Thursday, April 14, 2011

William Shatner Album Taps Hark Rock Greats

OK this is such a wank I was not planning on posting anything. The 'news' is that William Shatner is putting out an album of space travel-related covers called "Searching for Major Tom," with various big-name guests. I assume the music will be semi-decent while the lyrics will be delivered in the same over-dramatic spoken word style that graced his 60s album, The Transformed Man.

The songs he has chosen to butcher are some of the all time greats, including Space Trucking, Rocket Man, Space Oddity, Learning to Fly, Iron Man, Walking on the Moon, etc. Wait - Iron Man? Hmm.

Then I looked at the list of guests and just had to share: Ian Paice, Johnny Winter, Bootsy Collins, Patrick Moraz, Michael Schenker, Warren Haynes, Ritchie Blackmore, Alan Parsons, Peter Frampton, John Wetton, Dave Davies, Zakk Wylde, Steve Howe.

Ok what the fuck? How in the hell did Shatner get Ritchie Blackmore off of the bench for a rock album? Unless he is going to play nylon string renaissance music with his warbly wife for Shatner to bleat over.

Likewise, Dave Davies? I thought he had retired. Patrick Moraz and Steve Howe? They ought to just do Relayer while they are at it.

The Huffington Post has all the details, but if it's anything like the below, I don't care if Shatner reunited Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson. I ain't buying it.

And my swipe at Blackmore? It's totally justified. Got to 2:34 and behold Spinal Tap mach 3.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Paul McCartney and KISS? Say It Ain't So!

Seano is gonna love this one. Word on the street is that Paul McCartney has tapped a number of bands to play some Beatles and Wings tunes for some kind of tribute CD. Didn't know people were supposed to coordinate their OWN tribute CDs but it's all good...

Anyway, several sources say that Paul McCartney is asking KISS to play on the disc, and the rumor is that they will do Venus and Mars. Now, I assume what they really mean is the Wings tune Rockshow, which follows the short Venus and Mars intro on the album of the same name.

Bill Joel and The Cure are also rumored to be contributing. In terms of KISS, I could totally hear Paul Stanley belting this one out:

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Carmine and Vinny Appice To Tour - Drum Wars!

Hard rock drummer brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice have always led very separate careers, going so far as to alter how their last names are pronounced - Carmine's is pronounced "a-piece" and Vinny's is "ap-ah-see." Hell, I didn't know they were even related for years.

But I can't think of any other brothers who have laid down beats for such a who's who of hard rock and metal stalwarts. According to fellow drummer Vic Firth on the brothers' Drum Wars web site:

Vinny and Carmine break out the heavy artillery in this entertaining no-holds barred battle to the finish. Carmine and Vinny...Vinny and Carmine! Don't know which one comes first, which one had the moustache first, or which one has the best legs! However, they are both great artists in their own genre. Carmine's track record includes Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, B.B.A. (Beck, Bogart and Appice), and Rod Stewart, to name a few. Not bad! Vinny has driven John Lennon, Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven and Hell. Not bad! (I've been stuck with one band for 40 years - The Boston Symphony).

I am not really sure what this is going to be exactly, but here is a video from eight months ago that gives us a bit of a clue:

I wonder if it's an actual gig with a band or more like a drum clinic. Either way, it could be fun if they told stories from their careers, took questions, played together etc.

There is a pretty funny but sort of campy video on the Drum Wars site here. Could have used some editing but it's interesting to hear these guys break each others' balls, and sets the event up to be fun. So far there are two dates this month in New York but we'll see if they tour it around.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Trevor Horn Produces New Yes Album

The Jon-Anderson-less Yes keeps chugging along, with a new album set for a July release on Frontier Records.

Called "Fly From Here," the album is named after an old song penned by the other Jon Anderson-less lineup from the 1980 Drama album. Trevor Horn (half of The Buggles with Geoff Downes) sang on that album, and truthfully it is one of my favorite Yes albums. Songs like Machine Messiah, Tempus Fugit, Does It Really Happen? and Into The Lens stand up with anything else in the band's repertoire.

ed note: I found this photo tonight, confirming that Geoff Downes is back in the band for the moment. Not sure who Grandma Jones in the middle is, but that might be Trevor Horn who didn't get the memo that only some of the band is dressing like old ladies for photos shoots.

I am always going to consider the current Jon Anderson-less Yes as slightly bogus, as Chris Squire and company decided to end-run around Anderson and replace him with a tribute band singer while he was ill and couldn't sing. Obviously the band is happy to not be under Anderson's thumb, hence the continued touring and new album.

But to add an interesting twist, Trevor Horn is back as producer! After the Drama tour and subsequent split-up of the band, Horn reemerged to produce the astounding Yes comeback 90125, where Trevor Rabin had replaced Howe on guitar and ushered in a whole new generation of the band. But Horn and the band had trouble on Big Generator, the follow up, and had not worked together since.

From a press release on Yes' website: Horn and YES bassist Chris Squire re-discovered the track FLY FROM HERE which has never been recorded as a studio track. “Chris and I were talking one evening about a song ‘Fly From Here’ that we never recorded,” explains Trevor Horn. “I said I was prepared to spend two weeks with ‘YES’ recording that song. When I arrived in America to record it, I was taken prisoner by the band and only allowed my freedom again in return for producing the whole album. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!!!”

So, here is the deal. Fly From Here has been released. A live version is on the 3-disc The Word is Live set, released in 2005. Credited to Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes, it' do I put this?...shitty.

If that song is the central track on this new CD I will likely pass. But we'll see - I am more interested to see if Howe can still play guitar anymore. His performance at a recent Asia reunion I saw in Portland left me feeling like he has jumped the shark.

Another interesting tidbit is that I have seen three separate reports that Downes is back on keyboards for this album, which for sure makes it more interesting to me. Rick Wakeman's son Oliver has been in the current lineup for the last couple of years. Yes' site still has Oliver listed as the current ivory tickler. But we'll see...

Current Jon-less Yes doing 1980 Jon-less Yes (at a total snail's pace at that):

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Book Review: Sammy Hagar - Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock

I mowed through Sammy Hagar Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock in two days. It was pretty riveting. Sammy co-wrote it with Joel Selvin from the SF Chronicle, which probably means Sammy dictated it to Joel and Joel banged it into shape.

But however they did it, the book is very conversational and is a great read. Sammy is indeed a funny guy and I was laughing before I even turned to the second page.

Hagar's family history is pretty interesting. I usually want to skip over the childhood years in music bios, but this was a good one. Sammy had a pretty tough childhood yet he presents it with a refreshing objectivity and it shows how his strong work ethic and easygoing nature were formed.

Also, he grew up in a very rural area (Fontana, California), and he paints a vibrant picture of what life was like back in the 50s as kid.

His teenage years were spent in the 60s, and he got the rock and roll bug in time to attend the Monterey Pop Festival and take all sorts of the usual chemicals of the time. The cool thing is, after a close call with the law, he decided to clean it up and really focus on his dream of making it as a rock and roller.

In fact Hagar reminds me of Tom Petty (from Running Down A Dream) and Don Felder (from Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles), who both were so driven to succeed that they left wreckage in their wake - wives, bandmates etc.

Hagar marries young and his wife sticks with him through the poverty and selfishness of living on nothing to chase a dream that few ever achieve, all the way through the payoff before and during the Van Hagar years, where Sammy is gone so much his kids never see him. And of course he ultimately dumps her for a newer model. There is more to the story than this (the wife train wrecked a bit), but it's a common theme and was the only bummer in Sammy's  story.

Otherwise, you'd be hard pressed to find a more easy-going, motivated, smart guy in rock and roll. Most know of Hagar's Cabo Wabo venue and tequila franchise, but he was starting businesses all the way back in the late 70s. Some tanked and others did OK, but he diversified and invested wisely. Very few rockers grasp that concept without the nudge of the accountant!

Of course the big dirt in the book is all about Van Halen. If you believe Sammy's story, he was the great motivator behind getting the songs written and recorded on the numerous Van Hagar albums. The Van Halen brothers were disorganized and dysfunctional - basically rich rock stars who never grew up and always had some screws loose. The magic was prevalent from the start of their collaboration, but the seeds of the breakup were already sown as well, namely in the form of the Van Halen brothers' alcoholism.

Talk about head trippers - mostly Eddie, but Alex was a major enabler. I mean, I already knew Eddie has zero respect for his fans and is generally a clueless genius with no manners - that was clear from his Guitar Player interviews in the 80s. But Hagar really tears the cover off of it and it's pretty astounding. Did nothing to change my opinion of Eddie Van Halen as a human being, which was already pretty low.

I knew very little about Alex Van Halen, though. According to the book, he was a major alcoholic (possibly cleaned up at this point but hard to tell) and very co-dependent with Eddie. Not as off the rails as Eddie but didn't do anything to help him put the brakes on either.

And David Lee Roth? Wow, what a weird dude. Another deluded head tripper but I guess we knew that already. The stories of the Sam and Dave tour, and the Van Hagar reunion are worth the price of the book alone.

Hagar also talks about his breakthrough with Montrose, the arc of his solo career and his recent new band, Chickenfoot. The book inspired me to listen to that CD again and it's a good band. Great chemistry. I reviewed that CD here in 2009.

Overall, the book paints a solid picture of Hagar - an amazingly successful, talented, driven, slightly ego-centric rock and roller and business man. Despite some of the lifestyle and personal choices I wouldn't have done myself, I came away with a lot of respect for the man. And overall, the book is a fun, easy read.