vendredi 5 janvier 2018

Top Hard Rock Releases of the Year 2017

So here we go, my personal list of my favorite releases of 2017.
Surely I missed some solid records this year so enlighten me in noticing some in the comments section.
I didn't include the albums have been involved with (Gypsy Roller, Smacked! a tribute to Ilari Claude Peltola, Eduardo Martinez and The Thunderclouds) even if they would have deserved to be here.

Now have a look to my list (in no particular order) from Sleaze to Doom. Or the opposite. And a bit of Blues and AOR (as I'm getting older I guess...)

Junkyard "High Water"
(Acetate records)

The band is back on tracks since 2008 (well, something like that) and is performing live on a regular basis. I saw them for the first (and only) time during their European tour in 2009 and it was great.
But the band didn't feel the urge to go back in studio during all these years. Finally they are now delivering their 3rd studio album (25 years after their 2nd) and it was worth the wait !
The raw energy is still here, the quality of the songwriting as well and the sound production and musicianship are great. The album got rave reviews everywhere and its nothing but justice.
"Cut rom The Same Cloth", "'Til The Wheels Fall Off", "Hell Or High Water", "Hellbound" are pure gems. Long live Junkyard !

The Pretty Uglys "s/t"

I told you about the band a few weeks ago so let me quote myself :  "(...) pure dirty, sleazy, good-time Rock N Roll with catchy riffs, great vocal melodies, cocky & debauched lyrics and overall swagger. (...) And while I obviously have my favorites among the 9 tracks featured here, the album is solid from start to finish with no filler (just killer). (...)" Read the whole review here.
Excellent record for any 70s hard rock n roll music fans. My only complain would be that it's only available on CDr. Not that it makes any difference while you are listening to it but it's not coming with a cool packaging, lyrics sheet and tasty artwork. For now.
On heavy rotation for months in my player !

Fireball Ministry "Remember the Story"
(Cleopatra records)

It almost seems like yesterday when I first heard of the band on the Stoner Rock Community List back in the days. They gave away their original tape for free and I was one of the lucky people to get a copy. It was a blast. Shortly after that they've been signed and released their first album.
20 or something years later the band is still kicking and delivering here a brilliant album in the Fireball Ministry tradition : big riffs, catchy melodies, heavy and perfectly balanced songs. And they know how to use a cowbell too !
Plus, they even have Scott Reeder (The Obsessed, Kyuss...) in their ranks now. Possibly their best abum to date. A must have.

Circus of Power "Four"
(Noize In The Attics)

First we get a brand new Junkyard album after several decades and now C.O.P. are treating us the same way. Damn, heavy blues rock n roll is cool again !
The record contains 14 songs, from classic C.O.P. style to stoner rock, and T-Rex or psychedelic influences for good measure. A diverse album that already obtained rave reviews all over the world (wide web). If there are tracks co written by Ricky Mahler and Gary SunshineAlex Mitchell is the only original member left. Since more than a decade Billy Tsounis (guitar) is his sidekick in most of his post C.O.P. bands (Plastic Gator Machine, Fat Nancy, Captain Zapped) and this band reincarnation as well (on and off since 2006). John Sharkey is doing a stellar job on bass while Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Che...) is behind the drumskit doing his magic.
I already knew half of the songs included here in previous carnation over the years so my attention really focused on the new ones. My favorites are probably "Blood At Standing Rock" and "See The Sun" (their groove being quite irresistible) and the first single of the record "Fast and Easy". This one shall probably grab immediate attention from any former Circus Of Power fans.

Jane Lee Hooker "Spiritus"
(Ruff records)

Based in NY this blues rock band is probably one the best in this genre. If not the best. Their first album was mostly filled with blues classics but performed with such urge and bravado that you could have thought the songs were theirs.
This time the new and 2nd album is featuring originals for the most part and the music is still delivered with the same passion and efficiency than on their previous record. The soulful "Mama Said" is a stellar track with every band members on the top of their game. But you won't find much to complain about here, unless you can't stand blues music.  
Dana "Danger" Athens has the pipes to compete with Tina Turner and Betty Davis, the guitars of Tina "T-Bone" Gorin on Fender and Tracy Hightop on Gibson are equally great yet complementary and the rhythm section powered by Hail Mary Zadroga on bass and Melissa "Cool Whip" Houston on drums are tight and groovy enough to allow the songs to really stand out.
"Ends Meet", "Be My Baby", "The Breeze" are other examples of the talent of this wild bunch. Top notch.

Electric Wizard "Wizard Bloody Wizard"
(Witchfinder Records/Spinefarm Records)

Damned ! This new Electric Wizard opus is exactly what I was expecting from them. These days they are back to their original sound and by that I mean records such as "Come my fanatics" or "Electric Wizard". They are heavy, menacing, a bit psychedelic and the sound production stay true to the 70s vibe.
"Necromania" and "Wicked Caresses" are intoxicating and highly addictive. And the rest of the album is equally good.
Brilliant !

Broken Teeth "4 On The Floor"
(EMP Label Group)

There is quite a few AC/DC-ish bands around but few in my opinion really gets it since most of them sound like they only knew a couple of DC's albums from the 80s or 90s even ! Malcom and co were a blues Hard rock band and this record sounds just like that.
The secret ? Simple yet highly effective riffs. And Broken Teeth might be the best at this game nowadays. Their single "Sinful" is a perfect example. The track is so catchy that you can't help but instantly love it. And songs like "Borrowed Time", "Let The War Machine Roll", "All Day Sucker" are equally good so you know that something is happening here.
The band also paid tribute to Lemmy with "Never Dead" demonstrating -if necessary- that they can rock hard and fast as well.
30min of pure 70s hard rock n roll pleasure.

Doll Hazard "Transatlantic Meltdown"
(Train Wreckords)

Doll Hazard is a recording project of Suicide Bombers frontman Chris Damian Doll and Dirtbag Republic's Sandy Hazard. Both aforementioned bands have released albums this year so it was a bit of a surprise to discover these two gentlemen have secretly worked on this record over the past year.
And, obviously I'm enjoying the result. The music is what you would expect from them : sleaze punk rock.
The opening track "Cats Got Your Tongue" grab you instantly and is a reason enough to justify the album to be in this very list. The album is filled with well written anthem ("Rock N' Roll Prostitute", "Fire & Gasoline", "Walk On Water"..., but you will also find the mellower track "Doghouse" which reminds me of Faster Pussycat's "House of Pain". Cool song. And the additional piano is a nice touch.
"You're In My Head" they say. Sure they are in mine. Waiting for a second album now.
The album is only available in physical format (in CD for now, possibly in vinyl in the future) so be wise and order a copy. 

Danzig "Black Laden Crown"
(Evilive/Nuclear Blast)

This most controversial and hated rock figure is back and stayed true to his own style. You don't pick a Danzig record wondering how it's gonna sound, you already know it. But the question is : will it be a good or a bad one ?
As you guessed it I went for the first option. I won't say it's as good as "How the Gods Kill" but close enough to ended in my Top 10.
Because the songs are quite great here with special mention to the first single "Last Ride", "Devil On Hwy 9" and "Pull The Sun" the track that closing the record. The whole album is solid and monolithic as you would expect from such genre so there's no reason you won't like it. 
And admit it : you love to hate him !

Mr. Big "Defying Gravity"
(Frontier records)

I never considered myself as a Mr Big fan. I'm usually listening to an album once and move forward, so I was quite surprised to enjoy their new album that much even if I always recognized that they all were gifted (and hard working) musicians that knew how to write catchy songs and not just showing off like many of their peers. Because the most important thing on a record remains the quality of the songs and the soul within them. And if "Nothing Bad (Bout Feeling Good)" is a bit cheesy, tracks such as "Defying Gravity", "Everybody Needs A Little Trouble" "Open Your Eyes" or "1992" are just brilliant rockers !
You can hear all along the album that these guys are enjoying what they are doing and it was the same on stage when I saw them a couple of months ago.
The record may seem odd on this list but, hey, what can I do ? Everyone has guilty pleasures !

mercredi 3 janvier 2018

Alex Mitchell - Circus of Power's leader interview

2017 has seen two of the best bands from the late 80s released their first albums in 25 years. First, Junkyard delivered the brilliant "High Water" and now, Circus Of Power's "Four" is out. Both records will be featured in my list of the Top releases of the year. But that's another story.
For now let's have a chat with the legendary Alex Mitchell himself.

Hi Al, and thanks for accepting to give me some of your time to discuss Circus Of Power past, present and future but also of your other musical projects over the years.
C.O.P. formed in 1986 and were signed in 1987 by RCA. The band released its first album in 1988. What are your recollection of the early times ?

Going out every night in NYC when it was affordable and interesting, hanging out in Freebeing record store, being broke, having rock and roll dreams, it was a good time to be alive.

From the outside and through the English press I was reading at the time it seemed there was a tight Hard Rock n Roll scene in New York then involving C.O.P., Smashed Gladys, Raging Slab, The Throbs, Cycle Sluts From Hell, Princess Pang... Tell me more about this, myth or reality ? Were your friends or competitors ?

Yeah we were all good friends, some competition yeah but it was a healthy one. A magical time.

The second album "Vices" was also released by RCA. Did the label had a clear vision of what to do with the band and how to promote it ?

I've never been one to criticize labels, that's a cop out to me. 'Making it' has to do with a few things : accessible songs, look and vibe of the band, live performance, videos, tours, right place right time stuff. No regrets.

C.O.P. seemed to have an ever changing line-up back then but still now. What view do you have on this ? 

Bands are difficult beasts to maintain, that's why so many musicians end up hating each other. This version of the band is somewhat fluid, people come and go...

At this period 2 live E.P. have been made available, "Still Alive and Well" and "Live at the Ritz". I can tell you I was quite happy to get them since you never toured France. Did you ever come to Europe and what do you think of these records ?

I think those live records were okay but not great. The Europe shows were very spotty. By that time our band was done.

The third album "Magic and Madness"  was on Columbia records in 1993. What happened with RCA ?

I really don't remember what happened with RCA, I guess we needed a change but that had no effect on us at all, we got worse in my opinion after we left and came to L.A.

Did you pursue some musical project immediately after the demise of C.O.P. or went to other occupations ?

After the band split up I played in some other groups and went back to work but no other band has meant as much to me as Circus, its my baby, my illegitimate son.

In 2003 you self released the one and only Plastic Gator Machine album. What is the origin of this comeback ?

Plastic Gator was a group of friends I knew in L.A. and we put together some jams, I guess I pursued getting a record company but by then things had changed by then.

After that you regularly released new music with Fat Nancy and Captain Zapped mostly. But the only one I never listen to is "The Showbiz Al E.P." Can you give more details on this one ?

There was no Showbiz Al EP. I want to do one and it'll be all Sinatra type songs, some original and some covers. It will be called Showbiz Al's Love Machine.

Billy Tsounis is your main partner in crime since the last 15 years. How did you meet ?

I met Billy through the Music Connection, a magazine here in Los Angeles. Within two minutes we had written the Tea Song, so I knew there was some mojo there.

10 years ago a tribute compilation to C.O.P. has been put together by (my then band Medicine Ball Caravan was part of it). Have you been involved in the making ? And what do you think of the project and the result ? 

No I had nothing to do with the tribute record but thought it was a nice thing for Bob Polomik to do.

Since 2006 C.O.P. are back, at least for live gigs and sometimes with former members involved but you also done a few videos and put online digital singles via your bandcamp page which is no longer working. What led you to make C.O.P.  fully functional again ?

I decided to make it functional again because I got tired of asking the original members to do it and getting turned down,

Last June you told me you were about to record demos for the upcoming album and now 6 months later I got the CD in hands. I didn't expect it would happen so fast, how come ?

We got on a roll songwriting and I guess desperation played a part in it too.

Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Che, ...), an iconic figure of the stoner rock scene is playing drums on the new album. How did he become involved in the recording of "Four" ?

I met Nick Oliveri and he introduced me to Brant Bjork. They were both supposed to play on the record but Nick got busy doing something else. Brant is a good friend and was very good on the record- no practice, no pre production, He just came in and nailed the songs in the studio- the whole thing cost 1500 dollars, amazing.

Some of the songs featured on the album are already known by your followers and were first heard on Plastic gator Machine, Fat Nancy or Captain Zapped records (see below for details *). Why did you decide to re-record these tracks to include them on COP first album in 24 years ?

Those songs are good but they never got listened to, that's why we put them on "Four".

Did all the songs recorded during the album sessions ended up on the record ?

No, we had some more songs and I've been writing tons more.

On "Four" we can find classic C.O.P. tunes, some co-wrote by former members ("Hard Drivin' Sister", "Half a Dozen Roses"), a song really T-Rex ish ("Hot Rod Girls") and a couple of tracks that wouldn't be out of subject on a Stoner rock records ("Blood at Standing Rock", "See The Sun").
Did offer a diverse album was a goal for you ?

We don't think like, okay let's write a stoner song, we just write. I'm not hung up on sticking to one genre, like 'we're a metal band' or 'we're a rap band'... we're just a band, doing whatever the fuck we want. I like diverse records- you don't go into Baskin Robbins and order vanilla every time, there's thirty three fucking flavors in there, enjoy them all.

Do you have plan to tour in the US and in Europe ?

We would love to tour Europe but no plans yet...

How do you see the future of the band and yours ?

'The future is uncertain and the end is always near'- Jim Morrison

* The first appearances of some of the songs :
"American Monster" first appeared on Fat Nancy album, "The Tea Song" (aka "Letters From The Inside") and "Half A Dozen Roses" first appeared on Plastic Gator Machine album, "Sin City Boogie" (aka "Shake That Pussy") first appeared on Captain Zapped "Heavy For Your Head" album, "Hot Rod Girl" on Captain Zapped "s/t"

Alex Mitchell Album Discography

C.O.P. "s/t" (RCA - 1988)
C.O.P. "Still Alive" (RCA/BMG - 1989)
C.O.P. "Vices" (RCA - 1989)
C.O.P. " "Live At The Ritz" (RCA/BMG - 1990)
C.O.P. "Magic & Madness" (Columbia - 1993)
Plastic Gator Machine "Rock 'n' Soul Music!" (self released - 2003)
Uncle Max's Cosmic Band "Licking The Toad In The Black Church" (self released - 2003)
Fat Nancy "Pure American Muscle, Baby" (Perris records - 2005)
Captain Zapped "s/t" (self released - 2010)
Captain Zapped "Heavy For Your Head" (self released - 2011) 
Captain Zapped "Space Age Blues" (self released - 2013)
C.O.P. "Four" (Noise In The Attics records - 2017)

mercredi 6 décembre 2017

The Pretty Uglys are coming for you !

I've been listening to The Pretty Uglys album for months now. And it was about time that I do something about this band here 'cause they delivered one of the best album of the year. Period.

The Pretty Uglys are fronted by singer/guitarist Rex Pena (AKA Rexxy Damage) since quite a few years now but even if older recordings do exist the band only released their self-titled album earlier this year (March 2017) with the involvement of  Armand John Lizzy (Lizzy Lixx) on guitars, some drums and engineer duties, Jonah Weber (Chrome Molly) on rhythm guitars, Billy Johnson (Crusty ol Punk) on bass and piano, Jason Loree (Goldie Gunns) on drums and Willi Lust on bass.
But how do they sound ? Well, pure dirty, sleazy, good-time Rock N Roll with catchy riffs, great vocal melodies, cocky & debauched lyrics and overall swagger.

Starting off with "Sex, Drugs and RnR", the first digital single taken from the album, you immediately figure out that you don't hold a protest record in your hands but a straight-in-your-face 70s rock infused opus.
And while I obviously have my favorites among the 9 tracks featured here, the album is solid from start to finish with no filler (just killer).

"Squeeze it", "Wayward", "Stiches", "Thunderbird blues", "You Turn Me On" or the softer "Life On the Road" are just perfect. The songs will grab you by the crotch and make you beg for more while banging your head.
Not that they reinvented the wheel here -this is absolutely not the point- but they learned their RnR History lessons and how to write songs. With hints to the Stones ("Livin' Ain't Easy It's A Bitch") or Space Age Playboy ("Wayward"), The Pretty Uglys are delivering the goods with taste. Yes. Really.
And one of the things that make a huge difference with a lot of bands nowadays is the quality of the vocals. Rex's voice was meant to sing rock and roll music with attitude, feeling and soul and that exactly what he's doing here.

The sound production of the record is really good as well, including additional percussion, keys (piano, hammond...) and lots of backing vocals to enhance the songs and add to the diversity of the whole album that sounds -thankfully- not too polished or over-compressed but REAL. It's a RnR record for fuck sake !

A video for the last track of the record "Lay Down Your Soul With RnR" is also available (see below). In fact this song was recorded back in 2014 and the video released then. There the band looks like a bunch of deranged inmates wearing New York Dolls outfit and Kiss make-up. 
So you could say that image is part of the Uglys vision : make RnR dangerous (and fun) again.

My wish is that this gem will get a proper release on CD and/or Vinyl with cool artwork and lyrics. So far this album is only available in CDr directly from Rex and the single "Sex, Drugs and RnR" in digital via Uglys Bandcamp page.

Go get it, have fun. And yes, you can thank me for the tip.

The Pretty Uglys "s/t" (2017)
1. Sex, Drugs and rock N Roll
2. You Turn Me On
3. Squeeze It
4. Stiches
5. Life On The Road
6. Wayward
7. Livin' Ain't Easy It's A Bitch
8. Thunderbird Blues
9. Lay Down Your Soul For Rock and Roll

jeudi 16 novembre 2017

Dr Boogie - New single on Spaghetty Town records

Any Is the music loud enough? follower is already familiar with Dr Boogie. And Spaghetty Town records as well.

The independent record label is the home of The Sweet Things and released two 7inch with the aforementioned bunch recently. Now, due to December 8th, they are proudly unleashing one with the most glam Rhythm and Blues band from L.A. : Dr Boogie.

The band already have an album out on Deadbeat records. But while the track "Peanut Butter Blues" has been digitally released a few months ago it remained unavailable in physical format until now, on the B side of this new record. 
On the A side you'll get the song "She's So Tuff", a fiery guitar led RnR anthem in a typical Dr Boogie way. And that probably what any fans is waiting for from them, a perfectly tailored less-than-4mns track, catchy enough to help you to score with anybody that has decent musical tastes. Just don't blow it before the end of the song.

Once again the band is delivering the goods here and are on the top of their game (songwriting, arrangements, sound production) So no reason to not get a piece of vinyl for your collection and neighbors pleasure. Act now, get one of the 200 Red Ltd ed. copy or one in regular black. Whatever suit you best, the quality of the music will remain the same : top notch !

lundi 6 novembre 2017

Circus of Power - Back for good !

Over the last years Circus of Power have been gigging again and releasing digital singles on a regular basis. But now, there is more !

The band originally has its roots in New York and released 3 studio albums at the end of the 80s/early 90s and toured worldwide to support them (well, avoiding France as most of their peers of this era). Then like many others they vanished while everybody's attention were on Nirvana, Pearl Jam or the ill-fated remains of Guns N Roses.

Relocated in L.A. Alex Mitchel, the singer and leader of the pack, didn't stay inactive too long tho' and has self-released  several records with Fat Nancy, Plastic Gator Machine or Uncle Max's Cosmic Band more notably.
But now the man is fully involved in the comeback of COP that is about to release a new album on Noize in the Attics records and aptly named "Four". You can pre-order it here.

First single out of this long-awaited album is the song "Fast & Easy". And there's even a video to go along with it to make it more enjoyable :

The record is due for Dec. 8 and the tracklisting is as follow :

1. Fast and Easy
2. Hard Drivin' Sister
3. Rock Show
4. Princess of Mars
5. Half a Dozen Roses
6. Sin City Boogie
7. American Monster
8. See the Sun
9. Flying to L.A.
10. Hot Rod Girls
11. Lovesick Blues
12. The Tea Song
13. Blood at Standing Rock
14. Come Git Some

mardi 19 septembre 2017

The Sweet Things : On the loose !

If you are familiar with this blog you sure are familiar with The Sweet Things as well. And, obviously, there are news from the New York City enfants terribles rank

As you may remember, last year the band was part of the Digital compilation "Rock is Alive and Well vol.1" (Alive and Kickin') and also release a digital single on Lanark records.
Few months ago they deliver their first 7inch featuring the tracks "Love to Leave" and "Cocaine Asslicker Blues" after signing a deal -in blood and beer I imagine- with Spaghetty Town records.

But sure, you already have your copy spinning on your brand new turntable so no need to go further on this subject.

And since you are so familiar with these cats you sure know that they are close with another New York act called Liza Colby Sound. The same Liza Colby being a permanent guest in the Things gang.
Both bands are starting an American Tour mid October and it would be a shame to miss them. If they toured in France -where I'm living- I sure wouldn't pass on this opportunity to spend a Rock n Roll evening with them. (all Tour details below).

Plus, another 7inch is about to be available, still on Spaghetty Town records, showcasing 2 new recordings : "Slather" (a live favorite) and "Dustianne" (a track I'm not familiar with). Expect raw punk n roll ala Dolls, unapologetic sweat, energy and youth. Yummy !

Now you have no excuses to complain about the lack of Rock n Roll out there.

The Dirty Sweet Sound Tour :

10/18 - Philadelphia, PA - Kung Fu Necktie
10/19 - Pittsburgh, PA - Spirit
10/20 - Mansfield, OH - La Luna
10/21 - Columbus, OH - The Tree Bar
10/22 - Detroit, MI - PJ's Lager House
10/23 - Chicago, IL - Emporium Arcade Bar
10/24 - Newport, KY - Southgate House Revival
10/25 - Nashville, TN - The Cobra
10/26 - Atlanta, GA - The Star Bar
10/27 - Wilmington, NC - Reggies
10/28 - Richmond, VA - Wonderland
10/29 - Washington, DC - Slash and Run

The Sweeet Things Facebook page :
Spaghetty Town reocrds webpages :  /

mardi 14 février 2017

National Nightmare "Night Bus" video, and more !

Yes, I already wrote something about National Nightmare recently but, hey, their first video is now out !

And in case enjoying the vid' isn't enough I'm taking the opportunity here to get more into specifics.

I mentioned it in my previous post but band members have some pedigree, you see.
Bass player Jimi Sero was in the legendary Smack (a big deal for me), drummer Niina Klemis Klemetti is in Barbe-Q-Barbies (and also in The Black Bubbles as lead singer), but what I haven't notice before was that guitarist Ace Mark was in the Californian band Bigelf and singer Sami Haxx in the Species.

So it means quite a lot of records and live gigs worldwide.
No newbies here, but rockers that paid their dues.

Some would promptly tag them a Supergroup or something. I won't.
Because the tag is a tad ridiculous in itself.
But what I'm more incline to say is : "Les National Nightmare sont supers !".
Yes, National Nightmare are a great band. Simple as that.

So, their single Nightbus/Rock'N'Roll Saves Souls is available in Digital (iTunes, Amazon...) and CD.
So go get a copy for Valentine's day or any other day/occasion of this year that suits you.

The band is currently working and recording new tracks and planning to release an album this year. Can't wait !