Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion -- Isor Wallobee CD Available Online

First up, my apologies for not posting in a while. Between having a newborn on 12/11 and the holidays, I have been a bit busy! But I was very stoked to see that the sole CD from my 90s band Isor Wallobee has posted to iTunes and so I thought I'd crack out a quick post while people still had credit on their iTunes gift cards, ha ha.

I played lead guitar in a band called The Strangers from 1990 to 1995 and when I quit that band, I had a backlog of material. I was basically the Ace Frehley/George Harrison of the band. Meaning, there were two other primary songwriters and I had to fight to get my stuff in the mix. I'd do vocal harmonies, play leads, and maybe get to do two or three of my own songs in our live set.

And just like with Ace and George, that was OK for a while but I eventually got fed up and wanted more of my own spotlight. So, Isor Wallobee was my post-Strangers vehicle to get that backlog out into the public. It was the first band I really ever fronted and it was a blast.

We released one CD before calling it quits in 1998. I loved the CD and thought it was a great representation of the band and where I was at at the time musically. So after all these years I finally got the CD up on iTunes and Amazon and am very excited to share it with the world.

I made the best song on the CD (in my opinion), Just to Get to You, a free download at Amazon so you can at least check that out w/o spending any money. But if you like that song, you'll probably like the whole CD.

Here are the links, as well as a fan page I threw up on Facebook. Whatever you do tonight for New Years, be safe and have fun!

Facebook Fan Page

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Guitar Lessons, Guitar World Interview with Ace Frehley

In yet another in a string of "why I love the sober Ace Frehley" events, Ace has made several instructional Web videos on how to play classic KISS tunes.

At, Ace shows how to play Cold Gin and Shock Me, two songs that absolutely made me want to play guitar when I was 10. So to see Ace show how to play the songs, the killer riff/jam sections, and to hear some of the back story behind the writing of each is a real treat to a lifelong Ace fan like me.

Ace has been sober for more than three years and has entered one of the most productive and fruitful eras of his life. He talks more about this and other topics in a current Guitar World interview. A few interesting quotes:

Because of the drugs, I had created situations and problems that prevented me from doing anything. So things weren’t going right with business and things weren’t going right with family. That hinders your creativity big time. If you keep throwing a monkey wrench into the machine again and again, eventually the machine doesn’t work right no matter what you do. Everything becomes problematic.

I still don’t think I’m a great player. There are guys that play circles around me. But it’s a combination of my songwriting, my voice, my attitude, my persona... It’s the package. I know great guitar players that don’t have any image or personality. And you need it all.

I think I’m being driven by the fact that for a while I was pushed down, and so I feel like I have to prove to everybody that I’m back. After I left Kiss in 2001, they told everyone I couldn’t tour anymore, that I was fucked up. I felt like that wasn’t going to be my epitaph. So I decided to get strong and get sober and show everybody what I really can do and what I could have done if I had been more together. It’s weird that my time is coming this late in life. But better late than never.

Keep it rocking, Ace!

Meanwhile, KISS posted a video of the band working at WalMart. On paper, lame. On YouTube? Funny!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Genesis In; KISS Out

While waiting to check out of the hospital today with our newborn, I was flipping through my Twitter feeds and noticed that there were a few Tweets announcing that KISS had been slighted by the Hall of Fame after being nominated for the first time this year.

I am not totally shocked. I was more shocked that they were nominated in the first place, because the R&R Hall is run by a group of 500 industry types. It's not a popularity contest or a popular vote that gets you in. It's a decision by an elite closed group, and that makes it fairly questionable IMO.

I thought the Rolling Stone coverage of the 25th anniversary shows in New York was glad-handingly self congratulatory. Many of the board members are RS editors and writers. But anyway, KISS didn't get in this year and ABBA did. Yeah, that makes sense. They totally rock.

But my next thought was, what about Genesis? I was equally pleasantly surprised that they had been nominated as well. The prospect of KISS or Genesis being inducted meant the possibility of reunions of the original members to accept the award and possibly perform.

KISS has done the reunion thing, so it's all good. They'll get in eventually and then the Hall in Cleveland can open a Hotter Than Hell wing with all the merch and costumes.

But the original five Genesis principals - Steve Hackett, Phil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel - have not performed live since a one-off get-together in 1982.

So I poked around and lo and behold it was announced today that Genesis will be inducted into the Hall. So, I will be keeping an eye on that one. Peter Gabriel has been the guy who has been the most wishy washy about doing anything again with the others but maybe he could pull it together for just one night.

The one cool thing about the Hall events is that sometimes they do lead to full-bore reunion tours, or at least interesting onstage jamming. So, we shall see...

Maybe Peter could whip out some of his old costumes and they could blow our minds with Selling England By The Pound!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guitarist Steve Kimock Gets Some Love

Some of my fellow bloggers and I frequently lament the current state of the music biz and how all the good artists are either not getting their due or are from eras long gone by (or both).

Finally, CNN of all outlets is shining some light on one of the greatest unsung guitar players of the last 30 years - Steve Kimock.

Kimock has a jazz-meets-Jerry style that has always endeared him to the Deadheads but to me the standout is that his tone is insane. It's the cleanest, most pure guitar tone I have ever heard.

Back in the day, my band The Strangers (nothing to do with Merle Haggard's band) opened for Kimock's band Zero at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I enjoyed watching Kimock but I was really stoked that I met Pete Sears, who had played in Rod Stewart's bands in the 70s and was a key member of the Jefferson Starship.

That was a hell of a night.

But anyway, good for Kimock. Not that a CNN story is going to make all the difference to a guy's career, but if a few thousand people who have never heard of Kimock check him out, then that is a good thing.

The story is here, with this accompanying video:

Also, there are tons of YouTube videos of Kimock live but you'll get a good idea of his guitar tone from this one:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Blogroll Addition - Badass of the Week

So, I am in a hospital right now, as my wife just gave birth to our latest addition almost exactly 24 hours ago. Why am I blogging (or more specifically, why am I being allowed to blog)? Because my wife kicks ass and knows I will drop whatever I am doing to run a hankie, cracker or pillow over to her stat.

That's what the guy does in the maternity recovery room - becomes a combo roadie/personal assistant to bedridden mom and newborn spawn.

And of course grab some Zzzz's when you can. Which is what I should have been doing at about 11 pm last night when all was finally silent in room 576.

But no, thanks to fellow blogger Chris, I was laughing my ass off (quietly) for an hour or more, going through various entries on the very excellent blog Badass of the Week.

From historical figures, war heroes, astronauts and mythological creatures, the blog adds to the roster of 'badassedness' every week. This week's installment? The Kracken.

Behold a sample:

What's worse than having your ass chomped in half by two rows of serrated, dagger-sized shark teeth, you might ask? How about getting a singing molest-o-gram from a half-dozen gigantor rubbery tentacles that bludgeon your brain apart while simultaneously tearing your ship into jetsam, leaving you either dead, retarded, or stranded in the middle of the ocean with no hope of salvation? While that's pretty much one of the worst things ever, to the Kraken it's just the way he enjoys spending his lazy Sunday afternoons.

This is just the tip of the enormous, hilarious iceberg, and now part of the Isorski blogroll. Thanks, Chris!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

DVD Review - The Joshua Tree Bonus DVD - 1987 in Paris

Got the remastered The Joshua Tree box set as an early Christmas present to myself. Take that Santa!

It has a second CD of unreleased nuggets and a bonus DVD. The remaster sounds great, and the bonus disc is pretty cool too, but I was not as blown away as I was with the Unforgettable Fire bonus CD. The only two great bonus tracks are Spanish Eyes and The Sweetest Thing, and the latter has been released in other places.

But man, the DVD alone is worth the money.

First up, there is a 30 minute or so featurette about the band in America on the Joshua Tree tour. It’s kind of a precursor to the Rattle and Hum movie, which I am not a huge fan of. But this documentary is a bit more real, with some of what looks like Super 8 footage, and loads of shots of them hanging around in dive bars in Arizona and Texas. There is a great segment where they are onstage in some shithole bar, drunk, just farting around making stuff up. There is some great rehearsal and concert footage as well.

It’s a compelling watch. They are not mega-superstars yet, but damn close. And it feels like they know it. But they are also still Irish kids in their 20s freaking out on how massive America is.

But the real standout on the DVD is the concert from July 4, 1987 in Paris at the Hippodrome, which looks like it’s full of a city’s worth of people. It’s an ocean of hands. Here, I was blown away by how good of a live band U2 was during this era. I always slagged them in high school as not being good musicians but once again I stand corrected. The band is solid and most refreshingly rocking.

Edge totally kicks ass. His guitar tones are biting and he often carries the whole band musically. This was the era where Bono would wear a guitar that he never played. He also is doing his crazy LiveAid stuff like jumping into the filming pit and running around where the roadie has to chase him with his cable so he has a mic the whole time. I guess cordless mics were not reliable yet. And if you want to see how Edge plays Bad, they zoom in on his hands a few times. Nice for the guitar players in the audience!

It’s so great to hear the band do nothing but stuff from the first five albums. To hear them do I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For before they had played it a million times, or stuff like Trip Through Your Wire or Party Girl, which I can’t imagine stayed in the set list past this tour.

The band is in its prime. The songs are great. They are still playing with passion and fire, but they are also about to the top of the top and are therefore very confident and are stretching a bit.

I was actually shocked at how rocking they were. I am so sick of With or Without You but the song was so new at the time, this live version almost makes me want to hear it again. Bono in particular sings it like his life depends on the performance, instead of singing it because they can’t NOT play the song at a concert anymore.

Interesting to see Edge play piano, on for example October, Running to Stand Still, and The Unforgettable Fire. And for the closing song, 40, Edge plays bass and Adam Clayton does a nice Edge impression getting some good echo-drenched chordal work in. Who’d have thunk it?

There are great gorgeous performances of The Unforgettable Fire and Bad. New Years Day and Electric Co have a really fresh energy. New Years Day shows what a tight, rocking band they were back then. I am always impressed when Edge jumps from the main piano riff to his guitar solo without missing a beat.

It’s also cool to see how the band takes some of the heavily overdubbed songs from Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree and plays them as a three piece. For the most part it works really well with a couple of exceptions. Pride (In The Name Of Love) does not sound quite as huge as it should.

I’ll tell you what there is very LITTLE of on the DVD – Bono going off on political tangents. Rather, he is smiling a lot, posing like a rock star and kicking major vocal ass. Again, I feel like they are still a bit hungry but also on that total precipice of an insane level of fame. They are not yet jaded or laden with the ‘social responsibility’ that came with being good famous, rich Christians. One notable exception - I can see those fighter planes!

But in general, at this concert U2 is not concerned with saving the world. They are more concerned with rocking the house. And I am really glad someone got it on film.

Here is a clip of Bad from the DVD:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

29 Years Ago Today

I remember sitting in the family room in Cupertino - I was 12 years old - and my dad came into the room to tell me that John Lennon had been murdered. I was pretty upset. I think I went to my room, had a bit of a cry and played some Lennon/Beatles on my acoustic guitar (I was just learning to play and the Beatles were heavy in the rotation).

In the years that have passed I will think about it now and again. I always have the same emotion - that it was such a pity, a waste for him to be murdered by a lunatic, just as he was starting to make music again. All the "what could have's" play over and over in my mind.

Would he have toured? I think so. Seems like that was his intention. I may have been able to see him in concert. Would he have gotten back together with the other Beatles? I don't know about that one. I can see him being the one stand-out guy who said no, never. Sort of the David Byrne of the band.

But who knows? Maybe for LiveAid or some other charity, or maybe after many more years passed and he said oh what the hell. But again, we'll never know.

Would he have worked with Jeff Lynne? God I hope not. But seriously, I wonder if he would have given his blessing to all the Beatles reissues, anthology series etc.

Anyway, I always feel lousy when I remember that he had been shot. The good thing is, the guy made so much great music and left behind such a legacy that I still to this day uncover new songs, stories, photos that I had never seen before. In that way he does keep living. But of course it's the 'what music would he be making now,' that keeps me thinking.

29 years ago today it happened. Bleh. Time to crank some Lennon:

Monday, December 07, 2009

Interesting Them Crooked Vultures Interview

One more item on Them Crooked Vultures and I swear I will move on to other topics:

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures Videos From Portland Show

The kid in front of me at the Them Crooked Vultures show last week in Portland took a bunch of photos and shot a couple of videos. I was watching him do this all night and when the show was over I asked if he'd be posting his stuff. Lo and behold, here are the videos. This is for the most part exactly where I was standing all night. I am still high from seeing this show!

One note about the piano solo. When JPJ was done, the look on Grohl's face was priceless. He looked at Josh Homme and they shared a "I can't believe I am in a band with this guy, but we have to be cool about it" moment. Enjoy:

New Fang:

John Paul Jones, piano...