It is indeeed a sad time in the Metal Community today as it has been announced that Slayer founding member and Guitairst, Jeff Hanneman, passed away on May 2nd, 2013 at just 49 years of age. Cause of death is reported as liver failure, though Hanneman had suffered with the extremely rare but serious condition Necrotizing Fasciitis (popularly known as flesh eating bacteria) since contracting it possibly through a spider bite in 2011. What a horrible way to go. RIP, Jeff and just remember, God Listens to Slayer.
AC/DC guitarist Angus Young was born on this day, March 31st, in 1955. Happy Birthday, Angus!
Well known on the NYC rock scene as the guitarist and primary songwriter behind retro garage-pop quartet The Friggs, Palmyra Delran is a bit of a local music icon. While The Friggs never broke commercially, they opened for legendary bands such as The Ramones and Cheap Trick, earning a devote regional following as well as solid professional props for being an “all-girl” band that could rock as hard as any group of guys. In her second solo venture, Delran stays close to the layered pop sound she helped to hone in The Friggs, while continuing to demonstrate innovation with regard to arrangements and intriguing personal storytelling in songs that draw the listener into her very relatable world.
If Palmyra Delran isn’t the coolest chick on the block, I don’t know who is. Seamlessly blending the guitar rock grit of Joan Jett with the pop sensibilities and subtle humor of Blondie, You Are What You Absorb will feel instantly familiar to fans of the classic Girl Groups, Sixties Psychedelia, Surf Rock and the very best of the early eighties New Wave movement. There’s not a lot of timeless music being made today, but the twelve memorable tracks on You Are What You Absorb certainly qualify as such, being packed with lyrical hooks sharp enough to draw blood and retro musical flourishes, such as sitar and organ, that establish Palmyra’s reverential connection to the past while bringing her music into the present.
A favorite track among many is the single “Shy Boy” – an endearing love song to a reluctant wallflower that will melt the coldest heart. I also dig the way that the propulsive drumbeat and furious guitar outtro of “Lies For You” dig deep to fondly recall the Nick Lowe-penned Elvis Costello classic, “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding.” Bringing other unexpected influences the forefront, Delran’s expert guitar playing on “Never to Be Back Again,” especially, recalls Jeff Beck’s distinctive riffage on The Yardbird’s “Heart Full of Soul,” and I don’t think there is much higher praise to give than that. Palmyra also shows her stylistic versatility on “The Turtle,” which successfully flirts with sixties lounge jazz.
Although it’s still pretty chilly on the East coast, as New York fights hard to break into spring, you need to grab a copy of You Are What You Absorb right away, so you can get ready to take it to the beach with you, add it to Party Mixes and slap it on the car stereo for long drives with the car top down as these songs become the soundtrack to your Best Summer Ever.
Palmyra Delran’s You Are What You Absorb is out now and available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon.com and wherever quality rock is procured.
View the acclaimed video for “You’re My Brian Jones” Below:
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, starring comedian David Cross, ran for two seasons on the IFC cable channel. An absurdist dark comedy centering on the cringe-inducing adventures of the hapless title character – a criminally clueless American “businessman” living in London – Todd Margaret was portrayed as a blundering child-man, the consequences of whose utterly havoc-wreaking decisions progress from comic inconveniences to bringing about full-on global annihilation. It was a great show. One of the best parts of tuning in each week was getting to hear the Todd Margaret theme song, “Life Is Sweet,” written and performed by former Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr. Featuring cascading waves of Marr’s signature, chiming guitars and an adhesive refrain whose Morrissey-esque, fatalist lyrics promised “Things are gonna get worse,” the song is two minutes of pure aural bliss. For ninety-nine cents, “Life Is Sweet” is the most-valued purchase I made from iTunes last year.
Other than “Life is Sweet” and his brief, cameo appearance on the most recent season of Portlandia, I haven’t been paying much attention to what Johnny Marr has been up to, because Modest Mouse is not my thing. So, I am currently all over Marr’s new album, The Messenger, which is just insanely great. For those seeking comfort in the familiar, The Messenger sounds infinitely more akin to Marr’s definitive work in The Smiths than his previous solo outing, 2003’s Boomslang (with his band The Healers, whose rhythm section was comprised of Zak Starkey and Alonza Bevan). A brilliant collection of diverse tunes that came off like a Mancunian version of Sly & The Family Stone, Boomslang, puzzlingly, found itself on the receiving end of almost universal critical backlash, and fans didn’t seem to know what to do with it either. That said, if Marr’s guitar playing in The Smiths is what drew you in and hooked you, you won’t be able to stop listening to The Messenger.
Showcasing as much as it does Marr’s “Class of One” resonant guitar tone, this is not to suggest that the guitarist doesn’t adequately stretch on The Messenger. More here than on any previous recording I’ve heard, Marr sneakily incorporates some of his widely varied influences. The intro to the album’s lead track, “The Right Thing” sounds like it could have been lifted off The Who’s Quadrophenia before it shifts into an exuberant, sixities-esque call-and-response anthem. People are always saying that such and such a song is “like a drug,” but in the case of “The Right Thing,” it’s like an aural shot of your favorite upper. If you can’t find your groove to this song, you’re probably dead from the neck up.
The super-adrenalized “I Want the Heart Beat” dabbles in a minor chord, almost industrial feel without ever loosening its roots in pure ‘80s dance pop. “Upstarts,” the album’s first single, reminds me of those classic, early singles by The Undertones, which is probably not an accident, because those guys were sort of the Kings of Post Punk/New Wave Protest Songs, and I’m sure Marr was /is a fan. “Lockdown” is a rich, sonic blast of classic British rock, with Marr experimenting with a bit of a Big Country meets Def Leppard-esque chord progression – very nice!
Both “European Me” and the somewhat mournful, Bryan Ferry-tinged title track harkens back to the best of The Smiths (“William It Was Really Nothing,” “Panic”) with Marr’s vocals, as drenched as they likely are in reverb, as appealing and charismatic as Bono’s most earnest, pre-Messiah complex work with U2. Later on, the way Marr builds a creeping mood of foreboding on “Say Demesne” makes me think he should be (his contribution to Inception notwithstanding) writing soundtracks for James Bond films. Geesuz god, what a versatile player!
What I really love about The Messenger, as a complete work, is that it takes no initial “breaking in” period before each song claims its own identity. There are twelve tracks on the CD and each one is amazing in its own way. Unless Tame Impala release an album this year, I am pretty sure The Messenger will top my list of favorites for 2013. Johnny Marr FTW!
Grammy-winning, iconic guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Slash marked a career milestone today, Tuesday, July 10th, 2012, as he was honored with his own Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Slash’s star is located directly in front of the Hard Rock Café on Hollywood Blvd (6801 Hollywood Blvd, #105 Los Angeles, CA 90028). Slash’s friends — celebrated film producer Robert Evans, actor Charlie Sheen and beloved radio host Jim Ladd — were guest speakers at the fan-packed ceremony. Afterwards, Slash and bandmate Myles Kennedy treated fans to a private acoustic performance and exclusive Q&A at the Hard Rock Café Hollywood Blvd.
As a musician, artist, philanthropist, and iconic rock figure, Slash has amassed album sales nearing an astounding 100 million copies along with a Grammy Award and seven Grammy nominations, plus countless other accolades, accomplishments and acknowledgements, Time magazine named Slash #2, behind Jimi Hendrix, on its “The Ten Best Electric Guitar Players of All-Time.” Slash’s self-titled biography critically well-received, climbed the bestseller list in both the U.S. and U.K. hitting #8 on the NY Times Bestsellers list. Guitar Hero used Slash’s image and music, producing an installment that shattered previous gaming records while opening the floodgates to a whole new generation of fans.
Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators — Myles Kennedy (vocals), Brent Fitz (drums) and Todd Kerns (bass)–recently released their new album Apocalyptic Love (May 22, 2012). Apocalyptic Love stormed onto the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart at #4, marking the top rock debut for that week. The disc also hit #1 Independent Albums Chart and #1 Hard Music Albums Chart. “You’re A Lie” the hard-driving first single off the new album is now #1 Active Rock, marking Slash’s first ever solo #1 hit at radio. All songs on Apocalyptic Love released on Slash’s own Dik Hayd International, and distributed through EMI Label Services were written together by Slash and Myles Kennedy as they spent the last two years on tour all over the world. Critical acclaim is pouring in for the album. Revolver magazine declared “Apocalyptic Love is at heart a collection of lean, high-octane rock-and-roll tunes built to be blasted out of open-top sports cars or, more suitably, open-air stadiums” (July 2012). The Los Angeles Times added, “Fans of his work in GNR and Velvet Revolver will find much to embrace in the album’s 13 tracks, ranging from the sneering rock hooks of “You’re a Lie” and the heavy metal grind of “Halo” to the extended instrumental passages on “Anastasia.”” Elsewhere, Rolling Stone.com hailed “the album is filled with head bangers and plenty of fancy fretwork, most notably on standout tracks like “Hard and Fast” and “Standing in the Sun”’ (May 20, 2012). Slash and his band, including touring guitarist Frank Sidoris, will launch a summer headlining tour of the U.S. and Canada on July 12 in Portland, OR. They’ll follow that up with a full U.S. headlining tour starting September 4 in San Diego, CA and wrapping October 3 in Los Angeles, CA, Ticket information and tour dates are available at This Link.
Lita Ford doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. She’s been playing guitar professionally since she was a teenager, and while she’s partied as hard as any Rock Star, Ford has kept her private life private, raised a family and still managed to maintain a high level of respect in the rock community for her skillful musicianship, which was never compromised by the fact that she’s also a beautiful woman. I remember reviewing her Greatest Hits Live CD when it was released in 2000 and being so blown away by what a great performer she is and how much fun she and her band seem to be having on stage. She’s never lost sight of what it means to have a Rock & Roll heart, and you have to respect that. So many performers could learn a few lessons on how to rock from Lita Ford. Maybe she’s never been a household name, but when she comes around, people take notice. Lita’s new album, the autobiographical Living Like a Runaway, signals that it’s time to start paying attention again.
These ten songs tell Lita’s life story, from achieving fame at an early age, having a successful career in the era of MTV video stars, to motherhood and her recent (apparently messy) divorce. Working with producer and respected rock guitarist Gary Hoey, Lita sticks to her roots of making an album based on strong song writing (Hoey and lyricist Michael Dan Ehmig are contributing songwriters), guitar, bass, drums and passionate vocals that don’t sound like they came from a can. The album kicks off with the high energy “Branded” and never lets up, delivering Old School heavy rock energy and hooks sharp enough to sharp blood. On the title track, a Bryan Adams-esque ballad that compels with its deeply personal lyrics and memorable melody, Lita looks back on her time in the now legendary teenage all-girl rock band The Runaways, a band that launched not only her career but also that of Joan Jett. That was a long time ago, but Ford makes the experience sound like it just happened yesterday.
In promotional material Lita reveals that after seeing a documentary about Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, she was motivated and inspired to focus on creating Living Like a Runaway as a complete journey rather just than a bunch of individual songs. The effort has paid off, in that this album recalls the experience of listening to an album from start to finish as you retreated to your teenage bedroom, gatefold cover open in front of you, pouring over every lyric and instinctively moving your body to the rhythm of the rock. There are so many greats songs on this disc, but my favorites are the aforementioned “Branded,” “Hate,” “The Mask” (which rocks with a slightly industrial feel) and the passionate, frenetic “Relentless”, but if you like real rock and roll, you’ll dig every song.
Living Like a Runaway is Lita Ford’s strongest, most accomplished album to date. Like oxygen in a vacuum, this album is very highly recommended for fans of song-based, melodic hard rock featuring expert guitar work. Who would imagine that such a thing would so hard to come by these days?
Living Like A Runaway will be released June 19th, 2012 in North America via SPV/Steamhammer. The album will be available in four configurations: a double LP, limited edition CD, standard CD and digital download. Living Like A Runaway is available for pre-order on Amazon Dot Com.
Musician, producer, and former acclaimed guitarist for Suede, Bernard Butler was born on this day, May 1st in 1970. I never interviewed Bernard (though I did interview his replacement in Suede) but I did meet him after a show in Seattle around the time his first solo album, People Move On was released and he was extremely nice and very skinny! Happy Birthday, Bernard!
Captain Sensible (Born Raymond Burns), sometimes bassist, sometimes lead guitarist for original British Punk Rockers The Damned, was born on this day, April 23rd, in 1955. Favorite Captain Sensible solo single: “There are More Snakes than Ladders.” Please enjoy my hilarious interview with The Captain from 2001 at This Link.
Yes guitarist (also a member of Asia) Steve Howe was born on this day April 8th, in 1947. The band Yes was a passionate favorite of mine growing up in the seventies. In fact, one of the most crazy fun and highly memorable concerts I’ve attended was the co-headlining concert of Yes with Peter Frampton back in the summer of 1976, which took place before a crowd of 55,000 people at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California. Although he does not enjoy the level of continued buzz as, say, a player like Jimmy Page, to give you an idea of his popularity during Yes’s heyday, Steve was voted Best Overall Guitarist in Guitar Player magazine five years in a row from 1977 to 1981. Below, please enjoy Steve’s playing on the acoustic ballad “Mood For Day” to hear an example of his one-take perfection. Happy Birthday, Steve!