LEAVE A SCAR - LIVE IN NORTH CAROLINA
Right up front, Blackberry Smoke is not a metal band. They are a southern-rock band, in the classic, original sense. These days, the term "southern rock" has been applied to everybody from Black Stone Cherry to Nashville Pussy to Crowbar, all sounds that would be alien and extreme in the days of Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet. Atlanta's Blackberry Smoke, on the other hand, would have fit comfortably in that era. In fact, in 2014, their music sound more like hard, modern country music than anything you would hear on rock radio. The band seems to know this, and in the years since their 2003 debut, Bad Luck Ain't No Crime--produced by Jackyl's Jesse Dupree, who more or less discovered them--they seem to have steered their music in that direction. To that end, they've worked with hot Nashville producer Dann Huff (a reinvented rocker himself, formerly the lead singer and guitarist for the band Giant), and sanding away the rough edges of their music and lyrics.
It definitely sucks when you watch a band that you are REALLY a fan of implode. For me, that's just what I had to do with Black Country Communion. As the band that I think a lot of people compared head to head with Sammy Hagar's supergroup Chickenfoot, BCC stormed out quickly and recorded three tremendous releases. Still, as quickly as they came up, they imploded. Guitarist Joe Bonamassa's ego seemed to clash with vocalist Glenn Hughes', and before long you had half the band (Bonamassa and keyboardist Derek Sherinian) on one side, and the other half (Hughes and drummer Jason Bonham) on the other. The side most people will care about, Hughes and Jason Bonham, have returned with a new band name, a new guitarist and a slightly different sound from what they were doing. The sound may be a bit different, but it's clearly lost none of it's punch.
LIFE, LOVE & HOPE
Boston is one of those bands that, as a fan, has just been one of the most frustrating to follow. Their career has been so sporadic musically and so infrequent release-wise that they literally tanked their career for the sake of the creative musings of their leader, guitarist Tom Scholz. To be pretty honest, they haven't done anything that's been that great since the THIRD STAGE release, which came back in 1986. Following the death of vocalist Brad Delp, they seemed like they may just be over, but were resurrected in the live setting by Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet. Sweet has since left, but new vocalist Tommy DiCarlo seems to be a pretty good clone of Delp sonically. So, onward does the Boston spaceship sail.
SAMMY HAGAR & FRIENDS
Without question, Sammy Hagar is one of those guys that for the most part can do no wrong with me. I'm a fan of Montrose. I'm a huge fan of his solo work early in his career. His version of Van Halen is my favorite era. Even his post Van Halen era, where he's settled into being a beach bum partier that just likes to write about drinking and partying, has been cool with me. Now though, Sammy Hagar has decided to test even my limits. Hagar has released SAMMY HAGAR & FRIENDS; a record that apparently is just him having a good time with friends. That's fine, but how about not billing back your hardcore fans for your good time party, Sam? While it's not horrible, it has no real use in the Hagar catalog. For me, I think I'd much rather see another Chickenfoot release or a serious effort with the Wabos instead of this mish mosh of songs that are pretty unnecessary to anyone but the guys performing on the songs.
WHAT ABOUT NOW
Every couple of years, a new Bon Jovi album comes across my desk. This reminds me every couple of years that there was a time when Bon Jovi was actually a solid rock band. For all the metalheads that want to instantly dismiss this band, those of us that grew up in the early 80s remember very distinctly that in the world of popular rock and metal that for the first time dominated the radio, it was Bon Jovi and Motley Crue that were the first of the massively popular. To be honest, Bon Jovi's popularity dwarfed that of the Crue. It was so big, in fact, that you saw bands like Def Leppard change their style and mimic it to find superstardom for themselves. Now though, and really for the last 20 years, Bon Jovi has been a sellout joke that has led with an overplayed radio single that program directors at middle of the road stations eat up, and then they disappear until halftime at some corporate NFL event here and there. They have become more of a brand than a creative entity, and most of their albums since KEEP THE FAITH have been universally below average.