Friday, January 30, 2009

This is Truly Awful

From the "Just because you can do it does not mean that you should" department, some engineers from the Evil Empire in Seattle have unleashed songwriting software called Microsoft Songsmith (even that name sucks) that automatically builds computer generated music around an isolated vocal track.

I have no idea how they got the vocal for this song isolated, but I do know that the result is hurl-worthy. Enjoy (?)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Geddy Lee Dishes Out Some Secrets (to me at least...)

Every time I think I know everything there is to know about a band or musician - BANG - some interview pops up and is terribly eye opening on a subject or three. A new interview with Rush's Geddy Lee in Germany's Bass Quarterly is just one of those interviews.

The good people at posted the whole thing, but these are the areas I found really eye opening, in terms of how Rush plays along with samples, how they are triggered, do they use a click track onstage, what's up with those washers and chicken roasters onstage, etc. Here are the questions that addressed these topics (the German to English translation is a bit off in places, but you'll live):

bq: Why did you decide to place obscure devices like washing machines as an amp substitute on stage?

Geddy Lee: When I came to rehearsals for one of our recent tours our guitarist Alex had just built up his monolithic amp set-up on his side of the stage. That looked like one single gigantic Rock'n'Roll cliché. My bass amp set-up, in contrast, had the epic extent of a suitcase which looked ridiculous compared to the rock-god setup on the other side of the stage. My Roadie and I therefore searched for a possibility to fill up my part of the stage and, at the same time, have Alex's cliché-tower look as ridiculous as it really was. That was the start of it all. And it wasn't even inconvenient to play a rock show and, at the same time, doing the laundry for the whole entourage (laughs).

bq: This time you had chicken rotisseries on the stage as amp-replacement. Did you really grill real chicken during the show?

Geddy Lee: This is a stage secret which I can't reveal due to certain health regulations in each country which make it hard to grill chicken. Unfortunately we weren't able to share our chicken with the audience.


bq: Even in passion you also were wearing some debauchment on your shoulder, as the cliché-Steinberger from the 80s which sounded not bad ...

Geddy Lee: ... but also not good. The benefit of the Steinberger had practical reasons. At that time I was surrounded by an incredible number of synthesizers and I assumed the missing head of the bass kept me away from pushing aside a mini-moog. The bass did its job but in the end it didn't sound good.

bq: And you're still using your stone age Rickenbacker bass?

Geddy Lee: Yes, because it's requested by the fans. Over the years I was asked again and again why I'm not playing the Ricky anymore. Therefore, I decided to grant him a guest role at the end of one song (laughs). The Ricky is really heavy and therefore tough to play, so that I needed the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger if I wanted to use it all the time.


bq: If you believe all those heavyrock bassists which name you being an influence to them, we think you're now exaggerating beyond measure.

Geddy Lee: Of course I'm joking a little bit. But too many effects may let my sound appear to be like one single heap of waste. On the other hand the set-up of the whole band on stage is so complex that I'm really not on for additional effects. Everybody in the band has a number of pedals at his place, and each of them is connected to a row of sequencers and prerecorded samples. The usage of electronics is so complex that we really have to be extremely focused in our work. Besides playing his own instrument everybody in the band has to trigger a number of samples for each song. This leads to the fact that everything you hear on the DVD is really live and could be mastered without any post-production. But that also means that our work on stage resembles more a choreography than a mere performance.


bq: Have you ever used the wrong pedals during a song?

Geddy Lee: A lot of times! Some of our sequencers are really long running and our roadie on stage has to check the sequences, which he strangely not always gets done. And then you hear a keyboard sequence from another song going on forever like in an infinite loop. Fortunately a part of our audience is really high and they then think that this wrong sample is an innovative version of a particular song (laughs out loud). Usually the roadie has to reset the sequencer every time but somehow it seems that none of them is capable of doing so (laughs). On the other hand our concerts keep being interesting for ourselves by this. Besides, we're not using click-tracks on stage in order to be able to improvise, which makes the usage of samples all the more difficult.

For a long time, I thought the band played along to pre-recorded parts for the duration of the song. Basically playing to a recorded finite version of the song. But it looks like the auxiliary sounds are triggered live and play for a finite duration. Probably anywhere from a short noise burst to a 16 measure keyboard patch or something. Makes me respect their live shows even more. How insane is it to have to remember to trigger parts while you are already playing live - and live Rush music to boot. That stuff is not easy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Peter Criss in DVD Film "Frame of Mind"

Ex-KISS guys are famous for talking up projects that are 'weeks from release' when in reality they are mere ideas. Maybe we'll finally see Ace's solo album this year. I don't know. He's been talking about it for years.

Peter Criss? Well, he's also been talking about an album, a book and an acting career for a long time. The album came out in 2007. Still waiting on that book.

But the acting thing is happening for Pete too. According to various sources, Criss co-stars in the straight-to-DVD film titled Frame of Mind.

According to KissMaskWebzine:

The film stars Chris Noth (Law and Order; Sex and the City) and Vince Curatola and centers around a New Jersey police officer who comes across new evidence in the Kennedy assasination. The film was shot in Carlstadt, New Jersey. The film was directed by Charles Evans and co-writer of the screenplay with Charles Kipps. Kipps also co-wrote "Dosen't Get Better Than This" from Peter's 2007 release, ONE FOR ALL. The film is due for release on February 24. You can pre-order at

Here is a clip, showing Pete as a cop, a role he's always said he was comfortable with, for some reason. Looks cool. Early reviews of the movie have been positive. Good for you, Pete!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

DVD Review - The Who at Kilburn 1977

The Who at Kilburn is actually a double DVD with two concerts. One DVD has the Who live in 1969 at the London Coliseum and the other is the advertised 1977 gig filmed on a soundstage for the movie The Kids Are Alright but scrapped by the band due to the performance quality.

Both of these concerts are amazing and are a must have for any fan of the Who. Let’s start with the 1969 show. This is actually the second DVD and is cited as ‘bonus material’ on the box. I think that highly undersells what you get with this set. Yeah, the film quality is not that great – it’s similar to the footage of Young Man Blues in The Kids Are Alright movie. It’s dark and since the concert was never intended to be released on film, there are moments of blackness on the stage and funky camera angles.

The first song looks kind of like a fan video on YouTube. Then the other cameras kick in and we have multiple angles and close ups. But who the hell cares? This DVD captures the Who on the cusp of their prime. The band had only been performing Tommy live for a few months. They are broke, young and hungry. They are not yet mega-stars and indeed it was just before this period where drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle were going to quit the band and join Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in their new supergroup.

Put simply, the 1969 show is The Who at their very best. Moon is in full tilt, twirling his sticks and generally putting on the most incredible show. I have never seen anyone play drums like that before or since. Pete is in the white boiler suit playing the Gibson SG, Daltry in the fringe jacket, etc. If you like Live At Leeds, the 1969 DVD is basically that album on film.

Note that to see the whole of Tommy and A Quick One you need to access the bonus features on this DVD. There are a lot of camera and audio gaps, so it looks like the directors wanted to keep Tommy as a whole out of the main DVD program. A bit confusing, but if you get annoyed that Tommy picks up near its completion in the main concert, just access the bonus features!

In general, the Tommy stuff is out of control and other high points are Young Man Blues, and a totally heavy Happy Jack. And a final note – the band’s vocal harmonies are prevalent and very tight in this period.

Then we also get the 1977 Kilburn show, which is really the focus of the DVD.

This is the same band 8 years later, but are they really the same? They are now rich and famous. Punk is in full force and the Who are seen by some in this new movement as dinosaurs of the same ilk as Yes and ELP. The band has nothing left to prove but is still trying to remain relevant.

Compounding this problem is that Keith Moon, a central power in the Who's live show, is a shadow of his former self. The last 14 months, he has been in California, partying and not playing drums. He is overweight and is lacking the confidence on display in the 1969 show.

Sure enough, the first thing Daltry says onstage is that the band hasn't played in more than a year so he's not sure what is going to happen.

Having said all of this, I don't think the band disappoints. Yeah, there are a few train wreck moments where Moon comes in at the wrong place, and one spot where Pete gets totally lost. But it's great to see the band this raw and this human.

I actually feel like Moon is more on the ball in this show than he is at the show filmed six months later that was used in The Kids movie (Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again). On this latter show, Townshend is certainly more on the ball. He is smiling and clowning during the songs in the Kids film.

In the Kilburn film, he is surly. He does not look happy to be onstage and there is a classic moment where he goes back to turn his amps up and a roadie interferes. Pete throws a tantrum and shoves his Hi-Watt amps backwards off the speakers. The hair stood up on my arms when he did that.

The song choices are great in the Kilburn concert. Some of the standouts are My Wife, Dreaming from the Waist, Shakin All Over and a really rough keyboard-less version of Who Are You, which the band was just learning.

Despite the weird energy onstage, the band is seriously on fire. Yeah it's raw, but it's LIVE. Daltry's voice is still raging, and Entwistle does not disappoint either. I still found myself focusing on Moon. Even though he was not up to his prime, he is still unreal. And frankly, a pissed off Pete is a great Pete live.

These two concerts could not be more different from one another. In 1969, you have a young, hungry and broke band, still really trying to prove itself. In 1977, you have a bloated supergroup trying to prove it is still valid. It is fascinating to watch live footage from both of these periods.

Here is the trailer:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Get You Galactic Tail, This Will

Young Jedi, bust this out at the next Star Wars convention, you will. Get you hot geek love affair, it might! So bid well young Jedi and commence shredding, you will!

According to the post on

Star Wars creator George Lucas has designed a very limited-edition Gibson guitar featuring Yoda on the body. This very special guitar (of which there are only 20 in the world) will be auctioned at the Phoenix Guitar Gala in Petaluma, California. If you haven’t got an X-Wing in the garage to get you to the auction in person, you will still have the opportunity to get your mitts on this very special axe by bidding online. Cost you a fortune, it will etc.

The Guitar Gala runs February 28 so have you a month to gather your money, you do.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chickenfoot Posts Audio Clip on New Site

There were a few rumors last year about this new 'supergroup' with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony, Joe Satriani and drummer Chad Smith, called "Chickenfoot."

Hagar went as far as to say they would rival Zeppelin in greatness, whatever that means.

But the band has a Web destination and today posted a brief audio clip that sounds like a VH outtake for the most part. Satriani is no slouch, though, so this could be a good group.

Check out the clip here while it's still up.

Iron Maiden Tour Film Due in April

I do love Iron Maiden. While other bands of their era are chugging through the casino and state fair circuits, carting around numerous extra pounds, receding hairlines and tuning their songs down two whole steps so they can still sing their one or two hits, Iron Maiden is still putting on massive stage shows, releasing excellent new material and - well, still being RELEVANT!

Maiden has been alternating between touring to revisit its extensive back catalog with performing their latest albums end to end. Case in point - the band got on the Ozzfest bill a few years ago and did a short set of songs from the first four albums. Next tour, they played their new album "A Matter of Life and Death" end to end, pissing off fans who wanted to hear Number of the Beast.

Then on the last tour, called the "Somewhere Back in Time" tour, the band revisited its first six or so albums, bringing back epics like Powerslave and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in addition to the huge stage from the Powerslave tour. I reviewed that show here and here. It was truly epic.

If you missed that tour, you are in luck, as Maiden is releasing a film from the first part of that tour, on April 19.

A press release issued by the band says, with the usual hype:

Circumnavigating the globe, the band flew in a specially customised Boeing 757 airliner with their crew and 12 tons of music and stage equipment on board, playing 23 sold out stadium and arena shows in Asia, Australia and North, Central and South America in just 45 days. They played in 13 countries, also landing in Azerbaijan and Papua New Guinea en route for fuel stops, travelling 70,000km and performing to almost half a million fans – a schedule that was only made possible by having their own “magic carpet” enabling them to go where they wanted with all the key elements of band, crew and equipment on board one plane, which was christened Ed Force One. Even more remarkable was that lead singer and Airline Captain Bruce Dickinson was not only to perform 23 shows, but piloted the plane for much of the way.

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is an honest and revealing portrait of one of the world’s most successful rock bands, a must see for their millions of fans around the world and anyone else with an interest in Rock Music and World Tours, giving an inspirational account of the chaotic and often humorous world of a band touring the four corners of the world in the most extraordinary way. Shot in High Definition, the movie will be screened in 2K digital cinema, with superb 5.1 surround sound, mixed by the bands producer Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley.

I don't think they have released the lineup of cinemas yet, but here is the trailer:

Epic, no?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Guilty Pleasures: A Primer on 80s Jefferson Starship

One of my very guilty pleasures is the Jefferson Starship (and to a lesser extent Airplane). I feel like that band had a great formula not known to people who are only aware of stuff like We Built This City (which is not the Starship I am talking about). So if you care to indulge me, here is a quick primer and some suggestions for perusal.

Jefferson Starship rose from the ashes of the Airplane in the early 70s and had the three primary Airplane singers in the band - Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and Marty Balin. After four albums, though, that lineup crumbled, with Slick and Balin leaving the band. Their biggest hits of this period were probably Ride The Tiger (a Kantner song) and Miracles (Balin ballad).

This is where my love of the band starts in earnest. Kantner forged on in 1979 by signing up singer Mickey Thomas, who had a pretty big hit with Elvin Bishop, called Fooled Around and Fell In Love. Thomas turned into a cheesebag in the mid 80s, leading to the departure of Kantner and eventual decline into We Built This City etc (but of course the band's most successful commercial period is this one as well - oh well...). You can now see him on the casino circuit.

The first release of the Kantner/Thomas era was Freedom at Point Zero in 1979. This album is probably the best of the four albums I want to talk about here. From the keyboard intro of the hit Jane to the closing epic title track, there is little wrong with this album. Kantner is firmly in control of the ship as he introduces the very Queen-esque concept of vocal overdubs that make it sound like 500 people are singing in unison. It's a unique sound that would help me identify a JS song out of anything else from that era.

Songs from this period of the band fall into three categories: 1) Pop/Rock, 2) Atmospheric/Slightly Proggy, and 3) Kantner Sing-Alongs/Apocalyptic Tunes.

Freedom At Point Zero is loaded with categories 1 and 2. I would recommend a quick perusal of 30-second sound bites on iTunes and then purchasing the whole album. Folks who dig solid rock and roll will dig Jane, Rock Music, and Girl With The Hungry Eyes. Fans of things slightly more moody will dig Things to Come, Awakening, Just The Same and Freedom At Point Zero. The album flows well and is a great listen.

The next album was Modern Times, which sees Grace Slick rejoining as a guest on a few songs and Kantner's all-time classic Stairway to Cleveland with the very excellent "Fuck You, We Do What We Want" break. This is the introduction of category 3 from above. Wild Eyes and the title track also fits into this mold.

The hits from this album were Find Your Way Back, Stairway to Cleveland, and Stranger (duet with Grace Slick). There is some throwaway stuff on here but it's another album I'd recommend all the way through. The "moody" pieces include Alien - check that one out for sure. Kantner is for sure still in charge but those formula hits are starting to push the band more in a poppy direction.

The next album, Winds of Change, is where the train starts to come off the tracks a bit. Grace is back full time and her performance on the title track is one my favorites of hers, as is in her song Black Widow. The hits keep coming with the title track, the ballad Be My Lady and Can't Find Love, which is one of the catchiest tunes this lineup ever put out.

But the dross is getting more prevalent and there is less of category 2. Also, only one category 3 song, Kantner's not-so-good "I Came Back From the Jaws of the Dragon." One stand-out in the bizzaro department is "Out of Control," which is technically a Kantner song but I always hear Grace's sense of humor in it. This is very silly song but it makes me laugh so what the hell.

Album four, Nuclear Furniture is where we have a well-defined split in the band with 70 percent of the songs as category 1 wanna-be's. For Kantner, it is his last hurrah. His three songs Connection, Rose Goes to Yale, and Champion are the last we hear of him in the band. Champion is the best of the three, and is a bit of a revisit to Stairway to Cleveland but with a very apocalyptic bend to it. Grace's best song from this era , Showdown, is also on this album. Might be the best song on the album actually.

Those four songs partially save that album for me, as the rest are ballads and re-hashes of stuff that already worked on the earlier albums. Side story - apparently Kantner stole the master tapes in the middle of the sessions, put them in his car and drove around San Francisco for a few days and wouldn't bring them back until the band mixed the album in a way more to his liking.

I saw the band a couple of times on this tour and the split was evident in the latter show. Kantner walked offstage during the middle of a show later on this tour and never came back. The name of the band might as well have changed to Jefferson Lawsuit as they started suing each other over the use of the name. Kantner now owns the name and has had a new version of JS touring for a few years now. Haven't seen them - not sure I want to.

Anyway, power up iTunes and hit it. Here are my suggestions, if you are very brave:

Freedom at Point Zero:
--Get the whole album

Modern Times
--Find Your Way Back
--Save Your Love
--Modern Times
--Stairway to Cleveland

Winds of Change
--Winds of Change
--Out of Control
--Can't Find Love
--Black Widow
--Quit Wasting Time

Nuclear Furniture (only if you really like stuff like Stairway to Cleveland! You have been warned!)

OK I have bared my soul here and gone WAAAY out on a limb. That is what blogs are for. Don't kill me for it, please!

Obama Inauguration - Today Is A Great Day

President Barack Obama did not disappoint in his speech at his inauguration this morning. If you didn't see it, here it is:

Oh, and I found it somehow appropriate that they had to cart Cheney out of the White House in a wheelchair. Good riddance to that regime. We'll be undoing its numerous fuck ups for decades.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Book Review - Off The Rails - By Rudy Sarzo

This week I finished Rudy Sarzo's book, Off The Rails. Put together by the heavy metal bassman himself while on the road, Sarzo says he wrote the book to answer a question he is asked daily, which is "What was Randy Rhoads like?" (Rhoads was Ozzy’s Osbourne’s songwriting partner and guitar player on his first two solo albums, and was killed in a plane crash in 1982, immediately granting him ‘dead legend’ status)

What emerges from page one is that Sarzo is not your archetypal partying stereotype 80s metalhead. He is thoughtful and observant and he even has a pretty deep seated belief in God, which is kind of a shocker given that he started his career with Ozzy and currently plays with Dio!

Actually, Sarzo met Rhoads in the original version of Quiet Riot, which made the rounds of LA clubs in the late 70s in search of a record deal that never came. The Quiet Riot that found success in the 80s (with Sarzo but not with Rhoads, who had already passed away) was re-formed by singer Kevin DuBrow, with Rhoads' approval on resurrecting the name.

But when Rhoads got the gig with Ozzy post Quiet Riot, he suggested Sarzo and the rest is history. Rhoads' first (and only) two albums with Ozzy had already been written and recorded when Sarzo joined, although Sarzo is pictured on the Diary of A Madman sleeve.

Anyway, the book goes into the year and half Sarzo toured with Ozzy and Rhoads and of course covers the tragic airplane accident that took Rhoads' life in March 1982.

Walking away from the book, I had two primary impressions. First, Ozzy was a train wreck from day one, and Sharon Osbourne was a manipulative nightmare from day two. Although she treated Sarzo and the band very well at the time.

But Ozzy was a raving alcoholic during this period. This was the era where he bit the head off the dove in the record company offices, bit the head off the bat onstage, and peed on the Alamo in Texas. From a couple of (rare) lucid conversations with Ozzy recounted by Sarzo, Ozzy was basically a very sad guy. He felt like part of the machine and was pretty much a lost soul. Once Rhoads died, he got much worse.

My second impression was that Rhoads was a very dedicated guitarist who was as into classical guitar as much as hard rock. Instead if getting wasted on tour, he would pop open the Yellow Pages and find a classical guitar teacher so he could take a quick lesson to keep growing in his skills. He was generous with his time with fans who would ask him how to play certain solos, and seemed very gracious and cool.

Rhoads had in fact already told Ozzy that after one more album and tour he was going to move on, to take further classical instruction.

Sarzo kept an extensive journal, which helped him write the book. That is great, because he pulls out a lot of detail. Remember, this all happened before 80s metal was around. For example, he talks about meeting Def Leppard on the band's first American tour (small clubs, no hit records yet).

But Sarzo also falls into the "school of using your journal as a reference" by listing tour dates a bit too frequently. "On March 12 we played at the Fruit Bowl in Somewhere, followed by two shows at the 1,200 capacity Turd Center in Anytown." And on and on. It's interesting at first but I found myself skipping those paragraphs as the book went on.

The primary thing Off The Rails accomplished for me was that it made me want to check out Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of A Madman again. Sadly, the recently re-released CDs of those albums are bastardizations. Sharon erased the original bass and drum parts and replaced them with rerecorded bass and drums from Ozzy's band at the time of the re-releases.

This was due to some kind of legal haggling with original bass player Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake. I think that is pathetic (see "Sharon was a manipulative nightmare from day two" above). To do that to these classic albums is unforgivable and I will never buy them. Luckily I have the vinyl.

But I digress. Sarzo did a great job laying out a detailed picture of who Randy Rhoads was. Prior to reading the book, I didn't really care. But now I see that his death was the tragic loss of a stellar musician at the front end of a life long devoted career that could have given us all much greatness.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RIP Ricardo Montalban

Ricardo Montalban died today at age 88. When I was a kid, I for sure appreciated his suave nature on Fantasy Island. But I will best remember him for his role as Khan in one of the original Star Trek episodes and of course in the Star Trek 2 movie, where he has some classic lines such as:

"Let me introduce you to Ceti Alpha V's last remaining indigenous lifeform."

"I've done more than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on...hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me. As you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet. Buried alive... Buried alive... Buried alive..."

"I have deprived your ship of power, and when I swing around, I mean to deprive you of your life. But I wanted you to know who it was who had beaten you."

and of course...

"Revenge is a dish best served cold. It is very space."


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reunion Roulette

Classic Rock Magazine posted a short article in response to the on-again off-again Zeppelin reunion rumor mill, stating that in the UK, a Zeppelin reunion isn't even that deeply sought after by music fans.

In this short post, the publication says:

Ticket company Viagogo recently compiled top ten of bands people would love to see reform, with the chart running as follows:

2. The Smiths
3. Take That (with Robbie Williams)
4. Stone Roses
5. Guns N’ Roses (with Slash)
6. Pink Floyd
7. Talking Heads
8. The Faces
9. Wham!
10. Jackson Five

Now, I am not sure if Viagogo put this list together scientifically or what, but Wham!? Really?

I feel very fortunate that over the last few years, a lot of the reunions I had been dying to see (and frankly thought would never, never happen) already took place, even if they were just for one show. The two that come to mind first are Floyd and Zeppelin (yeah, not an official reunion with one member deceased, but Jason did very very well). And also The Police. And the original KISS lineup.

And Heaven and Hell (Sabbath with Dio), for God's sake. That one is more than a reunion - that is a re-birth with all the new material forthcoming and recent live DVD.

My rule is to stick with what is actually possible, so I am not going to pine for any more Pink Floyd reunions, with one (two?) of the key members deceased. Nor will I hope for a Beatles reunion or anything that would require a time machine to make a reality.

But having said that, what are some bands you would still love to see re-form before key members truck off to the great gig in the sky?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chris Squire and Some Yes Tidbits - On the Fence

I have been on the fence. Should I go see the pseudo-Yes tour with the clone lead singer? It will never be the same without Jon Anderson but they are playing a tiny place in Portland (for them) and are doing stuff off of one of my favorite albums, Drama (see videos below).

Will it kill me if I miss this? No. But if Chris Squire dies this summer and I was not able to see these guys play again, would I be bummed? Yes.

Decisions, decisions.

In my quest for an answer, I stumbled across some interesting nuggets. Squire in November quietly posted a pretty enlightening interview on his official Web site. He answers some of the hard questions fired at him from online fan sites, such as, what is he thinking by replacing Anderson and what happens after this tour? Here are a couple of things that stood out:

RS: You’ve referred to Benoit as an understudy on the Internet. Are you being ‘p.c.’, so as not to ruffle any feathers, or could Benoit be the new voice of Yes?

Chris: The fact is that Jon Anderson had a series of health problems, and he’s not out of the woods yet. I really don’t know what his prognosis will be – if he’ll be able to do any lengthy tours. Although I did mention that Benoit was the understudy originally, which is the fair way of saying it. You know, a stand in. I can’t really tell. Obviously I’m not really a doctor and I can’t tell how Jon will be in the future, but I imagine it will be more limited to doing maybe some individual shows here and there with him. I don’t know if he’ll ever want to do a full-scale tour again. But once again, until he’s recovered, and of course we wish him a full recovery, we won’t know any of those things. So meanwhile we’re getting along all right with Benoit.

RS: Are there any plans to record a new album with this current line-up?

Chris: Yes. Absolutely. We’re looking at doing some new recording. And obviously we’ll be working with the guys on that. Although there are no definite plans or dates yet, because obviously we’re working on this tour. But, we’ll be introducing new ideas. I know Steve Howe has new ideas and I know I have, as I mentioned earlier, have written quite a lot of material when I was in London that I want to use for that purpose.

Another thing Squire talked about in November was the coming birth of his new baby, due in March. But on the Yesworld site, Squire posted on Christmas that his daughter had been born - that's almost four months premature. Here is the post:

December 25, 2008 - Message from Chris & Scotty Squire
We would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We are pleased to announce the very early arrival of our daughter, Xilan Squire, born on Dec. 19th

Everyone is happy and healthy and doing as well as can be at this time. Xilan weighs in at 1 pound 13 ounces and is being a very brave little starship trooper/pooper.

Best wishes to all and Happy Holidays.

There is a photo here. That is a very small preemie and I hope she is doing OK! Wow.

And to further help me make my decision, I did some YouTube trolling and found these fan videos of Machine Messiah from the first leg of the tour. Hmm. Sounds pretty damn good. I will never see that song again live. Decisions, decisions.

Machine Messiah Part 1

Machine Messiah Part 2

Friday, January 09, 2009

Send Space Ace Into Space

Sounds like a line from a KISS song, doesn't it?

If you are flush with cash in this down economy and instead of wasting your money on charitable causes or safe investments (like storing it in your mattresses), I have a great cause for you.

It's called Ace To Space and it's a Web site devoted to raising money to get Ace Frehley sent into space. While he is still alive, I presume.

The brilliantly designed Ace To Space site posted this statement yesterday:

To put the biggest question to rest, YES this is a real venture and we are going to do everything we can to be sure Ace is given the opportunity to take a journey into outer space.

During the last 10 months since we started this venture, our priority has been to establish our mission and do the due diligence to make sure it was even possible. Now that we know it is, our next objective is to make sure Ace is given the opportunity.

We have chosen VH1 to document this mission from the ground up and yesterday, Jeff Olde, VH1 Executive Vice President, Original Programming and Production, was given the latest top secret details regarding this mission.

No word on whether VH1 gives a crap. Me, I personally chose CNN to cover my entry into the race for Portland head Dogcatcher but they never got back to me.

This gem was posted some time ago but is the basis of the effort:

We have confirmed that it IS possible for Ace Frehley to be launched into orbit and it IS possible for him to broadcast a short musical performance. There are many technical challenges involved with this but we have been told that they can all be overcome.

My check is in the mail.

Oh and by the way, Ace just announced the name of his upcoming solo album: Anomaly. Catchy! Here is the artwork, according to his site. I hope it rocks. As much as I sling crap, I love Ace!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jimmy Page Confirms That Former Zep Will Move On With New Singer

I guess this is not big news. There have been rumors flying for a while that Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham have been playing and writing. And pining. For a singer.

Robert Plant has said no pretty firmly a number of times. So the rumored new singers starting emerging. The most serious was that Steven Tyler jammed with the trio. A late October article said that session didn't go so well:

A source tells Britain's The Mail on Sunday newspaper, "Steve was jamming with Zep. They had a great time but Steve kept fluffing (messing up) his lines. He got quite flustered about it."

But now Page's management has confirmed that the singer search is indeed on. He told the BBC News:

"...they decided that if they could find a singer that they thought would fit their bill, whatever their bill was at this stage in their career, that they'd make a record and go on tour."

"I can't comment on any rumours right now," he said, "It's gonna be a long and difficult process. And we're not soliciting people. So don't call me about it!" Similarly, it is not known whether the new outfit would be touring under the banner Led Zeppelin or a new name.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I would love to hear music from these guys. Just don't call it Led Zeppelin!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Floydian Slips Debut “Echoes” on New Year’s Eve

On New Years Eve last week, my Pink Floyd tribute band The Floydian Slips played for close to 1,200 people as we entered our 12th year as a band. That is longer than my oldest kid – who is in 5th grade – has been alive. Clinton was President when we started!

The band only plays a couple of times a year, so it stays very fresh. The other thing that helps is that we don’t let the song list get too stale. The band started out all those years ago by performing The Dark Side of the Moon all the way through. After a couple of years of that, we did The Wall end to end (that was fun and I’d like to do it again soon). But that too got a bit stale after a while.

So next, we did what the real Floyd had been doing, which is to just play a bunch of songs, and to make that interesting we delved into the back catalog, learning One of These Days and Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun, as well as Learning to Fly from the Waters-less Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Our latest full album was Animals, and we have been doing that for a year or so. Dogs is one of our faves by far, and Sheep is a new fave.

But for New Years Eve, we decided to give Animals a rest too, and embarked on an endeavor we had talked about for years but thought might be too daunting – to play the 20-plus minute Echoes – side two of the Meddle album for those who still spin vinyl.

We’d seen Floyd do the piece as a simple band of four musicians on the Live at Pompeii movie, but it still seemed somehow too epic for us eight musicians to pull off. But everyone did their homework and we were all pleasantly shocked at how fast it came together.

Due to Arctic Blast 2008 in Portland, we were not even able to rehearse until two days before the show. So, the videos below represent our fifth complete run through of the song. I think we did OK but I am looking forward to playing it more so we can get to that state where you are not really thinking, you’re just playing.

Not sure when our next gig is, so for now enjoy the below videos. I had to split it into three parts due to YouTube’s video length limitations. And apologies to Asher on the keyboards, as my camera slid on the tripod a bit and therefore periodically cuts him off when he is on the Hammond organ on the far right of the stage. D’oh!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Fish Checks In With A Clean Bill of Health

Ex-Marillion singer Fish got a nice start to 2009 when he found that his recent throat cancer scare was unfounded. Fish posted on his MySpace blog on December 31:

It seems apt that on the closing day of 2008 I received the news that I had been hoping for in a phone call from my ENT doctor.

The biopsy samples taken from my vocal chords have come back negative on any malignant or pre-malignant growth. It appears that the source of all my problems has been a cyst which has been present for quite some time and was surgically removed during the recent examination.

I have been given a clean bill of health and told to start vocal exercises in order to stretch the repairing tissue. I can't explain how relieved I am.

...I have to admit that certain newspaper reports got me down when after gleaning all their quotes from my blog they then came up with the assumption that I was finished as a singer. It appears they have most definitely got it wrong and one of my first calls was to Yatta to tell him to go ahead and book festivals for the Summer. :-)

Now that is some good news!

It's True - Metal Health CAN Drive You Mad

In a study published in the British Medical Journal last month, two University of New South Wales researchers concluded that head-banging to a typical heavy metal tempo could cause mild traumatic brain injury or concussion and neck injury, particularly as the tempo of the music and angle of movement increased.

Associate Professor Andrew McIntosh, co-author and professor of biomechanics at UNSW, said "If you observe people after concerts they clearly look dazed, confused and incoherent, so something must be going on and we wanted to look into it."

Maybe they should have looked into the 'recreational chemicals' ingested by concertgoers as well. I have certainly come out of metal shows looking 'dazed, confused and incoherent' and it's got nothing to do with headbanging, baby!

Well actually, those days are long over for me. I quit smoking 'tea' before concerts way back in high school when I went to a Dio concert and couldn't remember a thing about it the next day! I thought, man what a waste of money, and saved my indulgences for other opportune events like high school football games and marching band.

The full headbanging research story is here and is pretty funny. I suggest reading the whole article. Bang your heeeeeeead!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

CD Review: Neil Young Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968

As I said in an earlier post, Santa was very good to me this year, and I scored a bunch of CDs and DVDs. The first I dove into was Neil Young Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968.

This is part of Neil's archives series and is a solo acoustic gig at what sounds like a coffee house or very small venue, based on the audience response and the ambiance.

The gig took place just after Neil had split with Buffalo Springfield but before his very first solo album had been released. So, basically before Neil became a bonafide solo superstar. Hell, before he was even on the map as a solo artist.

The CD is a great snapshot of that time period. Neil does a bunch of songs that will appear on his first album in a few months, and some Buffalo Springfield tunes. The show starts with some very stoned sounding guy saying he hopes the waitresses are getting all the orders because there were way more attendees than expected.

This leads to a very stoned Neil running through 14 songs, most of which introduced with long and witty stories. For example, Neil tells that the job he had before joining the Springfield was a stint at a bookstore where he either lazed around doing nothing or was on uppers and sorted three days' worth of books in half a day. He was fired for 'being inconsistent.' The irony of this was not lost on me when thinking about Neil's whole career, especially the 80s, when David Geffen sued Neil for making 'noncommercial records.'

And it goes on from there. Neil Young fans should get this CD, and also the other archives releases Live at Massey Hall (1971) and Live at the Fillmore East (1972). They surpass some of Neil's studio releases in passion, performance and even recording quality.

And speaking of archives, this CD comes with a DVD of the same playlist at a higher quality bit rate. The DVD also has a trailer for the massive Neil Young Archives project, expected to be released this year on Bluray and DVD. A shorter version of the trailer can be seen below. It looks totally epic.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Thin Lizzy "Live & Dangerous" Unedited Companion to be Released

Live albums are rarely fully 'live.' Even before the era of lip-syncing embarrassments like Ashley Simpson on SNL, bands would frequently doctor up their live albums to get rid of mistakes or touch up a bad harmony here and there.

One of the most famous examples is KISS' 1975 double album Alive!, thought by many to be one of the best live albums of all time and certainly the first mega-successful one of a long string of live albums in the 70s (followed a close second by Frampton Comes Alive).

But it is now well known that KISS Alive! is not very alive at all, and almost all of the parts outside of the drums were re-done in the studio. Producer Eddie Kramer has been forthcoming about this in recent years and even the band now admits that it's true.

Another seminal 70s live album, Thin Lizzy's Live & Dangerous was also heavily touched up before its release. Along with KISS Alive!, Frampton Comes Alive, UFO's Strangers in the Night, Judas Priest Unleashed in the East and Cheap Trick At Budokan, Live & Dangerous is one of those 70s live albums considered to be one of the best, despite its un-live qualities.

So it's very cool that on March 2, 2009, the band will release Still Dangerous, a live album recorded on the same tour as Live & Dangerous, but without any edits or touch ups. According to, the album features tracks that never made the Live & Dangerous release and all cuts are previously unreleased:

The recordings were discovered by accident in an overlooked band lockup - a happy accident for Thin Lizzy fans and music fans in general as it is set to become an essential addition to the legacy of one of rocks greatest ever acts. The album is fully endorsed by Phil Lynott's estate and the band. “Still Dangerous” is the first release on the Thin Lizzy Productions label (distributed by Proper Music Distribution). An audio sample is here.

Now the big question. Will KISS release an unedited version of an Alive! era concert? KISS has released a number of live concerts on DVD from that era and they are riddled with untouched moments but nothing on CD yet. But I am sure once Simmons comes to his senses, they will start a Dead-style "Dick's Picks" live KISS bootleg series to rake in more cash!

What are some other kick-ass live albums you enjoy?

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Vatican Forgives John Lennon

In the last few weeks of the Bush regime, expect a series of pardons for Bush cronies who should be locked up for various crimes.

But hey, it's not just Bush. Clinton pushed through more last minute legislation and issued more pardons in the last few weeks of his presidency than most of his predecessors. It just comes with the smarmy territory of politics.

But with all of this happening in the States, a papal 'pardon' happened late last year and was not widely covered in the media.

The Vatican, via its L'Osservatore Romano newsletter finally forgave John Lennon for saying the Beatles were 'bigger than Jesus Christ' in 1966.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Lennon was talking off the record to a friend who also happened to be a reporter and in discussing the youth movement in the 60s, he said, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

When these words hit America -- especially the Bible Belt states in the south -- it led to Beatles record burnings and bans against their performances. It was also one of the last straws among many that pushed the band to quit touring altogether.

Lennon apologized and said the quote was taken out of context, saying "Well, originally I pointed out that fact in reference to England. That we meant more to kids than Jesus did, or religion at that time. I wasn't knocking it or putting it down. I was just saying it as a fact and it's true more for England than here. I'm not saying that we're better or greater, or comparing us with Jesus Christ as a person or God as a thing or whatever it is. I just said what I said and it was wrong. Or it was taken wrong. And now it's all this."

According to the BBC report of the 'papal pardon' story from late November, "The [Vatican] paper dismissed Lennon's much-criticised remark that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ as a youthful joke. The paper described the remark as 'showing off, bragging by a young English working-class musician who had grown up in the age of Elvis Presley and rock and roll and had enjoyed unexpected success.'"

There are a number of links to others stories and observations here.

Well, since the church preaches forgiveness, I guess it's about time!

Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone!