Classic Album – Ace Frehley (CD review)

Ace Frehley – (1978) – CD review –

It sounded like a good idea in 1978: each member of Kiss release a solo album at the same time.  Problem is, the band’s fan base didn’t have the disposable cash to purchase all four records at once, so the gimmick backfired.  Gene Simmons’ LP, although wildly erratic, charted the highest; while Paul Stanley’s lacked the punch of Kiss, and Peter Criss’ outing showed that, left to his own devises, he had no freakin’ clue.  Then, there was lead guitarist Ace, probably voted the least likely to succeed.

Yet, he not only turns in the finest of the four records, he managed to put together a pretty damn good album in it’s own right.  The tracks on Ace Frehley are closer to straight-ahead rock than the heavy-metal posturing of his parent group.  And, missing from this album are the typical groupie and road songs that Kiss loved to write.  Instead, Frehley gets pretty honest on his personal problems in “Wiped Out,” “Snowblind,” and “Ozone.”  His soloing is spirited; some of the best he’s ever put on record.

Also of note is drummer Anton Fig, who flat-out blows away Peter Criss (for proof, just check out “Rip It Out”).  Although all four members of Kiss sang, Frehley’s voice had never graced a hit of theirs.  That’s why his “New York Groove” was such a triumph, climbing all the way to #13 in early 1979.  Frehley would eventually succumb to the vices mentioned on this record.  But, for one shining moment, Ace is king. –Tony Peters

Reflections on Live Aid – 25 years later

It was one of the coolest days of my life.  It was a Saturday in the summer; no work and no school.  I knew it was going to be a big deal.  MTV had been hyping it for weeks.  But, here it was, July 13, 1985…Live Aid.  I camped out in front of the TV the entire day.  I was such a freak that I actually got up at 4am just to watch the start of things from Australia with INXS. I had my Beta machine rolling the entire day (I still have those tapes and they still look pretty good).  I pulled my speakers in from my bedroom to either side of the couch and there I sat while the greatest musicians on earth put on the greatest event in rock n’ roll history. Yeah yeah, I’ve heard lots of praise given to other events, most notably Woodstock.  But, line them up, band vs. band, and Live Aid has the much more impressive lineup.  Plus, Woodstock was a happening; it really didn’t DO anything (except maybe let people run around naked).  Live Aid actually FED PEOPLE.  And, it was broadcast on my favorite channel, MTV.  This world-changing event was being hosted by Martha Quinn and the rest of the crew.  It was also simulcast on my cool local rock station, so I had stereo sound cranking in the living room.

We were watching history, in so many ways.  Never before had this many people tuned in to an event (I believe it’s still the largest non-sporting related show in history).  Never before had so many famous musicians come together for such a worthy cause.  I also remember being awed by the technology, as MTV would switch back and forth between the concerts going on in London and Philadelphia simultaneously.  There was Phil Collins, who played with Sting at Wembley, got on a plane, and, although visibly haggard, played Philadelphia that night with Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin.

One of my first impressions was seeing Ozzy Osbourne reunited with Black Sabbath,  and thinking “geez, he’s fat.” Artist after artist rolled out.  Legendary, one of a kind performances were happening right before my eyes.  Sting performed on Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” Kiki Dee joined Elton John for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”  Led Zeppelin reunited.  So did Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Who.

Some of my favorite bands at the time performed: the Cars, the Pretenders, and the Who, who of course, we only saw part of because a fuse blew and they lost the feed from Wembley.  I remember being blown away by how this little band from Ireland, U2, stole the show. How Bono, against security’s wishes, jumped down into the immense crowd and danced with one lucky girl.   Queen was unbelievable.  I hadn’t heard from them in years.  Yet, here they were, mesmerizing the crowd.  I still remember all those hands in the air, clapping in time to “Radio Ga Ga.”  It gave me chills.

Of course, they saved some of the best for last.  When Led Zeppelin hit the stage, I could feel the energy.   Sure, they were not very good (apparently, they didn’t think so either, and have prevented their footage from being included on the DVD).  But, at the time, it didn’t matter.  It was an emotional reunion that only happened that night.  Hall and Oates jammed with the Temptations, and Mick Jagger & Tina Turner put on a smokin,’sex-charged performance.

Sure, check your listing for Woodstock. Here’s only a partial one for Live Aid: Led Zeppelin, the Who, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Santana, Tom Petty, CSN&Y, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Hall & Oates, Madonna, Pretenders, Cars, Dire Straits, Sting, Duran Duran, U2, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen, Elton John, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Bryan Adams, Beach Boys, INXS, and Run DMC.

Live Aid was one of the greatest moments in music history.  Yet, here it is, 25 years later and where’s the publicity?  Where’s the specials on TV?  One of the reasons is that Live Aid was never intended to be released as a movie or soundtrack.  So, up until five years ago, no one had seen any footage of this show (unlike Woodstock, which is readily available on DVD).  Now, there is a four-disc set that covers most of (but not all of) the highlights of that remarkable day.  Do yourself a favor, and check it out.

It’s still inexcusable that at least one station doesn’t devote some of their programming to that remarkable day.  But, when’s the last time MTV actually played a video?

Crowded House – Intriguer (CD review)

Crowded House – Intriguer (Fantasy) – CD review –

Following the death of original drummer Paul Hester, the remaining members of Crowded House reconvened in 2007 to record their first album in 14 years.  That disc, Time On Earth, was a morose affair, yet even the most heartbreaking songs of loss were wrapped in gorgeous melodies, making it another triumph for the band.  Flash forward to current day and Intriguer. Not surprising, the album sounds like the sister of Time on Earth; which is to say, it’s another mid-tempo affair filled with great songs.

Leader Neil Finn’s earliest work with the band, over 25 years ago, was perpetually sunny and immediately grabbed you.  The songs on Intriguer are more intricate, darker, and sometimes haunting.  It will take a few listens for these tracks to set in, but then they grab you.  This is intricate pop music at its finest.  There are little touches, like the fuzz bass and mandolin on “Saturday Sun,” or the dreamy sequence in “Either Side of the World,” adding to the ear candy.  Many of these tunes start out as one thing and then turn into something altogether different.

Take “Falling Dove,” it starts as a fragile acoustic piece, then morphs into a Faces-type rocker in the middle, before returning for a quiet ending.  Or, the next song, “Isolation,” which has this guitar-freakout ending.  Another standout is “Twice If You’re Lucky” with its slinky guitar lines, it’s probably the happiest tune on the album.  With two great albums in a row, here’s hoping Crowded House sticks around for a long time.  — Tony Peters

Classic Album – Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (CD review)

Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (1989) – CD review –

Full Moon Fever is Tom Petty’s best collection of songs, and it’s also his first solo outing outside his band, the Heartbreakers.  After seven LP’s, Petty decided to go it alone, but he smartly keeps one element of his band intact in guitarist Mike Campbell.  His slinky solos are the one holdover from his previous albums.  By enlisting former ELO guru Jeff Lynne to produce the album, Petty ensured that it would sound nothing like the jangly, roots rock of his past.

In truth, the album sounds closer to the Traveling Wilburys, which Lynne helmed the year before: robotic drums and processed guitars; this is slick rock at it’s finest.  Everything works here, from the opening anthemic “Free Fallin,’” to the excellent driving tune “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” to the goofy, countrified “Yer So Bad.”  Perhaps, outside of his band setting, Petty doesn’t have to conform to what he’s supposed to sound like.  He can stretch a little, as in the eerie “A Face in the Crowd.”  There’s even room for him to pay his debt to the Byrds, in his cover of “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better.”  Oddly, Petty would invite Lynne back to produce his next album with the Heartbreakers, Into the Great Wide Open. Sonically, it would sound exactly like this album, showing how strong a force Lynne was as a producer. –Tony Peters

He Managed the Stones & the Dead

Sam Cutler is a rather interesting guy.  I talked to him from his home in Australia (isn’t Skype a wonderful invention?).  Sam has a new book out called “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” where he chronicles his time as tour manager for two of the greatest rock bands of all time, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead.

His tenure as road manager for the Stones was brief; he handled one tour of America in 1969, which went well until the Altamont free concert, which turned incredibly ugly, resulting in several deaths.

The thing is, history has it wrong, according to Sam: everything written about Altamont usually involves Hell’s Angels, the Stones and a racially-motivated murder.  Cutler explains his side of the story (he was actually there at the concert) and points the blame at some rather unusual suspects, including some young, Hell’s Angels Wannabees, and the FBI.

He also talks about the similarities and differences between the Stones and the Grateful Dead.  Sam also had a chance, while living in San Francisco, to become good friends with Janis Joplin.  He talks candidly about what kind of person she really was.  Of course, touring with the Stones and the Dead, there’s plenty of the rock n’ roll lifestyle; stories of partying, drugs and women.  Surprisingly, hallucinogens haven’t seemed to affect his memory one bit; he remembers these occurrences like they were yesterday.

#16 – Krokus – Hoodoo

Krokus - Hoodoo

Swiss hard rockers Krokus have returned with their original lineup for the first time in 25 years.  The band is best known in the US for hits like “Screaming in the Night” and “Stayed Awake All Night.”  They’ve just released their new disc Hoodoo, that harkens back to their early 80’s heyday.  Icon Fetch talks with lead singer Marc Storace about what led to the reunion, how they approached recording the new CD, and how they still love filming videos with hot chicks in them.  Click below for the Marc Storace Krokus interview.


#15 – Guy Sebastian – I Like It Like That

Guy Sebastian

Guy Sebastian won the inaugural season of Australian Idol and parlayed that into five top ten albums in his native country, including “The Memphis Album” that featured legendary guitarist Steve Cropper.  Now Guy has his sights set on the US, with his first domestic release “I Like It Like That.” He gets help on the new disc from John Mayer, who plays guitar on three tracks and former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who duets with him on “Art of Love.”  Icon Fetch talks with the soul singer from “down under.”  Click below for the Guy Sebastian interview.

#14 – Sam Cutler – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You Can't Always Get What You Want by Sam Cutler

Sam Cutler was the tour manager for the Rolling Stones during their 1969 tour that ended in the Altamont concert tragedy.  He later became the road manager for the Grateful Dead, helping them get out of debt and on their way to being one of the top-grossing bands in the world.  Sam is the author of a new book called “You Can’t Always Get What You Want: My Life With the Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates.”  Icon Fetch talks with Cutler from his home in Australia, where he gives some of his thoughts on what went wrong during the Altamont free concert, and  shares memories of the Dead and Janis Joplin.  You can download an App for your I-phone and hear Sam read the book by clicking here. Click below for the Sam Cutler interview.

Classic Album – Rush – Moving Pictures (CD review)

Rush – Moving Pictures – CD review

No band has based their entire career more on one album than Rush.   Not only their best album, Moving Pictures is the only one worth listening to all the way through.  First of all, it’s their best collection of songs, beginning with their crowning achievement, “Tom Sawyer,” a perfect blend of hard rock and the progressive metal they had been tinkering with over their previous albums.  “Red Barchetta” shows off drummer Neil Peart’s lyrcism.

And, “Limelight” ranks as one of the best “playing in a band songs.”  Even though leader Geddy Lee played a great deal of keyboards on the record, it’s still not as dominant a force as it would become on future releases.  And the production here is meaty, the band sounds real for the last time.  With their next album, Signals, and beyond, the band would favor a slick, over-produced sound that made the band feel cold and robotic. Grace Under Pressure, Hold Your Fire, Power Windows, Roll the Bones; these albums are all interchangeable.  There’s no progression or maturing, it’s the same song written over and over.  Yet, because of the success of Moving Pictures, rabid Rush fans bought these and subsequent releases ad nauseum. –Tony Peters

Classic Album – AC/DC – Back in Black (CD review)

Back in Black – AC/DC – CD review –

A perfect storm of an album, Back in Black is an uncanny blend of metal and pop, and it still sells as if it were brand new.  Recorded right after the death of original singer Bon Scott, this could have been a real downer.  Instead, the remaining members regrouped with singer Brian Johnson and turned in the most inspired album of their career.

Johnson adds a level of toughness that was lacking with Scott.  He screams, but never averts to the hysterionics of other heavy metal singers.  The songs are propelled by simple, repetitive hypnotic guitar riffs and an incessant backbeat that’s reminiscent of the early rock of the 50’s. The same goes for the guitar work, many of the solos are blistering, yet they never overstay their welcome.  And, the production, by Robert “Mutt” Lange, who would later go onto even bigger success with Def Leppard and Shania Twain, is equally important.  The guitars are just gritty enough and the drums are upfront so you can feel the kick drum.

The album opens with the ominous “Hells Bells,” which starts out slow and picks up speed.  “You Shook Me All Night Long” proved that there could be metal for the masses.  Above all, this album does the impossible, it makes heavy metal that’s actually danceable.  This is body music, and whether that’s manifested in banging your head, shaking your ass, or swinging from a pole, it will get you one way or another. –Tony Peters

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