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.
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.
...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL
As a fan of Mr. Big, I can't honestly say that many people thought that their reunion was much more than a cash grab opportunity for the guys in the band who, while immensely talented, failed to find solo success to match their collaborative efforts. It was never a question of if they could still play. Let's face it, this is a band that features Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert - two of the most gifted rock musicians history has ever seen. It was more of a question of if all that creative energy could find a way to not only co-exist again, but mesh like they did in the old days. The answer was an overwhelming "yes". Their return release WHAT IF...was on par with most of the material from their past. It was a fun, energized effort with some truly great moments. Well, the long and the short of it is that ...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL keeps it going. Some great songs, some really good ones, and zero fillers - this new release is pretty much what you would expect from Mr. Big.