Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 19 - Yngwie J. Malmsteen's 'Rising Force'

What can be said about Yngwie Malmsteen’s ‘Rising Force’ album?

For one thing, it influenced a schload of imitators. But it wasn’t just the style of playing, it was also the idea of putting out instrumental hard rock albums.

Yeah, I know… Jeff Scott Soto is singing on this joker… But it’s true. There were a lot of guitarists that followed his, pardon the pun, lead. Alex Masi, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, and Joe Satriani.

Randy Rhoads initially stuck the classical music key in the ignition of hard rock in the early 1980s, but Yngwie provided the engine. And that engine roared loudly with me.

There are moments of beautiful melodies. There are moments of incredible, over-the-top flashing fingers on the fretboard with some tremolo bending of the notes. And there are times where the riffs just rock your face off.

Granted, lyrically, the message gets lost in the translation to English. They sound simple and undeserving of the music bubbling underneath.

But the album flat out shreds. And if you’ve ever seen Mr. Malmsteen, then you know just how good he is.

Unfortunately, his ego got the best of him along with going against what he was best at… instrumentals. The more songs he had with singers, the less I paid attention to him.

Back to his ego… I saw him open up for AC/DC at the Greensboro Coliseum in November of 1985. During his guitar solo, he picked out a part of the Eddie Van Halen song “Eruption” and incorporated it within his solo. He was doing with one hand that Eddie does with two. The ears of the crowd perked up and cheered loudly hearing part of “Eruption”. And that’s when Yngwie mimicked yawning with pats on the mouth with his free right hand. The crowd turned on him with loud boos.

So you see… Yngwie Malmsteen was his worst enemy. But he left us with one great album and ‘Rising Force’ is it.

‘Marching Out’ has it’s moments, but Malmsteen never caught the lightning in the bottle again.

“Far Beyond The Sun” and “Black Star” are still concert staples.

I saw him last on a G3 Tour with Satriani and Vai. It was incredible. Magic was made when all three guitarists jammed together at the end of the show.

I just remember a lot of guitarists mimicking his style AND tossing the guitar over the shoulder and around the back. Malmsteen is a guitar maestro and this is the ONE album you need in your collection if you are an admirer of guitar heroes.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 18 - Foghat 'Foghat Live'

Let’s face it… If you were alive in the late 1970s and you had a taste for hard rock, you knew about ‘Foghat Live’. If not, then you were probably hiding in an Iranian spider hole or your time was swallowed up with Donny & Marie fan club business.

‘Foghat Live’ was the first album that I ever owned by Foghat. I had heard “Slow Ride” and “Fool for the City”, but I had never cared enough to purchase any of their albums. My funds were limited to KISS records at the time.

I can’t remember, but I came into possession of ‘Foghat Live’ on cassette. I think it was given to me when I purchased a second hand boom box in the early 1980s. Anyways… I thought it was a great album and it really opened my eyes to Foghat. I thought they kicked ass! And from that point on, I started acquiring Foghat albums. I even have a Foghat belt buckle packed away somewhere.

I’m not sure how overdubbed this album is, but I don’t care. It sounds like pure ass kickin’ to me. The album reeks with energy and the loud distorted guitars that I crave.

There’s only six songs on that bad boy. The two hits, a classic cover (2 actually, but everyone knows the Willie Dixon tune), and three tunes that you may not know.

Tim did notice the little “slow down” in “Slow Ride”. That has been there for as long as I have been listening to the album. It has become an accepted occurrence that doesn’t manage to drive me crazy. It’s just an anomaly that has become something that I ignore like Grandparents day. Ya know?

My personal favorite from the album is their cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You”. The studio version from Foghat is good, but this live version really kicks it into overdrive.

I love the slide guitars and at times the vocalist sounds like he’s about to crap his pants. Although I’ve never seen Foghat, I’ve always felt that they MUST have been a great live act that had to be seen for full appreciation.

Since I have replaced my beloved Zune with Spotify, it’s still easy to hear new albums. And Foghat released on just last year called ‘Under the Influence’. It’s a very good album!

Yeah, I was surprised too!

But ‘Foghat Live’ is one of those albums that should absolutely be in your collection. It should be taken out at least once a year and played loud.

I’ve owned it on cassette, vinyl, and I recently purchased the CD from Walmart when I stumbled across it in the $5 dump bin.

And in my opinion, it was $5 well spent!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 17 - King Kobra 'Ready to Strike'

Carmin Appice has always been there and you may not have noticed him. Ya know, unless you’re a drummer. He was in Vanilla Fudge, he spent time with Rod Stewart, Cactus, Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, Blue Murder, and King Kobra.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform with Ozzy, Ted, and Blue Murder. I’ve seen him play in arenas. I’ve seen him with Blue Murder at the old Baity’s Music Garden in Winston-Salem with John Sykes (a geeky hard rocker’s wet dream).

He’s a power drummer plain and simple. Since I know nothing about drums, I’m going by what I hear and what I appreciate. The guy is a solid drummer with a big fat sound able to perk the ears of hard ass authorities in the next county.

I have no doubt that he’s doing things that make drummers take note. He wouldn’t be so revered by the legions of drummers out there if he weren’t all that good.

King Kobra’s ‘Ready To Strike’ was handed to me in the form of a cassette tape by Jeff Baker. All he said was, “Check this out.”

I did and I was floored. The vocalist breathed life into ever lyric. The drums and bass work of Johnny Rod provide a loud pulse for the “Frankenstein” of a band assembled by Appice.

‘Ready to Strike’ follows the same blueprint of Starz’s ‘Attention Shoppers’. It’s a power pop album with screaming guitars. Lyrically, the album pulsates with hard rock attitudes and yet features a lot of pop lyric sensibilities. And there’s even two songs written by a previously featured band, Kick Axe. Those are “Hunger” and “Piece of the Rock”.

‘Ready to Strike’ was produced by Spencer Proffer and Carmen Appice. Proffer provided Billy Thorpe with his fifteen minutes of fame with “Children of the Sun” that was found on AOR airwaves during the late 1970s and late 1980s. Proffer had the “Midas touch” with Quiet Riot, but failed with King Kobra and Kick Axe.

And in my opinion, that’s a damn shame… Quiet Riot just caught onto something without actually having merit. Let’s face it… They were basically a Slade tribute band. But I always found Proffer’s production skills quite excellent.

I hold the first King Kobra’s album right up with the ‘Vices’ from Kick Axe.

‘Ready to Strike’ is an ass-kicking hard-rocking power pop album that certainly timestamps 1985. But it also shows you the good underbelly side of the “hair metal” scene that was dominating the landscape of hard rock. King Kobra were one of the really good bands that gave the genre a good name back then, but unfortunately went unnoticed.

Stand outs on the album are… “Ready to Strike”, “Hunger”, “Shadow Rider”, “Breakin’ Out”, “Tough Guys”, “Second Thoughts”, and my favorite moody little number called “Dancing with Desire”.

If you’re a fan of the 1980s genre of hard rock, I hope that you give this album a spin.

Check out what Tim and Jon had to write about the same album.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 16 - Alice Cooper 'Special Forces'


I knew that I would face a little bewilderment over Alice Cooper’s ‘Special Forces’. And I’m not sure why it’s one of my favorites from him.

The drums are out front in the mix providing the engine for this musical bus driven by the boozed and blitzed Alice. The guitars take a quieter seat near the rear wheels. The keyboards are riding in seat right behind the driver. And there’s no denying that the bus is on the New Wave Highway.

Unlike most of his rock n’ roll counterparts in the late 1970s, Alice didn’t follow the disco path. “New Wave” was making some ripples and something caught his ear. It was the perfect outlet for another “version” of Alice. He could tell his brand of twisted stories with a splash of “punk”.

‘Flush the Fashion’ is a classic, but it was slightly edged out by ‘Special Forces’ with its lighthearted and comedic word play. “Skeletons in the Closet” contains great lines like “I see bones, I see bones, Icy bones…” that can easily be brought to life by the showman that Alice is. “Prettiest Cop on the Block”, “Don’t Talk Old to Me”, “You Want it, You Got it”, “You Look Good in Rags”, “You’re a Movie”, and “Vicious Rumors” are all capable of providing Alice some great roles to play on the stage.

As odd as ‘Special Forces’ is as an album, it shows a certain disregard for rules. If KISS can make some kick ass disco, then by-golly, Alice Cooper can make a kick ass new wave album. The guitars are there rumbling underneath and rocking. The synthesizers are rocking just as hard. The lyrics to almost every song provide a chuckle or two.

And there’s a great cover of Love’s “Seven & Seven Is” along with an update of “Generation Landslide”.

‘Special Forces’ has many things to show you. And it may take more than one listen for total life change to occur.

Great lyrics include these…

“I’ve done some things I really can’t describe… I’ve made some mouths open pretty wide”

“God told me that I would have rivaled… Alexander the Great at his best”

“You want Chateau Greon for breakfast every day… Okay… You want some Spanish lover to lay in bed all day… Ole’”

“I like to flex my arms in the neon light”


and

“Forget about Vogue, or them hundred dollar jeans you make a two dollar t-shirt obscene”

Bob Dylan has called Alice Cooper “an overlooked songwriter”. And he was right!

‘Special Forces’ is fun. And it’s a great hard rock/new wave album. Lyrically, it’s a work of art for any English teacher.

I believe that Tim and Jon will revisit the album one day to find that it’s really not a strange choice. And I highly recommend watching this concert on YouTube.

And even though Alice Cooper doesn’t remember this particular phase of his career, I adore all four of those albums… ‘Flush the Fashion’, ‘Special Forces’, ‘Zipper Catches Skin’, and ‘Dada’. The songs all tell memorable stories AND there’s even a Christmas song in the mix called “No Man’s Land”.

Here is Tim's take and here is Jon's Take for comparison.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Eugeology: Eugene's List of Hard Rock Albums and Possible Gems Part 15 - Starz 'Attention Shoppers'


Starz is probably the greatest “unheard of” hard rock band that sprang from America during the 1970s. They still plug into bars around the country to play in front of die hard fans that still haven’t given up on them. And if they came to a town near me, I’d be one of first people to purchase 4 tickets.

I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing them, but I do know one person that saw them open for ZZ Top in Louisville, KY. I was bitterly jealous, but not because he got to see them… But because they recorded the show that he attended as part of a live radio station broadcast. There’s an exact (barring any overdubs) record of his concert experience.

But I got over it and recently found that the deluxe release of Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ has tracks recorded at a show that I attended in Raleigh, NC. And Blackberry Smoke released a live album recorded at a show at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem that my wife and I attended.

Back to Starz…

I love all four of the Starz releases on Capitol Records. But the third release ‘Attention Shoppers’ finds the band pouring gasoline onto their power pop songwriting abilities. And in my opinion, it’s their best release.

There are songs that can rattle your innards that will cause you to have a blissful regular start to your next day. Songs like “X-Ray Spex”, “Good Ale We Seek”, and “Waitin’ on You”.

There’s the lumbering, lyrical story about “Johnny All Alone” that provides a great film noir stoyboard for your brain. The length of the song provides Richie Ranno plenty of room to compliment the lyrics with swaggering lead guitar that brushes in melody instead of flash.

And the rest “Don’t Think”, “Hold on to the Night”, “She”, “(Anyway That You Want It) I’ll Be There”, and “Third Times the Charm” are just great power pop songs that deserve proper recognition. I believe those songs should have littered the rock radio landscape during all of 1978. “Third Times the Charm” is tune that could have walked all the way to number one on the Hot 100.

No matter how you slice it, it’s the perfect recipe for popular song craft.

Play "Third Times the Charm" the next time you’re at a place with a digital jukebox and watch members of the venue react to it. They may take it as a love song. Some may exhibit signs of sexual arousal when they are around their partner. There may be unavoidable cuddling.

Starz paved the way and influenced the next generation of hard rock bands that gained overwhelming success during the 1980s. They created the Warrants, the Bon Jovis, and the Ratts.

Unfortunately, the third album from Starz wasn’t the charm. They faded from the rock scene after the way too Boston-ish ‘Coliseum Rock’ album.

‘Coliseum Rock’ is a very misunderstood album and better suited for a different kind of list.

Try ‘Attention Shoppers’. Allow yourself to crank it up and imagine that you’re a teenager leisurely driving over to a friend’s house in their bitchin’ Camaro. The windows are rolled down and it’s a comfortable day during the summer of 1978. That's the spirit of 'Attention Shoppers'.

Check out Jon Lowder's review HERE

Check out Tim Beeman's review HERE