Sweet & Lynch
ONLY TO RISE
Being completely honest here, I really didn't expect a whole lot out of this. I'm not the biggest Stryper fan in the world by a long shot, and the truth is that I just never could fully get into Michael Sweet's vocals. There's just always been something about him. I'm not sure what it is. I guess it's that he's a bit too "opera" for my taste, and he tends to really stretch all his words out a bit. Add into that George Lynch on guitar, and the thoughts of what this project could be was quite confusing. Lynch, as most know that follow along, is brilliant but troubled by the "artsy" bug where he tries far too often to expand his playing far outside of his brilliant ability within the scope of 80s sounding metal. Combining the two? This was not something I was holding my breath on, or even remotely interested in hearing to be honest. But when it came, it was very surpisingly good. In fact, it's REALLY good. I might even call it great. Again, "might".
ROCK OR BUST
In a year that has see a foundational piece of AC/DC succumb to a debilitating illness and another to his own personal insanity, AC/DC emerges after seemingly forever away with ROCK OR BUST. To be fair and truthfully honest, expectations on this release were pretty low. I know that AC/DC is a band that's been in business almost 50 years at this point, but let's face facts here. They haven't been especially strong in years (and some like me would argue 2 decades or more). Add to that the loss of one of the primary creative forces from an already creatively limited act with Malcolm not being involved, and it's pretty clear why expectations were far less than enhanced. Something happened though...something good. The remaining members of the band put it together, did what they do, and came back with a pretty solid release. ROCK OR BUST will never be mistaken for BACK IN BLACK or FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK WE SALUTE YOU, but it's far better than the relative dreck of BALLBREAKER or BLACK ICE. In short, they've recorded a solid record.
LIVE IN '84 - BACK TO THE BONE
David Coverdale and company have had a very long and successful history that started even before he formed Whitesnake. There's no denying the legacy here. Coverdale has had a fantastic career with Whitesnake, and his time in Deep Purple was every bit as strong to that band as a Sammy Hagar was to Van Halen or Dio was to Rainbow. Whitesnake has been his baby though, and it's been very good to him. There are several live releases out there from all different points of his career. With that, most people probably want to hear the 1987-1988 tour with Def Leppard the most, as it was the height of their career. For others, they may lean old school to the LOVEHUNTER touring time when the band was more of a Deep Purple clone than the pop metal icons they would later become. For me personally, this is what I'd like to hear; that point in their career where they were having mainstream success for the first time, but were still finding their changing identity.
There's an unwritten rule that I rarely follow here in Cleveland. That rule is that if a band is from Cleveland, I'm supposed to write all glowing things or else be called a hater by the local community. It's sad that it's like that, but the truth is what it is. For years I've lived with that stigma, to the point that I've almost completely removed myself from the local metal scene in order to be less "involved" with the bands when writing reviews. With this in mind, the new release from Wretch, called WARRIORS, has come across my desk. Being completely honest and forthcoming here, I REALLY liked their REBORN release a lot. It was a meaty, strong metal release that deserved good praise on the national and international level. They have returned with WARRIORS. While it's not terrible by any stretch, it's just not an overly strong release either.
BLOODSTONE & DIAMONDS
What happened to Machine Head really is a crime. Unfortunately for them, it's a crime they perpetrated upon themselves. With a mistake so many made in their youth, this band singlehandedly torpedoed themselves from ascending to the heights in metal held by only the select few like Metallica and Megadeth before them. After THE MORE THINGS CHANGE came out, they were on the cusp to be the predecessors to Pantera atop the heavy metal landscape. Low and behold though, they killed that dream by trying to incorporate a bit of trendiness to THE BURNING RED, and it killed that momentum completely. The followup SUPERCHARGER was a bit better, but still wasn't good enough to prove THE BURNING RED as an anomaly. That was the point that a lot of people jumped off. Sucks to be them really, because the last three releases, THROUGH THE ASHES OF EMPIRES, THE BLACKENING and UNTO THE LOCUST have all been as good as any metal album released in the last decade or so. Too little, too late I suppose.
A TRIBUTE TO MOTLEY CRUE
With the music industry pretty much dead anymore, nothing really comes off as shocking. After all, you have very desperate companies trying to hang on and make money from an industry that has about as much relevance today as the typewriter ribbon makers of the world still do. The current trend for the last half decade or so has been for bands to do cover albums to milk fans. Those are bad enough. Then though, there's this. If two things were ever made to NOT collide, it's country music and the works of Motley Crue. Simply, this is not music that translates universally. Kid Rock makes the kind of music that works in both medium today. Maybe Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Motley Crue? Just no. As you would suspect, the ridiculously titled "Nashville Outlaws" have delivered an almost comical release that is embarrassing to the artists involved as well as the namesake guys that actually seem to have endorsed this. This isn't fun. It's just terrible.
Texas Hippie Coalition
I tell this story often, but it's one of my favorites of the past year. I had the chance to interview the Texas Hippie Coalition earlier this year at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio. I was in a small tent with a bunch of photographers. The tent was fairly quiet really, as the much bigger adjacent tent was where most of the radio guys were set up. It took all of 3 seconds for Texas Hippie Coalition vocalist Big Daddy Ritch to change the entire attitude of my quiet little tent. "I hope you motherfuckers don't plan on me keeping it down," he bellowed. "Big Daddy and the boys are here and you're gonna know it!" And with that, he grabbed me and belly bumped (as two fat guys are not going to chest bump) me damn near through the back of the tent. From there, it was just a fun, no bullshit interview with Big Daddy and the boys that EXACTLY complimented any preconceived notion you might have about these guys from hearing their music.
I get it. You are Sammy Hagar. You've seen huge success in virtually every world you've entered. In music, he was the main focus of Montrose. He parlayed that into a very successful solo career. That wasn't enough, so he joined the world's largest band at the time (Van Halen), and took them to commercial heights that even they hadn't seen to that point. When that ended, he went back to solo material and was successful there once again. He then needed something fun to do, so he formed Chickenfoot and found success there. He loves to drink, so he made his own tequila which then went on to make him a zillion more dollars. He needed a place to party, so he built the Cabo Cantina which has now become THE party spot in Cabo, St. Lucas, Mexico. Hell, I'd love to have Sammy Hagar take a second of interest in one of my businesses, just to see how "Midas" the guy really is. Lately though, it seems like he might be ready to just relax and have fun. Two of his most recent solo efforts, SAMMY HAGAR AND FRIENDS and LIVIN' IT UP, found the former Red Rocker mellowing out a lot and just having fun. More of the same here with LITE ROAST. Comprised of material he's performed over the years in a new, laid back "on the beach" method, LITE ROAST will likely only appeal to hardcore Hagar enthusiasts. At this point, I'm not all that sure Hagar cares.