthal- keyboards

Chuck Burgi- drums

In spite of whether “Ben Out of Shape” is a good album, Rainbow would disappear after the album. Roger Glover and Ritchie Blackmore would go and rejoin some band they were with back in the early 1970s, you might have heard of them. Not long after, lead singer, Joe Lynn Turner would reappear with his first solo album. One thing that “Bent Out of Shape” proves was that it didn’t end the careers of the talented members who made up Rainbow.

Next Post: Black Sabbath- Born Again

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Great Rock/Metal Albums of 1983: Aldo Nova- Subject…Aldo Nova

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2016 by 80smetalman

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“Subject…Aldo Nova” was the follow up to Aldo’s much adored debut album. The big question will always be: Was it as good as the first? At first, I was tempted to answer no but after a few more listens, I’m not so sure. On “Subject,” Aldo does go for a more commercial 1980s sound and therefore it’s not as hard rock as the debut. However, the hard stuff definitely does not totally disappear on the album. Maybe he was under pressure from the record company to go for a more commercially viable sound but I can’t say. It’s still a very good album nonetheless.

The first three tracks are all space rock sounding instrumentals which can easily be blended into a single track. These tracks tell you from the outset that “Subject” is going to be a little different. “Monkey On Your Back” does bring things back to what I liked about the first album. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of “Fantasy” so you know it’s a cool song. From there, things go even harder with the next two songs and he definitely nails the guitar solo on “Cry Baby Cry.”

Further evidence that Aldo is not trying to veer too far away from the first album’s format comes with the first power ballad, “Victim of a Broken Heart.” Unfortunately, this song is more ballad and less power but he still manages to land another great guitar solo which saves the song for me. Then comes the thirty-nine second “Africa (Primal Love)” which has me wondering: Was this necessary? Personally, I don’t see the point of it being included here but hey ho, things return to normal with “Hold Back the Night.” The big difference here was that there is a bit of barely audible talking in the middle which made me stop what I was doing and listen intently to hear what he was saying. I still couldn’t make it out. But there’s another cool guitar solo after so who cares?

“Always Be Mine” ventures back into the realm of more commercial rock so I’m assuming that it was an intended single. The chorus is rather catchy so that’s a feather in its cap. After “All Night Long,” which is more synth sounding but starts with a good solo, the album kind of goes out the same way it came in, with two short instrumentals only the final track, “Paradise” is a full length song and a bit of a power ballad but the guitar solo does take the album out on an absolute high. All in all, “Subject” doesn’t quite climb to the heights reached by its predecessor but still gets pretty high up the mountain.

Track Listing:

  1. Subject’s Theme
  2. Armageddon (Race Cars)
  3. Armageddon
  4. Monkey On Your Back
  5. Hey Operator
  6. Cry Baby Cry
  7. Victim of a Broken Heart
  8. Africa (Primal Love)
  9. Hold Back the Night
  10. Always Be Mine
  11. All Night Long
  12. War Song
  13. Prelude to Paradise
  14. Paradise
Aldo Nova

Aldo Nova

Aldo Nova- guitars, vocals

Billy Carmassi- drums

David Sikes- bass on track 5

Neal Jason- bass on tracks 8,9,10 and 12

Steve Buslowe- bass on track 11

Dennis Chartrand- piano

Chuck Burgi- drums on track 10

Kevin Carlson- 2nd guitar solo on tracks 3 and 12

Aldo Nova had hit the ground running with his debut album and still going strong on “Subject.” It seemed as far as American commercial rock was concerned, he would disappear but I can’t help thinking that his other albums are as good as his first two.

Next post: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts- Album

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Great Rock/Metal Albums of 1983: Zebra

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Heavy Metal and the 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2016 by 80smetalman

zebra_album

Don’t ask me how but for some reason, the debut album from the American hard rock/heavy metal band Zebra passed me by. I don’t remember it getting any airplay on local radio nor do I remember seeing any videos from them on MTV. If it hadn’t been for Rich at Kamertunes, I never would have heard of this band ever let alone get the opportunity to listen to the debut album. But thank God for Youtube as once again, it allows me to listen to another album I never heard before.

Now that I got to listen to this album thrice, I am now able to deliver a verdict on it. I always believe in starting with the negative or at least the less positive. I don’t feel that I missed anything major by not listening to the album way back in 1983. The album has a definite “it’s all been done before” feel to it. I can’t really say that there’s anything original about it. Furthermore, I think Zebra attempts to be all things to all people here. There’s snippets of progressive rock, hard rock and heavy metal dotted all throughout and I’m sorry, the track “Slow Down” sounds too 1950s. I know the song was written in 1958 but there seemed little attempt to bring it up to date. I said it then and I’ll say it now, if I want the 1950s in the 80s or any decade, I’ll listen to the Stray Cats. Likewise, the closer, “The La La Song,” begins like an easy listening tune which spoils most of the song even though it goes a harder not long into it.

Now for the more positive. Overall, the album is pretty good. While I don’t think I missed anything by not buying it, if I had heard it in 1983, I still would have bought it. One can’t fault the efforts of the three men who make up Zebra. There are some really cool intros on tracks one, two and four and they are all decent to very good tracks, all hard rock. The only gripe is that possibly the opener, “Tell Me What You Want,” ends too abruptly. “Who’s Behind the Door,” I have to say impresses the hell out of me. I do detect a bit of Rush influence here and the vocals are ear catching. “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” does sound like classic 1970s progressive rock, sort of in the vein of Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The musicianship is ace on this one and it is my favourite track on the album. The next track rocks pretty good as well with a good guitar riff. In short, the seven better tracks do cancel out the two unimpressive ones.

Track Listing:

  1. Tell Me What You Want
  2. One More Chance
  3. Slow Down
  4. As I Said Before
  5. Who’s Behind the Door
  6. When You Get There
  7. Take Your Fingers From My Hair
  8. Don’t Walk Away
  9. The La La Song
Zebra

Zebra

Randy Jackson- guitar, lead vocals, piano, Mellotron, synthesizer, percussion

Felix Hanemann- bass, backing vocals, keyboards, strings

Guy Gelso- drums, backing vocals, percussion

Zebra’s debut album came and went in 1983 and escaped my notice for thirty-three years. Now that I finally did, I liked what I heard from the debut album. However and I know I’m repeating myself here, I don’t think I missed anything super special.

Next post: Aldo Nova

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