Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 29 - Robin Trower 'Bridge of Sighs'

‘Bridge of Sighs’ is a forgotten classic by Robin Trower. Sure, the album went gold and topped out at number 7 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. It was Trower’s breakthrough album.

There are many similarities to Jimi Hendrix when it comes to Trower’s style. And that is more than okay. In my opinion, Trower bridged the gap from Hendrix to Van Halen when it came to the gods of guitar. It wasn’t like Hendrix was releasing any new material.

“Day of the Eagle” opens up the album with its straight-ahead in your face blistering riffs. James Dewar’s slightly raspy vocals give the song a little depth of blues, and yet it manages to make you jam out like you were listening to a Motorhead tune. The song isn’t played on classic rock stations across the country shows exactly that give one an example of what’s wrong with classic radio.

The title track gives you a trippy little respite where each note is measured and maintained for maximum effectiveness. Just make sure to put in the earbuds or slip on the headphones for the song. And thankfully, you can hear “Bridge of Sighs” occasionally on classic rock stations across the country. And it segues nicely into the next song “In This Place”.

“In This Place” is another song that really features Dewar’s beautiful voice. There are plenty of things dancing around your head as well when it comes to “headphone music”. The leads that dance off each other in the instrumental break are simply beautiful as well.

Enough of the dreamy, melodic stuff… “The Fool and Me” picks up the pace once again. This song sounds as if King’s X has some influence from Robin Trower. If they haven’t, they should really cover the song at some point. The lack of overdubs during the instrumental break really shows that Trower doesn’t need a rhythm guitarist. He managed to keep the rhythm while hitting you with every blistering note from his Stratocaster.

Another damn shame… “Too Rolling Stoned” isn’t played on classic rock radio either. This tune is a rocker. I’ve played it on jukeboxes at various places and watched people bobbing their heads and going over the thing to find out who the artist is. The lazy little blues riffing on the back half of the song is perfect and keeps the rocker from becoming stale. You’ll find yourself bobbing your head as Trower lays down some serious melodic lead guitar.

“About to Begin” slows things down again on side two… Sorry, I reverted back to my old vinyl copy of the album. The interplay of all the guitars on this track really shows Trower’s desire to make a damn good song instead of a showcase for his lead ability. The man respects melody and it definitely shows in this song.

“Lady Love” is a song that fills the cowbell prescription. The song is a “lite” blister rocker. Even though it moves along at a good pace, the studio version lacks that punch in the face. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great tune in my opinion… But the live versions that I’ve heard really give the tune a little more “oomph”.

“Little Bit of Sympathy” closes out the album (unless you’re listening to the various re-releases over the years) with a bluesy face-melter. Again, there’s a lack of guitar overdubs that shows you how Trower’s melodic playing doesn’t need a rhythm guitarist.

Check out Tim's take on the album RIGHT HERE.

I managed to see Trower back in the late 90s at the old Ziggy’s (now a parking lot) near Deacon Blvd. in Winston-Salem. I went with my buddy Chip who was an even bigger fan than I was. We even stood out in the rain to meet him and get an autograph.

He put out a live album after that tour and Chip came to me with the insert. “Is that us at Ziggy’s?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure, but it sure as hell looked like the old Ziggy’s from stage right and that sure as hell looked like us in the front row having a grand ol’ time. And sadly, I haven’t been able to find that CD since I dragged my feet on ordering it back then.

Bottom line is this… If you’re a fan of classic rock or hard rock or even blues rock, ‘Bridge of Sighs’ should be somewhere in your collection whether it’s a hard copy or you’re streaming it.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 28 - Trouble 'Trouble' (1990)

Next up is yet another album produced by Rick Rubin. And if you missed my opinion from the earlier albums that he produced, I totally dig the raw and nearly unpolished sound that Rubin brings to studio releases.

I always knew about Trouble just by seeing them in the “metal” section at the old Record Bar store that used to be in Greensboro’s Friendly Center. I just couldn’t take a risk on purchasing one of their albums without knowing a thing about them. And from the cheap look of those early album covers, it tainted my early opinion of them.

I first heard them on WROV in Roanoke, VA as I was driving HWY 219 between Pickaway and Union, WV. They played “The Misery Shows (Act 2)”. I can show you the very spot where that song made an impression on my 23-year-old mind. I had no idea who the artist was. I kept thinking backsell the song, backsell the song, tell me the artist. And they did!

Normally, I wasn’t one for listening to radio. But WROV was different. They kicked ass until they were purchased by Clear Channel and homogenized until their uniqueness was cast aside like a banana peel.

I purchased the album as soon as I got back to my job at Peaches Music & Video. It had been out for a few months, but I dismissed them for reasons stated above. But when I got that joker in my hands, I consumed and savored it for over a week.

You could call Trouble “doom metal” or “stoner rock”. I just refer to them as hard rock.

The production is rather sparse in the sense that the music doesn’t completely fill a blank canvas. The guitars are loud and crunchy. The drums are really forward in the mix, as they should be. And they have that “flabby” Bonham sound on the toms. The vocals can be smooth as Morrison and flipped to Brian Johnson with flick of a switch.

In my humble opinion, there’s not a bad cut on the album. Rubin really helped them bring their “A game” for this release. “Black Shapes Of Doom” is a nice driving ditty and other standouts are “At The End Of My Daze”, “A Sinner’s Fame”, and “The Misery Shows (Act 2)”.

And like Tim pointed out in his review RIGHT HERE, there are spiritual and religious references made here and there. I seem to recall a tour where Trouble hit the road with their label mates at the time Danzig. The all access laminate passes were inverted crosses. The members of Trouble changed their passes to reflect the cross in the upright position. Reportedly, this infuriated Glenn Danzig so much that he had them kicked off his band’s headlining tour. I didn’t find anything about it during a short Google search, so I don’t know how true that story is.

If you dig on some Black Sabbath, then you should have this album in your collection or at the very least on one of your Spotify playlists.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 27 - Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction 'Tattooed Beat Messiah'

First of all, we shouldn’t take this album seriously when it comes to the lyrical content. The band was meant as a parody of misogynistic, sexist hard rock.

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction’s ‘Tattooed Beat Messiah’ came to me through Jeff Kay from The West Virginia Surf Report. We worked at a massive record store in Greensboro known as Peaches Music & Video.

Jeff came back from a weekend trip to visit friends and family in wild and wonderful West Virginia. I remember him working the night shift upon his return and he slid the cassette tape across the work station that I was standing at. He told me that I would love it.

I popped that thing into the cassette player of my 1987 Ford Escort EXP and IMMEDIATELY fell in love with it when I went to lunch. The guitars, the vocals, and the over-the-top lyrics that bordered on sexist and absurd.

You wanna ride, baby
This is a special car
Two accelerators, no brakes
You wanna know about love?
Lemme teach, yeah
Come to church, I'm the preacher
Jump in the motor
Let the kisses cascade
I'm the love commando, this is a raid
If love is an art, baby I'm surreal
With you by my side
Can't keep my hands on the wheel
Unbuckle that strap jump in the back
Let's steam up the windows of my Cadillac
-“Backseat Education”

Isn’t it obvious they were joking??

But the music was no joke on this album. This album kicks more ass than one hundred rodeos. And talk about hooks? Every song has more hooks than a slaughterhouse. Great choruses to sing along with if you’re willing to keep that tongue firmly planted in your cheek.

My favorite lyrics come from the beginning of “Driving On Holy Gasoline”…

Consecrated By The Reverand James Brown
I Just Drove Out Of Crazy Town
You Talk About Life
Here's An Injection
A Steel Cage Jockey
With A Star Born Connection
Drop Your Halo Baby
I Got A Mission
I Got The Keys To Your Ignition

I think it’s pure genius!

The majority of the songs are of the “biker metal/hair metal” variety with choruses that you can sing along with. “Untamed Stare” is two and half minutes of hard driving hard rock that doesn’t let up. “Kids Stuff” is the only throwaway track for me. It’s a power ballad and thankfully they saved it until the end. Otherwise, the placement would have felt completely out of place.

They’re cover of “Born To Be Wild” COMPLETELY kicks ass! I like it better than The Cult’s version on another album (‘Electric’) that made this list.

Since this album isn’t readily available on streaming sites I recommend these songs from YouTube for your listening enjoyment…

“Prime Mover” (The 12” “dance mix” is great. I’ve only seen it on vinyl. And yes, I own a copy.)

“Skull Spark Joker”

“Backseat Education”

“Tattooed Beat Messiah”

“Driving On Holy Gasoline”

Sadly, they never quite captured that same kind of lightning in their bottle again. They made only one great album, in my opinion. I’ve tried and tried to get into their stuff after the release of their debut, but it just lacked that certain something.
Check out what Tim had to say about it RIGHT HERE.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 26 - Thin Lizzy 'Black Rose: A Rock Legend'

I experienced a minor setback the other morning when I went to listen to the next album on my personal list of the top 50 underappreciated hard rock albums. But here on Thanksgiving, I have the opportunity to crank up my Tailgater and blare out Thin Lizzy’s ‘Black Rose: A Rock Legend’.

There are SO MANY Thin Lizzy albums that I could have went with. I agonized over it for at least a month. I was listening and re-listening. Although it was working my brain, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The albums that challenged for top 50 coverage:

‘Jailbreak’ (obviously)
‘Johnny The Fox’
‘Bad Reputation’
‘Live And Dangerous’

So if you’re slightly curious, add those to your listening as well as ‘Black Rose’.

Here in America, Thin Lizzy just doesn’t get the accolades they deserve. They’re melodic while they can rock your face off. There is storytelling in just about every song that will create pictures in your mind.

“Do Anything You Want To Do” is a nice little ditty about self-empowerment that builds instead of preaching. And it seems as if KISS borrowed the opening riffs for the song “I”. Ironically, “I” is another song about self-empowerment. The dual leads of Gary Moore and Scott Gorham has that signature Lizzy sound with Phil Lynott on bass and Brian Downey providing solid drumming.

“Toughest Street in Town” has melodic hooks and a blistering solo from Gary Moore. Moore is one of those guitarists that American’s never really saw as a god. This song should be played loudly from a Camaro with the windows down while traveling just barely over the speed limit.

Flange is my favorite effect and Lynott’s bass is loaded with it in the song “S & M”. It’s a funky little number that tells a 50 shades kinda story.

“Waiting For An Alibi” should be playing on every classic rock radio station across the country. It’s a crime that it isn’t because it falls into the Camaro, windows-down category. The hooks, the dual guitars, the story, and catchy chorus has all the classic rock trappings for airplay. And yet the song continues to be ignored.

“Sarah” is a beautiful song that Lynott wrote about his daughter. As sappy as it seems, it works for a Thin Lizzy song. The added harmonica gives another layer to the Lizzy onion. And the guitar solos from Moore and Gorham do not lay back. There’s technique and flash, but it remains tasteful in order to fit the song.

“Got To Give It Up” is a song about alcohol and drug abuse. And without being too preachy, you will find yourself singing along with the chorus. There’s another blistering lead from Moore in this song.

Another song loaded with flange opens the tune “Get Out Of Here”. It’s a breakup song that sounds as happy as a kid at Chucky Cheese. And you could possibly find yourself singing along with the chorus no matter how happy your current relationship is.

The song “With Love” has the Thin Lizzy sound, but it’s just a little different. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s like Lynott turned his own song style upside down. It’s another breakup song like the previous track. At times, I feel that it’s “over produced” and then that feeling goes away. It’s an odd little tune that just gets better every time I listen to it.

“Roisin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend” closes out the album. The song is based on an old Irish story. This song is the most Irish thing on the album besides Lynott. It makes me want to drink, punch, and get punched before we all gather for a hug filled sing-a-long of “Danny Boy”.

And there you have it. Thin Lizzy was an Irish folk band that played their stories with loud and distorted guitars. I did see them once before they changed their name to Blackstar Riders. But I never got to see Lynott perform. They just never made it around to my neck of the woods. And if they did, I was too young to know them. I didn’t really discover Thin Lizzy until the early 80s. I remember reading about them in magazines like ‘Guitar For The Practicing Musician’. Everyone raved about them. That’s how I got on that Thin Lizzy train. I even had a poster of Lynott on my bedroom wall.

It was a sad beginning to 1986 for me when I found out that Lynott died shortly after New Years.

If you’re an Iron Maiden fan, you can hear the influence in their tunes.

Read Tim's take on this album RIGHT HERE.

I will try to catch up as soon as I can. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 25 - King's X 'Gretchen Goes To Nebraska'

Yeah, I got really behind on this project. A project that I started! I'm slack at times. I just haven't been in the mood to write lately. But lets get back on this train!

I remember the day that a girlfriend played ‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska’ for me. It was a hot day in June and we were headed for lunch at the Taco Time that used to be on High Point Road (now Gate City Blvd) in Greensboro. She drove a small red Toyota Tercel with no air conditioning.

She had a promotional cassette that was given out to radio stations a few weeks ahead of the release.

We were already familiar and in love with ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ from King’s X. So as soon as she saw that new release, she snagged it.

For me, it was MILES ahead of ‘Out of the Silent Planet’. The songs still rocked hard, but they had more of a pop music sensibility to them.

“Over My Head” is still one of my favorite songs of all time. And for some reason, it reminds me of something from Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’. I’m not sure why, but it does. The song just reminds me of Mother Abigail.

I got to see them in a club in Hickory called Cadillacs and they blew me away. They were one of the tightest rock bands that I had ever seen live. When they all reached a “quick stop” in a song, there was silence for a split second, and BOOM! They were back into the song. It was like a punch to the gut.

Doug Pinnick possesses one of the greatest voices in hard rock and how he does what he does on the bass guitar while singing has always blown my mind. Ty Tabor delivers guitar god antics without all the trappings of Stratocaster royalty. He does the job, but if you listen carefully to the craftsmanship, you’ll find out that he SHOULD reside in the guitar gods Rolodex. And Jerry Gaskill provides the drums and timing needed for these three great musicians that doesn’t get enough respect.

And between them, they really bring home big harmonies.

I love the production on this album. You could slice cheese with the sharpness of the production. And for me, there’s not a single track that I would throw away.

‘Gretchen Goes to Nebraska’ should be enjoyed with headphones or ear buds.

“Out of the Silent Planet” opens the album with a light touch of harmonies with really heavy guitars just buried underneath. The vocals are as smooth as a ride in a new Cadillac.

“Over My Head” hits you like a bullet out of the blue. I have always loved the sound of the bass guitar in this one and Pinnick’s voice is golden on this track.

“Summerland” is another lush track layered with melodic guitars and harmonies. But wait for it… The gut punch will arrive as Pinnick drives home the vocals.

“Every Body Knows A Little Bit of Something” starts off with a small salute to soul with the opening vocals. The guitars kick in and then it backs off with the lead vocals on my favorite effect, flange. And yes, it’s very “headphonic”. I love that stuff. Pinnick’s slap bass is understated and exactly what the song needs during verses. Tabor’s biting strat keeps the song anchored with molten hard rock lead.

“The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne’s On-The-Hill)” is another lush song laced with those Cadillac ride vocals, acoustic guitars, and tasteful percussive treats from Gaskill. The song is a perfect “palate cleanser” for this album. It reminds the less than average fan of just how good these cats are.

“I’ll Never Be The Same” is another hard rocker with Pinnick’s soulful vocals laced with a hint of gravel. The song has so many riffs perfect for any air guitarist in your life. The lack of overdubs really makes this song great in my opinion, especially during the lead solo.

“The Mission” starts off with a slight melodic misrepresentation before giving you a light kick in the rump. The song is an interesting look at religion and I have used the “assembly of a social gathering” many a times regarding my views about organized religion.

“Fall On Me” has always immediately reminded me of a Robin Trower song. It just has that vibe. And it’s another song that has “the open canvas” when it comes to overdubbing. They show that you don’t need to cover up all the blankness to make a damn fine song. And remember that thing that I wrote about the sudden stop in a song that filled Cadillac’s with silence?

Well, it comes at about the 3:45 mark in the song.

“Pleiades” features the vocals of Ty Tabor. In my opinion, his vocals are a little thin but they but quite calming and subdued. If it weren’t for the guitars on this song, it would be close to a throw away. It’s my least favorite tune on the album.

Thankfully “Don’t Believe it” comes back in to wake you up. Again there are hints of Mother India in this track filled with air guitar worthy riffs.

“Send A Message” has a nice little bouncy beat to it as it melts your face. And like most of the other tracks on this album, break out your air guitars.

“The Burning Down” closes out the record with Tabor handling the vocals. It sounds like The Beatles with a wall of Marshall amps behind them. It’s melodic with the loud guitars complimenting the lush vocals. At times the song meanders along, but that’s not a bad thing. The song makes for a fine closer on this album.

Check out Tim's take on this album at his blog. I would direct you to Jon's take, but he's more behind than I am. And I've been unemployed for 2 months!