Saturday, December 31, 2011

7800° Fahrenheit

Bon Jovi's sophomore release found the New Jersey group continuing with its engaging mix of hard rock dynamics and blatant pop-metal overtones, and primed the pump for the coming popular explosion of Slippery When Wet. Ever since the keyboard call to arms of the breakthrough "Runaway," Bon Jovi had understood that real success lay in a billowing smoke, soft-focus derivation of true metal, where Journey-style synthesizers and soft rock chorus vocals were the name of the game. To that end, 7800° Fahrenheit tempered its black-leather rock & roll with a rudimentary form of the sound that would make Bon Jovi superstars.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Bon Jovi

From the opening track, "Runaway," which rode to glory on E Street Band-mate Roy Bittan's distinctive keyboard riff, to the sweaty arena rock of "Get Ready," which closed the album, Bon Jovi's debut is an often-overlooked minor gem from the early days of hair metal. The songs may be simple and the writing prone to all clich├ęs of the form, but the album boasts a pretty consistent hard rock attack, passionate playing, and a keen sense of melody. The prominence that keyboardist David Bryan (credited as David Rashbaum in the liner notes) gets on this record is an indicator, perhaps, that Bon Jovi had more than a passing interest in the pop market, which was then dominated by new wave and synth pop. Mixing Journey-like '70s rock ("She Don't Know Me") with shout-along stadium anthems ("Love Lies"), the self-titled Bon Jovi lay the foundation for the band's career, which reached its apex several years later with that very same combination of pop melody and arena-sized amibiton.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Disregard of Timekeeping

It shouldn't be surprising that the debut album by a band fronted by Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, would bear a resemblance to the music of Dad's band. But The Disregard of Timekeeping doesn't so much sound like a Led Zeppelin album as it does like one of the solo albums by former Zeppelin singer Robert Plant. That is to say, it is altogether more conventional and controlled -- more pop, in a word -- than Zeppelin, which could be quite adventurous at times. Here, Bonham-the-group sets up majestic guitar/keyboard riff patterns; Daniel McMaster, in a familiar tenor screech, repeats simple chorus hooks; and Bonham-the-drummer pounds away in the familiar hard, woody sound of his father. The result is palatable, but without the famous name it would be hard to distinguish from the army of other Zep imitators.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Boney Fingers

This local band from Kenosha has been long known for their ability to weave acoustic and electric into a root style that bridges the gap between jam rock and blues, Boney Fingers has won the hearts of many fans. While instrumental is the obvious flavor of the day, stellar vocals arrangements keep this band off the slippery slope of degeneration that many jam bands slide down. Top-notch percussion and all around musicianship abounds for a show that caters to a range of tastes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Train of Thought

Saw these guys about 15 years ago in a nightclub. Haven't heard much of them since...Bones of Contention is a six-piece explosion of sound, energy, and excitement. This CD contains all original compositions in the style of "Grateful Dead" and "Little Feat". They are a Jam-band that gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the Mid-West's finest live acts. They use twin guitars and a B3 organ for that psychedelic big sound.For ten years the band developed a unique style of arrangement and performance, which is evident on their second release-"Train of Thought". Think psychedelic blues/rock with a touch of country. Yes sir--this was the bands peak, captured with emotion and vitality. The band has never sounded better, with the original line up intact. Here is the sound of drive and celebration, with songs that run, stroll, laugh, and jump. Bones of Contention : Bob Parduhn on lead/slide guitar and vocals, Rob Giannattiasio on drums, Annie Perry on vocals and percussion, Paul Countryman on guitar and vocals, Jeff Gordon on bass, and of course engineer Scott Finch on piano, organ, and vocals.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Private Eyes

After the breakup of Deep Purple in 1976, guitarist Tommy Bolin wasted little time beginning work on his second solo album, Private Eyes. While it was more of a conventional rock album than its predecessor, Teaser (which served primarily as a showcase for his guitar skills and contained several jazz/rock instrumentals), it was not as potent. The performances aren't as inspired as those on Teaser or even those on Bolin's lone album with Deep Purple, Come Taste the Band, although there a few highlights could be found. The nine-minute rocker "Post Toastee" merges a long jam section with lyrics concerning the dangers of drug addiction, while "Shake the Devil" is similar stylistically. But Bolin wasn't simply a hard-rocker; he was extremely talented with other kinds of music: the quiet, acoustic-based compositions "Hello, Again" and "Gypsy Soul," and the heartbroken ballad "Sweet Burgundy." With his solo career starting to take shape (after the album's release, he opened for some of rock's biggest names: Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Rush, ZZ Top, etc.), Bolin's life was tragically cut short at the end of the year due to a drug overdose in Miami, FL.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Car, Nice Day....

A Kenosha, Wi local band that friends of mine once had. Led by vocalists Dan Lenegar and bassist Dan Buckley along with Blu Steel offers some face melting metal. As with many local bands in the area, they didn't last very long. Lenegar and Buckley are now in a group called Supernaut.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

North Hollywood Shootout

Unlike so many of their jam band peers in the '90s, Blues Traveler had a genuine Top Ten hit with 1995's "Run-Around" -- and unlike the Spin Doctors, their only possible rival in the jam band single race, they didn't implode after their success; they kept rolling, staying on the road and churning out record after record until they faded from the charts. The hits stopped coming and the major-label contract ceased, developments that made the group seem like old-fashioned journeymen, a working band delivering on the promise of its name. On record, this meant they ran lean and sometimes experimental, cutting back to basics on The Bridge and stretching out on Bastartos!, moves that pleased fans and fans only. North Hollywood Shootout is as careful and calculating as Blues Traveler have ever been, a collection of songs with sanded melodies that have the veneer of adult pop and perhaps would be if they weren't sung by the hiccupping John Popper, whose harmonica is often buried far far deep in the mix -- an inadvertent metaphor for the album as a whole, which suppresses the band's identity in favor of a highly burnished set of updated yacht rock. It's an album designed to win back fair-weather fans, which only raises questions: did the group ever have that many in the first place, and are they still around 12 years after "Run-Around"? And if they are, is it worth alienating the faithful with a perfectly pleasant, rather forgettable set of AOR like this?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Truth be Told

Bridge, Blues Traveler's 2001 release, was appropriate. It was definitely a stylistic return to form after their hiatus. But Bridge also brought Blues Traveler back to the world after the death of bassist Bob Sheehan and John Popper's bouts with illness. Truth be Told builds on that momentum, telescoping the veteran combo's sound, history, and experience -- both good and bad ones -- into a strong twelve-song set. There's groove here, and it's a bluesy, tour-tested one. But there are also easily accessible melodies and whip-smart lyrics.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Live: What You and I Have Been Through

Recorded live during their 2011 Fall Tour, Live: What You and I Been Through serves a dedication the the late bassist Bobby Sheehan and to the victims of 9/11 attacks. The brand new line up delivers a punch that Sheehan would proud of...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bridge

Blues Traveler went through a lot after their sequel to Four, Straight on Till Morning, stiffed in 1997. John Popper went through a severe health scare after cutting a schizophrenic solo album and, not long afterward, bassist Bob Sheehan died from a drug overdose. Reeling on both the personal and professional fronts, they took some time off, resurfacing mid-way through 2001 with Bridge. This album cuts back significantly on winding jams, upping the ante with tight songs and performances, a clean muscular production, and a lack of vocal histrionics from Popper. Melodically, they've rarely been stronger, and there's a sense of peace and maturity to the record that's appealing, especially since it's weighted with an undercurrent of loss and experience. This doesn't surface all that often, yet it's enough to provide a substantive center to one of the group's strongest records. They may not be in the public spotlight anymore, but the return to relative anonymity, along with the decade of experience underneath their belt, has mellowed and enriched their music, and while this may not be a record that will win new fans, it's certainly one that satisfies anyone that's taken the journey with them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Red Rocks Ampitheatre Morrison, CO 7/3/98

Part of an annual show played year on the 3rd and 4th of July by Blues Traveler. This particular bootleg contains "Decision of the Skies" and "The Heavens Get Pissed". Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video from this particular show; Here's a clip from Red Rocks 7/4/2011, after the death of bassist Bobby Sheehan.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hard Rock Studios New York, NY 4/18/1997

Recorded live at the Hard Rock Studios in New York during the Straight on Till Morning Tour and rebroadcasted on VH1. Blues Traveler seemed to an exceptional night, interweaving harmonicas and guitar especially on their cover of "Low Rider"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Straight on Till Morning

The commercial success of Four was a mixed blessing for Blues Traveler. It did give them a wider audience, but it also put them in the delicate position of pleasing their new, hook-happy fans while retaining their hardcore, jam-oriented cult following. They skillfully manage to do just that on Straight on Till Morning, the bluesy, ambitious follow-up to Four. On the whole, Straight on Till Morning is a tougher album than any of its predecessors, boasting a gritty sound and several full-on jams. But the key to the album is its length and its sprawling collection of songs, which find Blues Traveler trying anything from country-rock to jangling pop/rock. They manage to be simultaneously succinct and eclectic, and they occasionally throw in a good pop hook or two. Blues Traveler are still too loose to be a true pop/rock band, and John Popper would still benefit from a sense of meter, but Straight on Till Morning is the first studio record that captures the essence of the band.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Live from the Fall

Like any jam-oriented band, Blues Traveler has a reputation for being better in concert than they are in the studio. Therefore, it would make sense that the double-disc Live from the Fall would be the ideal Blue Traveler album, since it allows the band to stretch out and demonstrate its true talents. In a sense, that is true. The two discs -- which were recorded in the fall of 1995, as the band was supporting the surprise success of Four -- do give the band room to improvise, and they exploit the extra space for all of its worth. Initially, Blues Traveler wanted to release without track indexes, so the listener could hear how each song flowed into the next. And the album does sound like that -- like a never-ending medley, where melodic themes pop in and out of the long solos. For fans of pop hits like "Run-Around" and "Hook," this can be a little irritating, but for those who have been with the band since the beginning, Live from the Fall is a priceless document -- more than any other album, this showcases what Blues Traveler is about.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Brendan Byne Arena East Rutherford, NJ 12/15/1995

Another TV appearance by jam band great Blues Traveler. This time at the Z 100 Jingle Ball at the Brendan Byne Arena in New Jersey along with Dave Matthews Band, Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, Soul Asylum, Natalie Merchant and Alanis Morissette. It may be an abridged set, yet shows the band in fine form. This is not the video from the same show, but it's the closet I can come to it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

House of Blues New Orleans, LA 2/16/1995

With the success of their hit single "Run-Around", Blues Traveler started appearing on TV specials everywhere. This time at the House of Blues in New Orleans. This PBS broadcast featured special guest Elwood Blues (Dan Ankroyd)of the Blues Brothers pumping a harmonica alongside Blues Traveler frontman John Popper on "Rock Me, Baby".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

four

Lacking the rootsier edge of Save His Soul, four finds Blues Traveler retreating to their standard blues-boogie formula, with mixed results. Of course, there are some fine songs here -- including their breakthrough hit single, "Run-Around" -- but too often the band sounds like it's coasting. four is a solid record, but it shows signs that the band's formula may be wearing thin.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Save His Soul

Led by the guttural vocals and incisive harmonica of imposing frontman John Popper, Save His Soul is a savory package that dresses obvious influences in a fresh suit of clothes. While six and 12 strings rule, the true inspiration here is Poppers's delivery on harmonica and other wind instruments, which spits in machine-gun-rapid fire or carries a piercing, emotive melody line with equal ease. Having restrained themselves for most of Save His Soul, Blues Traveler close with the seven-minute opus "Fledgling," flowing from epic, orchestral ballad mode to angst-ridden wall-of-noise.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Travelers and Thieves

"I have my moments," John Popper declares, and many of them -- as harmonica player, singer, and lyricist -- are here, on an album that finds Blues Traveler stretching out much as they do on-stage. Popper is a man with a lot on his mind, but when he reaches "The Best Part," his verbosity approaches a Walt Whitman-like exuberance, and guitarist Chan Kinchla is right with him, contributing sweet fills here, Pete Townsend-style strumming there. And as for the rhythm work of bassist Bobby Sheehan and drummer Brenden Hill, as Popper says, "It's all in the groove."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blues Traveler

Blues Traveler's loose jam structures on basic blues riffs mark them as a band in the tradition of such predecessors as the Grateful Dead. Unlike that communal effort, however, this group has a distinct focal point in virtuoso harmonica player and vocalist John Popper, who keeps things from meandering too much.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Curse of the Hidden Mirror

Long Island's favorite metal-lite purveyors continued their comeback in 2001 with this unexpectedly accomplished set of new songs. Boasting the core of the original band with Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser, Eric Bloom, and Alan Lanier, Curse of the Hidden Mirror stays rooted in the group's tough yet jangly approach but ups the ante with strong material that often matches, yet doesn't quite surpass, the band's best music. A return to the stylistic triumph of Agents of Fortune and the similarly titled Mirrors, the revived quintet coalesces around sharp riff-based rockers that show a band that has matured but hasn't lost its cosmic edge. Curse of the Hidden Mirror is a remarkably consistent, subtle, and even poetic album that expands their sci-fi undercurrents without getting lost in space. It's far better than some of the group's limp late-'80s work and stands as one of the finest albums of their nearly three decade -- and counting -- career of evil.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Heaven Forbid

Blue Oyster Cult prove that ten years sometimes doesn't account for all that much on Heaven Forbid, their first new studio album in a decade. Essentially, the group's sound has remained the same, with the same crunching power chords and sci-fi/horror lyrics that characterized their best songs. While the band sounds surprisingly muscular and powerful throughout Heaven Forbid, the material is below par, lacking memorable hooks or melodies. Still, some longtime fans might find the very fact that BOC is back and rocking harder then expected reassuring, and that may be reason enough to check out Heaven Forbid.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Workshop of the Telescopes

Blue Oyster Cult was long in need of a thorough career retrospective, and this is it. Thirty-two tracks filling up two discs with a total running time of 154:46, Workshop of the Telescopes traces BOC through 14 years as the kings of lite metal, 1972-1986. Actually, as annotator Arthur Levy notes, there are at least two phases in that era. The first, running through 1974, includes the classic first two albums, Blue Oyster Cult and Tyranny and Mutation, when BOC was one of the few acts in those pre-punk days bucking the trend toward soft rock without indulging in the more grotesque aspects of heavy metal. This material takes up disc one. Disc two leads off with "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," which launched the second phase of the band's career, when it sought to balance its hard-rocking approach (heard especially in concert) with pop accessibility. Since this period was marked by uneven material, it is ripe for compiling, and the selection here is good. On the whole, Workshop of the Telescopes lives up to Levy's description of it as "the ultimate BOC anthology." It's about time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Live 1976

Blue Oyster Cult was for the most part a touring band, and this European import, released 15 years after the concert it chronicled, shows them at their 1970s touring peak. At the end of 1976, they were touring behind their most successful album, Agents of Fortune, and single, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." They played only ten songs, including their recent hit, old favorites like "Stairway to the Stars" and "Cities on Flame," and their in-concert barnburner "Born To Be Wild," but it took them over 78 minutes to do so, in part because of a version of "This Ain't the Summer of Love" that ran nearly 13 minutes and a "Buck's Boogie" that ran over 19 minutes, many of them given over to a good old-fashioned 1970s drum solo. That and the speech about legalizing marijuana have a touch of nostalgic indulgence, of course, but much of the music is blazing guitar rock, and a listen helps explain why BOC was so loved by its concert fans, even as it was virtually ignored by the music industry and the country in general. Sound quality is good, but rudimentary; the album sounds more like a soundboard tape than a conventionally mixed and EQ'd commercial album. Crank it up, though, and you just might like it better.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nail You Down

Downloaded this off the Internet some years ago then transferred it onto cassette. Due to conflicting sources, still not sure if its a bootleg, an import or a 1992 official release authorized by the band. What is clear is that this is a quality show from Perkins Palace in Pasadena, California on July 23, 1983. Worth getting hands on.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Imaginos

Blue Oyster Cult went out with a bang as a major-label recording act on their 14th and last new Columbia album, Imaginos. The idea for this concept album came as early as Secret Treaties, on which some of its music appeared, and the recording took place over a six-year period. (As a result, album credits give the erroneous impression that the original band had reformed.) The story line, which is easier to appreciate in the liner notes than on the record, concerns a mysterious, protean 19th century figure who has a talent for turning up at key moments in history and influencing them for the worse. This is perhaps BOC's most consistent album, certainly its most uncompromising (none of its usual nods to pop accessibility), and also the closest thing to a real heavy-metal statement from a band that never quite fit that description. Unfortunately, this ambitious work came out as BOC was dropping out of the frontline of the music business, so the album that comes closest to defining Blue Oyster Cult turned into its creative swan song.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Club Ninja

Blue Oyster Cult's gradual disintegration continued with Club Ninja, on which original member Allen Lanier was replaced by keyboard player Tom Zvoncheck, and several compositions from outside the band were featured, notably the Leggart Brothers' "White Flags," and a couple of generic metal exercises by Bob Halligan, who had contributed much the same sort of material to . Judas Priest. On what should have been the positive side, Sandy Pearlman was back in the producer's chair. But he did nothing to arrest BOC's decline into musical anonymity.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Revolution by Night

Blue Oyster Cult seemed to regain their direction with Fire of Unknown Origin, but simultaneously, the band was starting to fragment, with founding member and notable songwriter Albert Bouchard departing. On The Revolution by Night, BOC brought in various hired guns, such as Aldo Nova and former Alice Cooper bandmember Neal Smith, and turned to Loverboy's producer, Bruce Fairbairn who gave them a similar radio-ready rock sound. But though the album brought BOC their fourth (and final) singles chart entry in "Shooting Shark," it lacked a distinctive identity. You could close your eyes and not know whether you were listening to Loverboy or Foreigner or any one of several other arena rock bands. No wonder it became the band's lowest charting album in a decade.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Extraterrestrial Live

Of the Blue Oyster Cults three live albums, Extraterrestrial Live is the one to own. The two-record set, partially recorded on BOC's home base of Long Island, contains the band's biggest hits, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (making its second live appearance) and "Burnin' for You," as well as longtime concert favorites like "Cities on Flame," "The Red and the Black," and "Godzilla." But it isn't just the superior song selection that gives this album the nod over On Your Feet or on Your Knees and Some Enchanted Evening; BOC had regained its momentum in 1981 with Fire of Unknown Origin, and this album demonstrated their renewed spirit in the forum in which they were most comfortable -- live work.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fire of Unknown Origin

Who would have thought that in 1981, after a pair of limp, unfocused studio offerings, and two mixed -- at best -- live outings, that the once mighty Blue Oyster Cult would come back with such a fierce, creative, and uncompromising effort as Fire of Unknown Origin. Here was their finest moment since Agents of Fortune five years earlier, and one of their finest ever. Bringing back into the fold the faithful team who helped articulate their earlier vision, producer Sandy Pearlman, Rich Meltzer, and Patti Smith all helped in the lyric department, as did science-fiction and dark-fantasy writer Micheal Moonrock. The band's sound was augmented by a plethora of keyboards courtesy of Allen Lanier, but nonetheless retained a modicum of its heaviness, and the sheer songwriting craft that had helped separate the band form its peers early on was everywhere evident here.