MUSIC

Sheryl Crow’s Newest Proves That Music Can Save You

 

by: Kidman J. Williams

Artist: Sheryl Crow

Album: Be Myself

Label: Warner Bros.

Rating: 4.4/5.0

 

Sheryl Crow’s first album “Tuesday Night Music Club” hit the scene in 1993 and since then she has earned herself nine Grammy Awards and sold more than 35 million albums all over the world, along with five of those albums breaking the platinum mark.

This future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn’t done too bad for herself by just putting her real self out there album to album. Crow’s honesty has always been her drawing power. And let me tell you, she doesn’t disappoint on her newest effort “Be Myself,” due out April 21, 2017.

“So for the first time in my life, I made it a point to sit down and really listen to my old records.” Says Crow. “I’d drive my kids to school and play the old stuff as I came back home. That helped me remember what it felt like when I was just beginning as an artist.”

“But,” she clarifies, “it wasn’t about repeating myself. It was about revisiting where I came from and seeing where that would take me now.”

“Be Myself” has a welcoming throwback sound; the same sound that gave Crow the ability to speak to every fan on a personal and individual level while letting us know that she is just one of us with the same salient struggles that we all have to live with and endure.

She also reunited with producer, songwriter, musician and her partner on the early albums of her career.

“Musically, this record is about coming back together with Jeff Trott,” Crow said. “This past summer, because of what was going on in the world and particularly in the United States; I began to feel a sense of urgency about writing. So he came out from L.A. for a couple of days here, a couple of days there, and we turned out some good old-school Sheryl Crow tunes.”

Usually I wouldn’t start with the fourth track on an album, but in this case I will because the hit is not the most attractive thing on this album. The self-titled track and single “Be Myself” is a great catchy soundtrack song for this summer.

Trust me when I say there is nothing wrong with this anthem song declaring to the world that being yourself is the best self you can be. It just isn’t the finest work on this great album. And frankly, after we end up hearing it three times an hour on the radio for a whole summer, we are going to be begging for relief wishing that we were someone else.

“Love Will Save the Day” is the kind of song that saves people from themselves. We have all been there. Those times where everything is hopeless, despairing, and desperate. Whether it is a break-up, problems with your family, or maybe even your own anxieties crippling your life; this is the song you put on repeat in your dark room lit by one single candle while you fade out with your headphones on and forget about the world for a while.

Right from the opening of the song with that vinyl scratch embedded into the background of the song as the guitar gently holds you to its breast and tells you everything is alright while an angel resonates into your ears, “We get lost along the way. I know it hurts right now, but it will fade. Sometimes it is hard to find some light, with darkness on the left and on the right, believe me that love will save the day.”

The very funky second track, “Halfway There” is a whirlwind of sound with a message of compromise, something this world has forgotten how to do.

The song is jammed full of funky guitar riffs, grooving beat, and a guitar hook that seems to come in on the four count, giving it a unique movement. The lead guitar has a great break part that incorporates a nod to the psychedelic era of the late 60’s.

Crow nails it with “Be Myself.” She harnessed all of who she is, where she came from, while staying true to herself and above all, she is honest with her fans.

She gives you all of her fears, love, while being very topical, and most important, she leaves you with hope. No matter how dark things seem Crow makes sure that the listener understands that it will always get better. And she really knows how to have fun as well, as she explores all of the nooks and crannies of the human experience.

Sheryl Crow is out on tour right now. Click Here for more information.

Tracklisting:

  1. Alone in the Dark
  2. Halfway There
  3. Long Way Back
  4. Be Myself
  5. Roller Skate
  6. Love Will Save the Day
  7. Strangers Again
  8. Rest of Me
  9. Heartbeat Away
  10. Grow Up
  11. Woo Woo

The Doors- 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition review

 

by Kyle K. Mann

Artist: The Doors

Album name: The Doors- 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Label: Elektra/Rhino

Rating: 4.1/5.0

As the hype continues this bizarre year of 2017 over the 50th anniversary of all things 1967, on March 31 Rhino/Elektra released “The Doors: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” which is meant to be the last word on the self-titled debut.

Is this package worth the 60 bucks?

I’ll say yes, though I’m not as objective as some readers might like. As I’ve noted previously, the Doors are a band I saw at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom before they were famous, and I have a great deal of built-in affection for them.

Well. So, whaddya get for the dough?

In brief, two CD versions of the original mixes of the vinyl release, one stereo, one mono, and a third bonus CD of the band playing at San Francisco’s Matrix club, as well as a mono vinyl record album. The latter CD is live material released a decade back, but that is, according to the story, now taken from a first generation source. Indeed, this live CD sounds considerably better than the last version.

For me, the stereo CD version of the original studio tracks is stellar, with the attention to sonic detail staggering. Listening to the tracks using a new HP laptop and it’s bundled PowerMediaPlayer, and a pair of new audio-technica headphones, I’m noticing details I had never heard before. The crispness on the high end is breathtaking, including the marxophone hits on “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” and the astonishing cymbal tones John Densmore achieves throughout “The End” and especially at the conclusion of that track.

For this superb sonic excellence we have original producer Paul Rothschild (and engineer Bruce Botnick) to thank. Densmore complains in his first book about the many hours Rothschild spent tuning and tweaking the drum tones in the studio, in setting up to record. I’m willing to bet Densmore will agree it was all worth it now, because the drums are simply impeccable on the stereo mix. Again, as one example, the various tones of drums and cymbals on the percussion-driven “The End” are staggering. About the only thing I can compare it to is the clarity of the drum sound on the late 70s Steely Dan recordings, like ‘Aja.’

Rothschild famously insisted that he wanted the Doors’ music to still be listenable in 20 years. Here we are, a full half century later, and his triumph is complete. Rothschild, who died in the 90s, would have loved this release. Elektra Records owner Jac Holtzman was quoted as telling Rothschild when he assigned Rothschild the production, “…do NOT fuck this up.”

I would say Rothschild pulled it off.

Now, as to the mono recording. Frankly, the disc I have is subpar. Perhaps it’s this particular CD I have, but there seems to be something wrong with the audio, particularly the vocals. It’s breaking up, fuzzy, unclear. For something that is supposed to be an audiophile’s delight, this mono mix ain’t cutting it.

I never liked mono anyway, so again, I’m not truly objective. I want Densmore and the bass on the left, and Krieger’s guitar and Manzarek’s organ on the right, with Morrison in the middle. Everything all mushed together sounds unnatural to me, weak and thin, undynamic. Listening in the headphones is a diminished experience for me.

That aside, the mono CD I have breaks up when the music volume picks up. It’s clearly discernible. I won’t be playing it, it’s unlistenable.

The question then becomes, is the mono vinyl album (“180 grams” as the front album sticker proclaims) the same? I can’t answer, because my turntable is in storage. And most of you either don’t have an old-school phonograph, or have it stashed away in the garage, covered with dust.

So I don’t see much in the mono releases, either the unheard vinyl album or the CD.

Which brings us to the live Matrix recording, warts and all. In brief, this is what pushes my buttons to tell you that if you are a Doors fan, this 60 buck package is worth getting. What a great live version of “Soul Kitchen.” Even with no echo effects on the vocals and instruments, and the oddness of the sparse applause, this is a worthy effort, with the tracks ordered in the same way as the album, although 3 of the shorter tracks originally on Side Two are missing.

Yes it’s strange to hear “Alabama Song” without the jingling marxophone and the big group vocals. But the live track has some different magic to it. The stripped-down version shows both what a great live band the Doors were, and by comparison how much work Rothschild really did to nail the production into a classic.

I even appreciate the tuning up before “Light My Fire.”

This signature hit, delivered in a somewhat different arrangement from the album version that the Doors had already recorded and released, is refreshing because of the high energy of the hard-charging solos. Morrison is heard faintly, cheering Krieger on as Densmore slams away at his tubs with finesse.

“Back Door Man” live in this early version is pulsing, vital. The vocal is solid, even a bit restrained. Again, the cleanup on the audio is impressive, remembering that this version was not recorded by Wally Heider and his famous truck, but just a home reel-to-reel tape. Good stuff.

And then there is the over 14 minute version of “The End.”

“Fall down now, strange Gods are coming,” sings Morrison. What? There are lyrics here I have never heard. Like, a lot of of them. I’ll let you discover these improvisations for yourself, but I will say that 50 years later, the Doors, incredibly, have some surprises left. It’s a bit shocking, actually.

A note on the packaging: pretty cool, with a worthy booklet that includes different band photos and some clarifying notes from Doors engineer Bruce Botnick. Historic, I’d say… after all, he was there.

My rating? 4 out of 5 stars. If this package had been trimmed down to the stereo and live CDs, and the price cut accordingly, it would get that last star. But if you’re a true Doors fan (after all, nearly 17 million likes on FaceBook) then suck it up and spend the cash.

We still have some 50th anniversary packaging to come, because the Doors have announced that their second album “Strange Days” will also be getting a 50 year celebration later this year.

Start saving up.

 

*Related articles

The Doors First Album and Mary Werbelow: 50 Years on

Driving with the Doors

 

 

 

Album Review: The Damn Truth’s Devilish Folk

 

by: Kidman J. Williams

Artist: The Damn Truth

Album: Devilish Folk

Label: Fineline Records/Warner

Rating: 4.7/5.0

I was 17 years old, my mind was altered to such a degree that I should have been put into a mental hospital after I decided it was a good idea to climb the balconies to the third floor apartment where the party was popping off; young, dumb, and ready to take on anyone.

There were about 40 pubescent wall-bangers packed into a 2 bedroom apartment, chock full of raging hormones that make teens even more disabled than they already are.

There was case after case of Mickey’s bigmouths, a collection of bottles piling up on the table and counters, and of course a fight at the door while the women were subsequently picking out the alpha male of their choice for the night, and The Damn Truth should have been the soundtrack for this level of irresponsibility.

The Damn Truth is the kind of band that you can not only party to, but you can sit at home and just take it all in with your best pair of headphones. They are the queens and kings of the subtle nuances in the music, seemingly taking lessons from Pink Floyd.

With Lee-La Baum on vocals and guitar, Tom Shemer (lead guitar), Dave Traina (drums), and PY Letellier (bass) they are the winning combination to a lock that we didn’t even know needed to be open.

The Damn Truth are Canada’s answer to the wildly predictable iTunes institution of cookie-cutter hit making.

The Damn Truth’s newest effort ‘Devilish Folk,’ released on Fineline Records/Warner Canada, is the kind of album that you can listen to all the way through, and there aren’t that many of those in the music industry anymore.

This is their sophomore effort to the critically acclaimed debut, ‘Dear in the Headlights.’

It is hard to pick out a highlight for this album when the whole album is one big highlight. The Damn Truth understand the formula to make you move, without actually sticking to any one formula.

On track 3, Plastic Flowers, they catch your attention immediately. Most of the rock songs you hear now hit you counting sheep 4 by 4 with their doldrum downbeat over and over until you fall asleep. This song hits you with a surprising 3 count and then Baum bombs you with her powerhouse vocal style that you feel down into your genitals.

The sixth track, “Heart is Cold” is the not so obvious single. It is a far cry from your predictable pop hit formula, but fully understands the vocal hook and ALWAYS important guitar hook from Shemer with an intensely groovy rhythm from Traina and Letellier.

This track slaps you with Baum’s grit and teeth-bearing style almost reminiscent of Janis Joplin, but I almost don’t want to make that comparison because it does a disservice to her and the band.

I would love to give you a rundown on all the tracks, but I have to keep this short. The sixth track on ‘Devilish Folk’ is “Alex.”

The song kind of switches gears with an angelic clean opening influenced by good ole delta blues. The song hits you with a very “star-crossed lovers” situation; bittersweet, loving, and forlorn.

Alex still gives the power of Baum’s vocals and lets it shine, but you can feel the sadness and grief while she bellows out the pain.

This Canadian foursome gives me hope that true music is not dead; that you don’t need a synth with pre-programmed drums and a basic cute face to sell records. The Damn Truth’s music has all the grit and dirty rhythms that made rock music great while still keeping a pop sensibility.

The Damn Truth express themselves with honesty in a world of devilish folks.

Interview With Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein

 

Interviewer: Kidman J. Williams

Illustration by: Joey Feldman

This is the second time that I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein. And I do mean a pleasure. Doyle is nothing like his monstrous persona, he is simply the guy next door that you want to hang out and have a beer with or in his case, eat a bunch of peanuts and work out seven days a week with.

Frankenstein’s newest project simply called Doyle, has now come out with their sophomore album titled, “As We Die.” The album comes out on April 27th.

This modest monster and I got to sit and chat again about everything from the Misfits’ reunion, a possible Misfits album, our kids, and even the move to a new label.

Doyle Interview

 Kidman J. Williams:  So, it is a nice day in Florida.

Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein: I bet! (laughing)

Hell yeah! It is beautiful, once we got through the tornado weather last night.

Oh, sorry man.

Well, you know. It happens. I just wanted to say sorry. Not that you would remember me from an interview two years ago.

It is frightening, I’m horrible.

I just wanted to say sorry. You were very cool. You personally invited me to your show on Halloween and I just wanted to say sorry I couldn’t make it out. The show was on Halloween and I had to take my kid trick-or-treating, just wanted to say sorry.

Yeah, I miss all that stuff. When I’m out and doing my stuff. You’re lucky.

It was cool and now he is eight and he talks back and —

(Laughing) Yeah, wait four years and see what he says then.

I’m sure it can’t get better from here.

Now he’s got a opinion for everything.

So, how are you doing man?

I’m doing great man. Everything is feeling good man, bands doing good, the crowds are getting bigger and they are starting to sing all the words. Excited about the new release. So, pretty good.

I  haven’t had a chance to hear or review the new album yet.

Well, we are still working on it! We got to finish it by tomorrow, it comes out on the 27th. (laughing)

Oh, I didn’t realize you guys didn’t finish it yet.

Well, I just want it perfect. If it isn’t perfect I just won’t like it.

The last time we talked you did a self-release off of your label Monsterman.

Yeah.

What made you decide to release on a big label, EMP. What made you go with the big label this time?

Distribution, promotion, and the stuff that I just couldn’t afford this time. And they are very excited to have us.  They are also taking on Monsterman Records on as a partner. And sign other bands. So it is pretty cool.

Plus working with David Ellefson (Megadeth) who owns the label. I’ve known him for a long time. I brought him Abominator and he got back to us. I was like if you want us make an offer. He asked what do you want? I told him what we wanted and he was like “ok.”  I was like “Really?!?” (laughing)

NICE! Did you guys self-produce this one or did the label assign a producer for you this time?

Yeah. We recorded the stuff at the same time as Abominator. We had to do the drums over because we got a new drummer Brandon Pertzborn. It came out better, better performance.

Last time I did the guitar, drummer did the drums, Alex did the vocals in his underwear in his kitchen. It just came out better.

So, you just said that a lot of this came off from Abominator. Last time we had spoken you said that for Abominator you had written 40 songs, recorded 25, and then used only 18. So a lot of this album came from the other tracks from the Abominator sessions?

Umm, yeah. They were all written. We had to write 9 or 10 more. We — (incoherent mumbles)

What was that? It is really hard to hear you wherever you are.

Yeah. We are driving. We are driving through, I don’t even know where the fuck we are…umm, Nebraska.

Nebraska?!?

Where are you headed to?

Wisconsin…somewhere I’ve never heard of.

You took care of my next question, how did the signing come about. Now did you take a different approach with the writing of the new album “As We Die?”

Umm, no. We just do what we do. I don’t approach it with “I’m going to write a song like this or I’m going to write a song like that.” Whatever is comfortable for me to play I use it. If it is too hard I don’t use it. I don’t need to be standing out on stage having a panic attack because I don’t know what is supposed to be played next.

What can we expect on this new album? Are there any big surprises on this new album?

Yeah! We have some guests on this album. We have Randy from Lamb of God singing with Alex Story on one. Alisa Winkler and Michael from Arch Enemy on “Kiss Me As You Die.”

We got this new drummer who is fucking insane. He is just so good. Brandon Pertzborn was playing with Black Flag. Our drummer, he just had to go.

We met up with Brandon and we weren’t even going to rehearse with him. I was just like, let’s just do it. He got the stuff perfect in like two days.

Are things still as easy with the chemistry and writing between you and Alex as they were on Abominator?

Oh yeah. It is just so easy.

You had been playing with Danzig for years off and on, but how was the vibe when you ALL got together for the reunion shows?

It was really funny man. (laughs) It was good times man. We all laughed. I know it was an easy gig. It was fun.

I’m sure somebody had to have asked this. But, could we expect a new Misfits album in the near future?

That would be sick wouldn’t it?

It would be! It think a lot of fans would love to see it.

I think I would love it MORE than them.

I know we have some limited time. I figured though, since we have done the interview dance before we could do something a little different. So, we took the questions to the fans and asked them if there was anything they wanted to know. You ready for this?

Yeah, yeah!

We will start with Mike Vest asks, “Would you ever play on a Cancerslug album?”

Yes, absolutely. We already talked about that. Why wouldn’t I do that?

Now we have another one. He must be a really big fan of yours. We have Chas “Frankenstein” Riley. He wants to know… oh, this is a pretty good question. “What was the punk scene really like? I’ve always wanted to know from a musician who was around at the time.”

It was pretty crazy. The shows were pretty violent, rowdy, very cool man. I was pretty young then though.

How old were you then?

I did my first recording when I was 15.

Wow.  This is a weird one. Jesse Chapman wants to know, “How did you like your time managing Vampiro in WCW?”

Let me go on the record saying that wrestling is all absolutely real (laughs). It is really happening. It was all very violent. Getting hit with steel chairs.

Did you ever get hit with anything?

Oh fuck no (laughs)! I didn’t want to get fucking hurt bro.

(Laughs) John Burden wants to know, “Is the Devil-Lock real or just a hair extension?”

It is fucking real as Hell.

Right (laughs). Right! Like stupid bastard.

This is kind of a two parter. Octavious wants to know if you are a vegan?

I am.

You are?!? I didn’t even know that. And how much do you have to work out to keep the look?

I work out 7 days a week.

Do you find it harder to keep in shape now than say 10 years ago?

Of course it is what kind of question is that (laughs)? I’m 10 years older. Let me ask you.

I would say yes

Yes of course. I’ve been doing it for so long that it is just part of my job. Plus it makes me feel good. If I don’t do it, I don’t feel good.

(Laughs) I get it man. Even in my 30’s it is harder to stay in shape.

Yeah. And everything gets heavier every day (laughs).

(Laughs) You aren’t joking there. I know you guys are doing a lot of touring right now in the UK. Are you going to extend your touring in the US?

Yeah. We have some shows in June, I don’t have the list. I know we are also going to be doing South America and some more in the UK as well.

I like to usually end on this. Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans reading this?

Yeah, don’t steal music. Go to the shows.

Album Review: Thirteen

 

by: Doc Jeffurious Higgason

Band: Thirteen

Album: Volume 1 EP

Label: Unsigned

Rating: 2.8/5.0

Those of you who were kids in the 80’s and 90’s might recall a channel on television they called the ‘MTV’.

For a full lesson on that I encourage you to check out the ‘Take Back MTV’ episode of Portlandia. However, for our purposes here, let’s talk about Saturday nights on MTV all those years ago.

Each week, host Riki Rachtman would take us through the latest and greatest in heavy metal and hard rock on ‘The Headbanger’s Ball’. We would save our greasy dollars and go see these bands, returning home minus a bit of hearing but nevertheless rocked for eternity. Some of us who spent their formative years staring at that show week after week eventually went on to form bands and spent years performing in dive bars, outdoor parties, band battles and everywhere in between.

However, we are now growing old and weary. Still, there are so many of these misbegotten, dispossessed children of Riki Rachtman still out there rocking nearly 3 decades later, drubbing the notion that the party can in fact go on forever, despite the fact that hairlines and knees do not.

Washington D.C. based ‘Thirteen’ is undoubtedly one of these bands. Drawing influences from iconic groups such as Alice In Chains, Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Thirteen is solidly based within the sphere of heavy guitar driven rock. The kind that can light up a tingle in your loins if you sit close enough to the speakers.

Thirteen strives to carrying on that hard rock tradition with the release of their debut EP modestly titled ‘Volume 1’.

I always like to talk about the first track. It’s the first impression that sets the tone for the rest of the thing. It’s the thing that allows me to decide whether I want to continue further, more times often than not I proceed but only with strong demurral. In this case, I wasn’t completely disappointed. ‘Nightingale’ fires forth with guitar squeelies ala Zakk Wylde and vocals that have a whisper of Ozzy. Thirteen noticeably wears their influences on their sleeves like a tight fitting leather arm band.

The only criticism would be that there is a dangerous area a band can run into being so influence-driven. It’s sort of like having a web page where everyone rips off the writing style of Hunter Thompson (yeah I know. But it’s an apt example, hang with me, there is a point). It’s amusing to see everyone else ape and mimic a particular style but in the end no new ground is discovered. It just continues to limp around and mumble nonsense about golf shoes. The material on this EP, while being new, can lean heavily upon things already done, not only by other bands but by Thirteen themselves on other songs throughout the EP. There are at least 3 out of the 10 tracks where the melody is so reminiscent of other songs contained within, I had to double check what I was listening to.

The first single, ‘The Siren’ was produced by, Rocco Guarino and in a short period of time beat its way to the top of the D.C. rock charts, landing squarely at the #1 slot. So, yeah, not too shabby for the first recorded release of an unsigned band. The song’s popularity was no doubt driven in part by its theme. Singing about a sexy chick, expressing masturbatory desires of touching her and her eventual acquiescence. Complete with a “face melting” solo, this possibly could qualify as the most rocking-est rock song of the last decade. Possibly. All Thirteen needs now is a duet with Lady Googaw, or whoever and their legacy is set. HAW!

One more definite highlight that caught my attention is the song ‘Romeo Kiss’. It’s catchy even!

“Feel out of control! Think I’ll start a fire! To burn this memory.”

How Shakespearean! *swoon* It has the drive and infectiousness of anything that came off of Stone Temple Pilots ‘Core’ album way back in 1991. Oddly enough as I type this I am reading that this collection of songs was actually recorded Scott Weiland’s Lavish Studios. Ooooh! Spooky.

Finally, let’s talk about the softer side of Thirteen. Any sane laudation to 90’s hard rock must contain a minimum of two power ballads, right? ‘Time’ is the one that I had to listen to over and over. Normally I hate power ballads, there is another one on the EP, but I hated this one less. The guitar work on this song is very good and worth a listen. The mood it invokes is one of bittersweet, acid washed nostalgia.

In summation, Thirteen, while extremely derivative in many areas is not without their charm. Any fan of late 90’s alternative hard rock would certainly enjoy ‘Volume 1’. Within the first few listens of them I decided to the give them a small chance. They proved that they are certainly chock-full of talent and talent that is something that must be recognized.

Also, you can’t argue with their fan base which is clearly very strong. I can predict with confidence that if there is any amount of fairness in the universe we will all be hearing more from Thirteen. Their website hints at the rapidly upcoming release of the band’s first full length release ‘Save Rock n Roll’ followed by a stint on the road in support of the album. For more on the band or to just keep up with their doings dial up their web page: www.thirteenband.com