Archive for the ‘This Week on my I-Pod’ Category

The Freedom of Music: Chuck’s Children

April 9th, 2017
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I once danced onstage with Chuck Berry. Or, to be more precise, Chuck Berry played Johnny B. Goode while I danced five feet away from him. Not, you understand, go-go dancer style in a knit mini or anything weird like that, just danced. Onstage.  

It was 1987, August 8th to be specific. Berry was doing a two show gig at “Mount Chinguacousy” during the Brampton Flower Festival. The first show is a bit legendary in Chuck Berry circles because he fired his band during School Days. Berry was infamously difficult, but even for him firing the band, onstage, mid-show was notable.

The second show went better, however, and Berry got to the last song without so much as a sour word towards the musicians who had been hired to back him. So while closing out Johnny B. Goode, Berry invited some young ladies to dance onstage. One of them was my then girlfriend. Berry called her onstage, and from the angle he called her, I thought he motioned to me. Sadly, both she and I pointed to ourselves and said, “me?”
and when he nodded yes and said back “yes you”, I took my cue and went. It wasn’t until I read about the spoil sport bastards who crashed the stage when Chuck was calling on some girls to come up in that weeks Brampton Guardian that I realized, no, not me.

So I’m dancing beside a guy with a notorious temper on a night when he’s already fired his band once (i.e. maybe not a good night). Looking back I can consider myself lucky I didn’t get conked with his legendary ES-355.

The band Berry fired that night were hired by the promoter of the show. As was Berry’s practice from fairly early on, he toured without a band, and every town he went to his contract stipulated they hire a band. The band would get no rehearsal time with Berry, no chord charts and no set list prior to show. In the recording of that August night, Berry stops School Days and tells the band, no playing during the breaks. He continues the song and in their enthusiasm, they can’t help themselves but add some pickup notes at the end of each break. At songs end he gives them shit in front of everybody and does five songs without them before they return chastened but apparently much improved.

It seems strange to hire a different band for every show, and it can’t have been easy to be one of Berry’s back up players. Bruce Springsteen did the gig once in his pre-fame days, and writing about it years later noted that Berry played his songs on odd keys like Bb and Eb (while everybody and their brothers band plays Johnny B. Goode in ‘A’, the original is actually in ‘Bb’ for instance). But by the same token, it speaks to how common his songs are to play for local bands that he could always find three or four guys, in every town, who knew so many of his songs.

In Rock and Roll Never Forgets, Bob Seger sings about “all of Chuck’s children are out there, playing his licks.” This is what he’s talking about, so many musicians over the years cut their teeth, earned their money playing Chuck Berry’s songs. And occasionally, if you were lucky, Chuck’s children got to step on stage and actually play with him. Lucky, that is, if he didn’t fire you in front of everybody.

Chuck Berry passed away on March 18 at 90-years old. He was one of the truly great performers, and he left a legacy that may be unmatched in rock and roll. May he rest in peace. And if there’s a rock and roll heaven, NO PLAYING DURING THE BREAK!







for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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The Freedom of Music: Back from the Dead

January 2nd, 2017


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Well, it’s over. 2016 is done, gone, finito, and with it goes the musical death toll like no others:sidebar-4

David Bowie
Glenn Frey
Paul Katner
Jimmy Bain
Sonny James
Sir George Martin
Keith Emerson
Frank Sinatra Jr
Jimmie Van Zant
Lonnie Mack
Leonard Cohen
Greg Lake
Rick Parfitt
George Michael

That’s a partial, very partial list. If your a fan of Parliament Funkadelic or Mott the Hoople, traditional blues or jazz, then the list gets worse and worse.

But there’s another name on another list, a list of – so far as I can tell – one. Back from the dead.

Frankie Miller is a Scottish singer/songwriter who had a series of good to excellent album with middling success. He could sing soul like Otis Redding, blues like Delbert McClinton and rock like Rod Stewart. Miller released 9 albums between 1972 and 1984, and had a handful of singles, neither of which charted over well. However, while not a huge commercial success, Miller was one of those guys who made a mark amongst his peers, writing songs for people like Bob Seger, Joe Walsh, Bonnie Tyler, Joe Cocker, The Bellamy Brothers, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart to name just a few.

In 1994 Miller was forming a band with Walsh, Nicky Hopkins and King Crimson’s Ian Wallace. One night in a New York hotel he was writing songs for the new band when his wife decided to call it a night. Miller was writing when she went to bed. Through the night she got up and found Miller on the floor in a pool of his own blood. He had a massive brain haemorrhage, spent five months in a coma, and when he woke up he couldn’t walk or speak, let alone sing. His career was over.

Working on a new album, Rod Stewart enquired whether Miller had any unreleased songs. Miller’s wife, through producer David Mackay, sent “two sacks full of demos.” Mackay decided to create an album of duets with the songs, and Stewart, Walsh, Elton John, Huey lewis, Bonnie Tyler, Kid Rock, Kim Carnes, Paul Carrack, Delbert McClinton and a host of others contributed to the album.

Double Take, Frankie Miller’s newest album is more than just one of the best albums of 2016, more than a resurrection of an artist who is far more worthy of fame and success than he has ever attained.

It’s one singer who 2016 didn’t get to take.

for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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The Freedom of Music: 2112

December 18th, 2016


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

As you get older these little anniversaries come up: 30-years since the final M*A*S*H episode, 35-years since John Lennon &tc. For me, coming of age often seemed to mean music, and two summers ago I quietly marked the 35th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door and the 30th anniversary of Born in the USA. Both seemed natural enough, a landmark of a different time. Occasionally, however, one of these anniversary’s come up that seem unreal. Seinfeld really ended almost 20-years ago? Rush’s 2112 is 40?sidebar-3

Rush’s breakthrough landmark, and possibly their best, album seemed like an April Fool’s joke when it was released April 1, 1976. I was thirteen, and just getting into music. Already into Kiss and BTO, bands like April Wine and Boston would come into my life that year.

And then there was Rush. That summer someone in my sphere discovered this relatively unknown local(ish) band with an album based on the ideas of Ayn Rand. 2112 was startling, fresh and so cool. Who would have thought of creating a world run by Priests and computers, who had made music illegal, and making a 20-minute piece of music around the idea?

And what a piece of music it ultimately was. With an overture to give it classical seriousness, 2112 has an almost perfect musical accompaniment to the Neil Part story. Of course the priests are anthemic, of course the discovery of this old musical instrument in a long forgotten cave is delicate, first tentative, then wondrous. Of course the presentation of this instrument to the priests is offered with melodic joy, and rejected with anger. Of course a final battle ensues, all chromatics and cymbals. It is, if nothing else, a great adventure in storytelling through music.

We loved Rush, and for the next few years flocked to their concerts, bought the albums with relish, tried desperately to figure out how they were playing those songs. And as much as I loved Farewell to Kings, respected what they were doing on Hemispheres, I always returned to the amazing 2112.

So when Universal Music announced this fall they were releasing a 2112 40th anniversary package, which hit the stores Friday, I was a bit taken aback. Can I really have been that into music for 40 years now? The answer is, undoubtedly, yes, It’s been 40-years of finding music to be more than something to listen to, dance to, seduce with. It has been 40-years since I found music magical and wondrous, since I studied music to try and understand it. A lifetime by any definition.

The new release comes with a 2CD/DVD edition, a 3LP vinyl edition and, of course (sigh) a Super Deluxe Edition with both CDs, the DVD, all three LPs plus its bonus items, and several exclusive collectable items including two 12-inch x 12-inch lithos, one featuring Hugh Syme’s original Starman pencil sketching, the second showcasing a 1976 Massey Hall ticket stub; a reprint of the 1976 Massey Hall handbill and three buttons featuring each band member, all housed in a box lined with velvet flocking. As well, the first 1,000 Super Deluxe pre-order purchases at, and, the purchaser will receive a limited edition 7-inch pressing of the album’s first single “The Twilight Zone” (b/w “Lessons”) and a custom red star 45 large hole adapter ring, both newly designed by Hugh Syme.

The music is as good as remembered, and possibly better if you include side two in the mix. The much forgotten second side has five mostly forgotten songs. Of the five, only Passage to Bangkok and Something for Nothing is really remembered. The rest, however, probably doesn’t deserve they’re fate, and as noted above The Twilight Zone was the albums first single. Tears is a pretty ballad, the kind Rush didn’t really do. Overall, side two is very good, which suffers only for not being anywhere near as good as side one.

The bonus disk includes tracks from 2112 as played by, well, not Rush, as well as some live tracks. I can always live without the Dave Grohl portion of just about every bonus disk, and while Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Nick Raskulinecz do a respectable Overture, it seems pointless. Same applies to Billy Talent’s Bangkok, Steven WIlson’s Twilight Zone, Alice in Chain’s Tears and Jacob Moon’s Something for Nothing. They are respectable covers, but none improve on the original.

More interesting is the live outtakes of 2112 and Something for Nothing from Rush 1976 Massey Hall concerts which produced the excellent All the Worlds a Stage album. A live Twilight Zone from 1977 also adds to the package, providing a glimpse of Rush as they were onstage at that time.

It seems weird that Rush 2112 was so long ago, especially as it still sounds so fresh. Taking the time to rediscover this gem of the rock and roll canon is well worth it.

for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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The Freedom of Music: Somebody Somewhere Must Be Tolling a Bell

June 15th, 2015
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

There’s something I’ve always wondered about Meatloaf’s phenomenal debut album, Bat out of Hell: what did the session guys (and what session guys!) think when they first heard the complete album? In my minds eye, when Roy Bitten or Max Weinberg recorded their part, they showed up, laid down the basic track, took their cheque and went on their way. sidebar-4Meanwhile, Jim Steinman, Meatlaof and producer Todd Rundgeren went to work adding overdubs, layering vocals and building what would become the final album. One day a few months later a record company courier shows up at the door with the finished product. You put the record on, sit down to hear what you’ve created and… holy crap!

The album opens with rockin’ piano song, but a guitar that rumbles like a motorcycle has been added, and this guy is singing about dying in a spectacular crash, and there’s a virtual choir of background vocals, and so much going on. This is sophisticated, and smart and dark, and this flat out rocks. And you wonder if Roy Bitten, sitting in his living room with his wife, stared at her in disbelief as she said, “what is this?”

Or maybe he hates the album and always has, what do I know?

The thing is, though, it is all those things I mentioned. When it was released in 1976 it hit like a bomb dropping on the scene. I was in grade 9 when Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad was atop the CHUM Chart , and I can tell you, we were blown away. It was so intense, and so different than anything we had heard before. This wasn’t just good, it was mesmerizing. It was also, that summer and for too many after, inescapable. It was everywhere. I have danced/acted out Paradise by the Dashboard Light at too many weddings, with too many rye and gingers flooding my bloodstream. And so, due to overexposure, Bat out of Hell stopped getting played. I own the CD, but I wonder if I’ve listened to it half a dozen times – it certainly never got transferred to my iPod until recently.

So not having listened to the entire album in years, possibly as much as 20, I was once again blown away by how good it is. How strong the songwriting, how good the vocals, how dramatic the performances?

During the early days of Bat out of Hell, before it was a successful album – before anyone thought it might be a successful album, Meatloaf played the CBS convention (his record company) in New Orleans. The hall filled with record company employees, he played the entire album, finishing, as the album does with For Crying Out Loud. For Crying Out Loud is a beautiful ballad, that builds and grows and conjures up so many emotions in eight-minutes. It wonderfully showcases both Meatloaf’s powerful voice and Steinman’s knack for dynamics and lyrics. It is incredibly dramatic and dynamic, and I can’t imagine being in a smallish room hearing it done right. Just after the six-minute mark, the piano drops off and Meatloaf sings a series of statements and responses. Piano and voice builds under the words:

For taking in the rain when I’m feeling dry
For giving me answers when I’m asking you why
And my ohh my
For that I thank you

For taking in the sun when I’m feeling I’m so cold
For giving me a child when my body is old
And don’t you know
for that I need you

For coming to my room when you know I’m alone
For finding me a highway and driving me home
And you gotta know
for that I serve you

For pulling me away when I’m starting to fall
For revving me up when I’m starting to stall
And all in all
For that I want you

For taking and for giving and for playing the game
For praying for my future in the days that remain
Oh Lord
for that I hold you

Ah but most of all
For cryin’ out loud
For that I love you

Ah but most of all
For cryin’ out loud
For that I love you

When you’re crying out loud
You know I love you

Singing it, Meatloaf closes his eyes and lets his voice, the words do their magic. By the time he’s done, there’s dead silence in the audience. “I had time enough to think this one thought: ‘They’ve all left.’” he writes in his autobiography.

They didn’t. Rather, their breath had been taken away, and the massive applause the performance deserved came about five seconds later. It was the night everything changed: Meatloaf went from being a minor act on the record company roster to a priority within the company: “Whether they hated Bat out of Hell with a passion or not, they finally got behind it,” he writes.

As an aside, notice two things about the words above lyrics. The “Oh Lord” after the line about praying. And how the focus changes in the last two lines from what she can does for him to what he can do for her: “When you’re crying out loud, you know I love you.” Two subtle touches that explain why Jim Steinman is a world famous songwriter, and I write blog posts about him.

From the opening growl to the final astounding vocal performance, Bat out of Hell is compelling and brilliant. You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth, Heaven Can Wait, All Revved Up With No Place to Go, passionate, beautiful, rock’n. Then there’s the mega-hits, the stunning romantic (sort of) ballad Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, and the rock and roll story of teenage lust Paradise By the Dashboard Light.

It’s an album without a weakness, although Paradise’s familiarity sometimes feels like weakness. But from that opening piano to Meatloaf’s eyes-closed finale, that image of Roy Bittan getting his white label copy, dropping the needle for the first time, lingers.

for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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The Freedom of Music: Rock is Dead They Say

May 31st, 2015
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

“Hope I die before I get old,” Roger Daltrey sang in 1965. Fast forward 50-years and last week at a concert in Long Island, Daltrey threatened to walk off stage if someone smoking a joint up front didn’t put the joint out. One wonders if his specific request used the line “get off the grass!”? Pete Townsend, writer of the above line, followed Daltrey’s threat with a suggestion the offending pot smoker take his medication in suppository form. It’s like Grumpy Old Men 3: the Rock and Roll Tour™.sidebar-1

“How the hell am I supposed to hear myself sing with you people clinking your ice-cubes around in your glass?” Frank Sinatra never yelled at his audience. Sinatra died at 82 and performed until about a year before his death, when heart problems, bladder cancer and dementia forced him to stop performing. The smell of scotch never becoming an issue with Frank, even as he was dying of what was basically old age, Sinatra never seemed quite as old as The Who’s lead singer. Daltrey, now 71, for the last several years has kept his light, curly hair cut short and wears small colored glasses, looking more like your Granny than Tommy.

But the Who came of age when Sinatra was middle aged. They cut their teeth the 60’s in front of the stoned hippies and cemented their reputations in the 70’s in front the of the hippies ever more stoned brothers and sisters. Smoking a joint was as much a part of the experience as the music was.

Here’s another Townsend penned line that Daltrey sang:

long live rock, be it dead or alive.

When rock has been reduced to a nostalgic hippy paying $100 to have Roger Daltrey’s granny yell at him to get off the grass, then it has lived long – long past it’s dead date.

for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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The Freedom of Music: Making Change with the Rival Sons

August 24th, 2014
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

In February 2013 I was taking my wife for a weekend away in Kingston, Ontario. sidebar-7In preparation, I checked what’s on for that week and noticed the Rival Sons playing at a local bar for a $20 cover. Unfortunately, they were playing Kingston mid-week, before we got there, and were playing in my part of the world on the weekend when we would be in Kingston. I didn’t end up seeing them, but I called a friend and told him to make sure he did. “One day, you’ll brag to people that you saw these guys in a bar for $20,” I told him. “They’re that good.”

I’ve been doing Freedom of Music for eight-and-a-half years now, first as This week on my iPod” in February 2008, then in it’s current formation as The Freedom of Music in September of that year. Always it was the same though, essays on music, with some reviews thrown in for good measure.

In 2011 I got sent an album to review. This was new. In three years writing about music, nobody in the business itself seemed to notice. But that summer I started to receive notices, this artist has that video you may want to share, that sort of thing. Occasionally I’d get a song to review. No soap, I said to myself. Send me an album, I give you your review, but I’m not reviewing a YouTube video or a song. Then I got the email I was looking for, a complete album for download. An album by a new band that I had never heard of, but sounded interesting. An album I would quickly love: The Rival SonsPressure & Time.

Since then I get more and better offers to review music, including A-list material. Recently I had pre-reviews of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Deluxe Edition remaster, Kiss 40 and Bob Marley’s 40th anniversary re-release. That’s pretty significant music to be reviewed on my little blog.

This week a change came, a change that was a long time coming, but had it’s genesis in that first Rival Sons review. This blog was originally intended to be primarily political, with social commentary thrown in. But it was also meant to have some other aspects, music, the arts, poetry &tc. meshed in with the political commentary. As time as gone, politics and social commentary has gone out of At Home in Hespeler, the arts side increased, specifically music. It was, is, time to make the change to music/arts blog.

Sitting here three years later listening to Great Western Valkyrie, the latest, unbelievably good, Rival Sons album, I’m wondering what form these changes will take. Will I really have time for two or three album reviews a week, a book review, a Friday video post, Saturday Fluffernutter and this Sunday feature? Possibly not, but I do know, Freedom of Music is going nowhere. It will however, change. No more reviews, they will go in the main body of the blog on weekdays. The Freedom of Music will be saved for essays on music, and joined with another rarely done feature, Fluffernutter at the Movies (I might need new names for all this stuff), which will, I think, take the occasionally Sunday morning place of Freedom of Music.

Meanwhile, I’m off to Toronto for a day where I will almost certainly pick up Great Western Valkyrie,. It’s too good not to have on Vinyl and I can’t wait to hear songs like Electric Man, Good Things and Open My Eyes coming from my turntable instead of my earbuds. If you’re looking for some music to go with your Sunday morning coffee, may I recommend Rachael Ann Weiss, for whom I was sent three songs this week (not enough for a full review in my opinion, but enough to recommend you check her out) and thought she was great.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

Freedom of Music: California Breed

May 18th, 2014
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

It’s an easy temptation to compare California Breed to it’s predecessor, Black Country Communion. To look upon Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham’s new power trio as BCC minus Joe Bonamassa and Derek Shirinian, as their debut album as the fourth BCC studio effort. Easy, but wrong. A far better comparative would be Hughes 70’s power trio, Trapeze, with the California Breed album slotting itself musically in a natural progression after 1970’s Medussa and ’72’s You Are The Music… We’re Just the Band.

California Breed is in fact exactly as advertised, a power trio of the old school. As much as the narrative on Black Country Communion was a band out of the 70’s, there was always something about that story that rang false. California Breed is far closer in feel and mood to a 70’s band, with the twist that guitarist Andrew Watt often sounds straight out of the 90’s grunge movement.

The problem is, the power-push rhythm section is missing the tempering quality of Bonamassa, his instinctively melodic lines that make sense of the rhythm sections natural inkling to roll with power for the entire album. While Watt is a good guitar player, he is too inclined to join the raucous fun, with the end result being an album that is thunderously rockin’ and entirely forgettable.

That’s not to say that there are no softer moments, no ballads. But even the ballads, such as All Falls Down and Chemical Rain, are driven by a distorted guitar instead of defaulting to an acoustic (Breathe being the exception, using an acoustic throughout). The Ballads however, along with Sweet Tea, despite it’s obvious similarity with Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love, and Spit You Out are the albums highlights.

The problem falls in a number of heavy (as in plodding) numbers that sound more or less alike and are meaningless, loud and otherwise boring: The Grey; Days they Come; Strong; Invisible and Scars are interchangeable and boring in spite of their volume.

The reality is I want to like this album, I like Glenn Hughes and, as a loyal Led Zeppelin fan am cheering for Jason Bonham to do well. I want to like this album, but I just can’t. It has it’s moments where it’s good, but it has far too many that detract from the good within. I want to like it, but I know the truth is, having reviewed it, I will probably never listen to it again.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

The Freedom of Music: Divas

May 11th, 2014
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I’m not one for the current crop of pop stars. In the best imitation of my parents that I can do, it often occurs to me ‘that’s not really music.’ Over-reliance on computer tricks, double-taping the vocals and too many dancers on stage make a guy wonder if they’re hiding what they don’t have by spending a fortune on show. sidebar-1 But less face it, I write on music because I love music. As much as I have my fair share of the miserable old bastard about me, if somebody who I previously dismissed manages to blow my socks off, I’ll not stand there saying, “but, but…”

Nobody hides on a Broadway stage. You either have the stuff, or you die up there while the critics in the pit rip you apart. So when my daughter and I went to see Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella in Rogers and Hammerstein’s stage variation on the beloved fairy tale, I was skeptical. Jepsen, the Call Me Maybe hit-maker, is cute as a button and perky like Tigger. But can she sing with the auto-tune in the off position?

Short answer: oh yes, she can. Jepson as Cinderella was a) cute as a button b) perky like Tigger and c) sang the Rogers and Hammerstein score flawlessly. I may never be a Call Me Maybe fan, but I’ll tell you what I know: Carly Rae Jepsen can sing.

But when it comes to female pop singers, nobody’s bigger than Beyonce. She has it all, the designer clothes, multi change stage show, half-naked dancers, celebrity rapper husband and Time Magazine cover. But it’s easy to see the pictures of the celebrity couples baby, Ivy Blue, in the celebrity magazine’s and the Pepsi sponsorship and forget she came out of a vocal group, Destiny’s Child.

Watching the 2008 movie Cadillac Records, about the success of Chess Records, Beyonce, starring as Etta James sings an astounding version of I’d Rather Go Blind. It is a performance of a classic song that sends chills up the spine. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must watch, just so you can put aside whatever bias you have against Beyonce, she’s that good in this movie.

At the risk of repeating myself: Beyonce can sing.

No, I’m not running out to buy Beyonce, or Carly Rae Jepson’s records, and because the evidence suggests these two women can sing, doesn’t mean Lady Gaga, Madonna or Brittany Spears automatically can. There’s still too much trickery, not enough relying on talent. But it’s useful to remember that just because talent isn’t immediately evident, doesn’t mean it’s absent.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

The Freedom of Music: The Kiss Circus

April 27th, 2014


One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

A couple of weeks ago I went digging through some old boxes and emerged with my 1976 Kiss Army package: five 8×10 colour glossy pictures; Kiss Army sticker; Kiss Army iron on t-shirt transfer; Kiss tattoos; Kiss Bicentennial drum and fife poster. A years worth of quarterly newsletters, invariably designed to sell you product, were also in the envelope. This is to say, when Kiss first created a fan club called the Kiss Army, and I was in. When Kiss re-released their first three albums as The Originals, I bought my first box set. When Destroyer and Rock and Roll Over came out, I was a release day buyer and I saw them on the Destroyer tour. I was, in short, a big Kiss fan.

sidebar-2 I still listen to them once in a while, Alive, mostly, simply because it’s heads and shoulders above everything else they’ve done. They’re live DVD set, Kissology Volume 1 (1974-1977) sits in my home gym, getting the occasional play while I’m working out. Of the time, Kiss is a hungry, hard working band with some decent, pop oriented rock songs, performed by a group of serviceable musicians. they were, in short, a decent band. But a Hall of Fame band?

The Rock and Roll Hall of fame rules allow a group or artist to be inducted 25-years after the release of their first record. Kiss was then eligible in 1999. Fans of the band spent the next 15-years complaining that if anybody belonged in, Kiss did. Based on some of the selections that were made, they had a point. But the nominating committee was unmoved. “Kiss is a circus, not a top tier rock and roll act,” was the attitude. “Call us when your the latter.” This year, fans became eligible to vote and the Kiss Army got out the vote. Kiss then spent the time leading up to the induction proving the Rock-Hall right: they were a circus.

The vote for Kiss was so much higher than the next artist, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had no choice but to induct them. However, they caveated, original members only. “If that blogger from Hespeler doesn’t have an album with you on it in his basement,” Hall President Terry Stewart might have told Kiss’ publicity department, “you’re not in.” A quick check of my records and congratulation Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. The rest of you? Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John and Bruce Kulick? so sorry; Eric Carr? A tragedy, but no. Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer? The band won’t let you go onstage as yourselves, so why should we? No, said the Hall, new rule: original members only.

Paul Stanley then spent the next month putting to rest any reputation he might have had as a nice guy. He would, to paraphrase an old George Carlin joke, play with guys who look like Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, but he would not be seen on stage with them. He detonated a devastating blow to irony meters around the world, complaining the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is some private, capitalist organization run by private individuals. (Kiss, on the other hand, apparently is all about their altruism and artistic integrity.)

And so, two weeks ago, The Originals stood on stage, thanked Bill Acoin, the other members, Neil Bogart and various others who helped Kiss through the years. Then they walked off stage, not a note of music to be played by any member of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band. By the time the E-Street Band had finished thanking half the population of the continental United States, and went onstage to play, the circus had left town.

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The Freedom of Music: Review: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

March 23rd, 2014
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

In May, 1973, Elton John and his band abandoned recording sessions in Jamaica and journeyed to France to have as second go at recording their sixth album in three years. Seventeen days later they had a seventeen-song double album, mixed and ready to go. 70-2527b

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road may not be Elton John’s best overall album, I give the nod to Captan Fantastic or Madman Across the Water myself. But with an opening four songs that consists of Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets and the title track, it’s hard to argue there’s a better collection of songs, by anybody, that isn’t a greatest hits album. If reduced to a single album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would consist of those four songs (which is all of side one, and the first song of side 2), add Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting and Harmony, and have Grey Seal, I’ve Seen That Movie Too, All the Girls Love Alice, Your Sister Can’t Twist but She Can Rock and Roll to pick between for the last song or two. Instead, Elton went for a double album masterpiece, and almost succeeded.

Newly remastered by one of the industry’s best, Robert Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, and hitting stores this week, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road gets a major sound upgrade, bringing clarity to the music and energy to the groove. The new mastering, to put it simply, rocks. Add to that a tribute/singles disc, plus a two-disk live show from 1973, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is good enough to buy again. The Deluxe Edition features the original remastered album, a bonus disc with cover versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road songs, two discs of a live, 1973 show from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tour, a bonus DVD and a 100 page hardback book.

Appearing live at Hammersmith Odeon in December, 1973, John was at the top of his game as a musician, singer and performer. He was, by then, in the superstar pantheon with a superb, well honed band. The concert, in short, as presented here, is excellent. John has always been, and still is, a superb live performer, but he may never have been better than he was in the mid-70’s. The Hammersmith Odeon gig, given over to disc three and four in this Deluxe Edition is presented as exhibit A.

elton-john-8bThe second disc in the four disc set is the weak link on this edition. Starting with nine of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s seventeen songs performed by modern artists, the tribute shows John and writing partner Bernie Taupin’s songs as being versatile and mouldable and most of the performances are very good: Hunter Hayes’ Goodbye yellow Brick Road and The Band Perry’s Grey Seal were notable, as was bluegrassers Zac Brown Band’s stunning version of Harmony. Ed Sheeran’s alt- rock acoustic guitar version of Candle in the Wind works surprisingly well and had he opted for a ukulele instead of guitar, much like Clem Snide did with Journey’s Faithfully, it might be the highlight of the album. Even Miguel’s version of Bennie and the Jets, featuring a rap by Wale, surprised with how well it works.

Had they followed the tribute disc idea through to the complete album, this may have worked better. Instead they opted for half a disc of tribute and half “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisited.” Featuring alternate versions, outtakes and, weirdly, a couple of non-album hits from the era. The net result is the second disc feels unfocused and at times confusing.

As an overall package, however, the new remastered Deluxe Edition is simply excellent and well worth picking up for any Elton John fan.

Disc 1

cover-low-resGoodbye Yellow Brick Road 2014 ReMaster
1 / Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
2 / Candle in The Wind
3 / Bennie and The Jets
4 / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
5 / This Song Has No Title
6 / Grey Seal
7 / Jamaica Jerk-off
8 / I’ve Seen That Movie Too
9 / Sweet Painted lady
10 / The Ballad of Danny Bailey [1909-1934]
11 / Dirty Little Girl
12 / All The Girls Love Alice
13 / Your Sister Can’t Twist [but She Can Rock ’n Roll]
14 / Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
15 / Roy Rogers
16 / Social Disease
17 / Harmony

Disc 2

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Revisited

1 / Candle in The wind performed by Ed Sheeran
2 / Bennie and The Jets performed by Miguel, featuring Wale
3 / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road performed by Hunter Hayes
4 / Grey Seal performed by The Band Perry
5 / Sweet Painted Lady performed by John Grant
6 / All The Girls Love Alice performed by Emeli Sandé
7 / Your Sister Can’t Twist [but She Can Rock ’n Roll] performed by Imelda May
8 / Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting performed by Fall Out Boy
9 / Harmony performed by Zac Brown Band

Beyond The Yellow Brick Road

10 / Grey Seal – Piano demo
11 / Grey Seal – Version 1970
12 / Jack Rabbit
13 / Whenever You’re Ready [We’ll Go Steady Again]
14 / Screw You [Young Man’s Blues]
15 / Candle in The Wind – acoustic Mix
16 / Step into Christmas/Ho! Ho! Ho! [Who’d be a Turkey at Christmas]
18 / Philadelphia Freedom
19 / Pinball Wizard


Elton John Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December, 1973

Part 1:
1 / Funeral For a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
2 / Candle in The Wind
3 / Hercules
4 / Rocket Man
5 / Bennie and The Jets
6 / Daniel
7 / This Song Has No Title
8 / Honky Cat

Part 2:
1 / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
2 / The Ballad of Danny Bailey [1909-1934]
3 / Elderberry Wine
4 / Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
5 / I’ve Seen That Movie Too
6 / All The Girls Love Alice
7 / Crocodile Rock
8 / Your Song
9 / Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Also included in the Bonus Edition a DVD: Elton John And Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye To Norma Jean And Other Things plus a 100 Page Hardback Book – packed with rare photos, memorabilia and a new essay containing interviews with Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

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The Freedom of Music: Long Lost Song

March 10th, 2013
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Bob Segarini is a California born musician, who made a nem for himself mostly in aCanada, He known for his songwriting as much as performance.sidebar-2 With a number of albums and a couple of charting singes, Segarini had a nice career in the 70’s Canadian music scene. And when April Wine, a band with a number of original songs under it’s belt by 1977, opened for the Rolling Stones at the El Mocambo in that year, the subsequent live album had 2 Segarini penned tunes: Teenage Love and Juvenile Delinquent.

In the early 80’s, Segarini took a gig as a night time radio host Toronto’s newest rock radio station, Q107. He worked under the nom de plume The Iceman, and with his distinctive deep – very deep – voice he was unique in the Toronto radio landscape. His rant against Iron Maiden and their song Number of the Beast, at a time when rock music was under pressure for supposed links to Satinism, is one of the most memorable half minutes on radio.

By the mid-1980’s he was in the coveted afternoon drive slot on Q107, after a few years hiatus from the radio business. At the same time, I was working at my local IGA, spending afternoons in the basement trimming lettuce, bagging oranges and doing all the various and sundry duties that your local green grocer spends his afternoons doing. Naturally, I listened to the radio: The Iceman on Q107.

In 1984 he began playing a cool song at the same time every day. For what seemed longer, but can only have been a couple of weeks, this song would come on and there would be a few of us around the radio. Then, after a few weeks, he stopped playing it, just as suddenly as he started. The song just went away. Life’s busy and some song by a one hit wonder gets lost in the mix. I never went out and bought the single or the album, so the song faded from memory.

Over the years I thought of the song, wondered why I never heard it again? Occasional internet searches produced nothing, and seeing as I couldn’t remember what it was called or who sang it, that’s hardly surprising. It was possible the singer was a Kershaw, and as it bore a similarity to Nik Kershaw’s Wouldn’t it be Good, that seemed possible, but searches of his discography, as well as Sammy and Doug Kershaw’s respective discography’s produced nothing. That seems hardly surprising considering all I remembered was it was the early 80’s, and he sang something about Uncle Sonny coming home from prison. Not much to go on.

A few weeks ago on an message board, a thread about songs that you can’t find popped up. I posted more or less the above description of the song: played in the early 80’s on Iceman’s radio show on Q107; About an uncle coming home from prison. It seemed unlikely that anyone would be able to pin down my song from that, and alas, it was… for 4-minutes anyway. On minute five, someone responded:

I’m thinking that this song could be Tony Carey’s, “A Fine Fine Day”, which was a huge hit from Canada.

With included YouTube video (no wonder it took so long to reply, having to find the video first and all), I could confirm in a matter of one verse and chorus that this was, in fact, the song I wondered what the hell it was called for twenty-plus years.

Say what you want about how the internet has ruined the music business, but I have wondered what this song is called for years, and within ten minutes of asking on a website I was on iTunes, spending 69c for a song that would have cost me 99c in 1984, if I had bought the single. After all these years, Tony Carey is finally getting the few pennies I feel I owe him, for the mystery he has added to my life if nothing else.

It’s in truth just a pretty good 80’s song. The writing is good, and comes with an actual storyline, and the chorus has a solid pop hook. The verse, however, is dragged down by cheesy 80’s synth sound where an overdriven guitar would improve it immensely. None the less, I’ve listened to it more in the last couple of weeks than I probably ever heard it in 1984, and doubt I will ever forget the chorus again.

What a treat it has been, a long lost gem, returned to me to enjoy again and again. It is, indeed, a fine, fine day.

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The Freedom of Music: The Day the Music Died

February 3rd, 2013
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I wrote this on t eh 50th anniversary of the plane crash that took the lives of early rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, JP Richardson,  Ritchie Valens and pilot Roger Peterson. Today is the 54th anniversary, and since it happens to fall on a Sunday, I’ll repeat the post:


On Feb 3rd 1959, 54 years ago today, The Winter Dance Party, a travelling rock and roll show, played at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. The show featured Frankie Sardo, Dion & The Belmonts, The Big Bopper, Bobby Vee & The Shadows, Jimmy Clanton, Ritchie Valens, Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Buddy Holly and the Crickets headlined.

portraitThe show was moving on to Fargo North Dakota, and Holly chartered a A Beech Bonanza for his band. However, his band didn’t go. Instead, bassist Waylon Jennings gave his seat to The Big Bopper, J.P. Richardson, who had the Flu, and guitarist Tommy Allsup gave his to Ricthie Valens, who won a coin toss at the ballroom for Allsup’ seat on the plane. Upon hearing of the new flying arrangements, Holly told Jennings, “Well, I hope your ol’ bus freezes up,” to which Jennings replied “Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” Jennings was haunted by the exchange for the rest of his life.

The rest can be told best by the Civil Aeronautics Board:

The aircraft was observed to take off toward the south in a normal manner, turn and climb to an estimated altitude of 800 feet, and then head in a northwesterly direction. When approximately 5 miles had been traversed, the tail light of the aircraft was seen to descend gradually until it disappeared from sight. Following this, many unsuccessful attempts were made to contact the aircraft by radio. The wreckage was found in a filed later that morning.

All aboard the flight died. The only body in the wreckage was that of pilot Roger Peterson. Both Holly and Valens were found seventeen feet from the plane, Richardson’s forty feet.

It was the first major death of the rock and roll era. Twelve years later Don McLean would write American Pie about the accident, noting it was The Day The Music Died. It is a phrase that has stuck and is today generally regarded as such.

There would be more deaths of the rockers we loved. Last week another plane crash, the Lynyrd Skynyrd one was in the news, and Jim Croce also perished in a small plane. There are too many to mention that went by substance abuse, some in car crashes, some suicides. But the Day the Music Died is unquestionably the most remembered, the most cited.

Buddy Holly is, fifty years later, still a major musical figure, one of the absolute greats of rock and roll. Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper less so. But all three are remembered today as pioneers in the music so many of us came to love.

A long, long time ago…

I can still remember

How that music used to make me smile.

And I knew if I had my chance

That I could make those people dance

And, maybe, they?d be happy for a while.

But february made me shiver

With every paper I?d deliver.

Bad news on the doorstep;

I couldn?t take one more step.

I can?t remember if I cried

When I read about his widowed bride,

But something touched me deep inside

The day the music died…

And in the streets: the children screamed,

The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.

But not a word was spoken;

The church bells all were broken.

And the three men I admire most:

The father, son, and the holy ghost,

They caught the last train for the coast

The day the music died.

Well, that’ll be the day, when you say goodbye

Yes, that’ll be the day, when you make me cry

You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie

‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die

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The Freedom of Music: The Season’s First Christmas Present

December 23rd, 2012
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Early this month the website Landmark Report had a Mark Steyn/Jessica Martin Christmas CD, Making Spirits Bright, giveaway. Write us about your favourite part of Christmas (“what’s you’re favourite?” as Buddy the Elf might ask), and the top ten will win a CD. Seeing as I like to write, like Mark Steyn and Christmas is my favourite, I dutifully sat and composed a short essay on Christmas music. sidebar-1

I am glad to say, I won. Here’s what I wrote:

For me Christmas is about the music. All of it. The deeply religious music of the baroque, the pop standards of the post war era or the rock pop songs that have become so common. Give me a snowy day in December and a song with the word Christmas somewhere, anywhere, in it, and I am somehow moved.

“There’s something about Christmas time,” Bryan Adams sings. In what is an otherwise mediocre song, I get chills when Adams sings about Christmas. The week before Christmas my iPod runneth over with repeat playings of Debbie Gibson singing Sleigh Ride. Music I would never listen to otherwise, becomes must listen, and begins to define how I feel. I even love angry, hate-filled, right wing columnist to the world types singing about a world made of Marshmallow. Tres fromage, for sure, but somehow wonderful.

It’s not all bad, however. Besides Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man Desiring or Handel’s Messiah, masterpieces at any time of year, the popular culture has produced some wonderful Christmas songs. Whether Irving Berlin’s White Christmas or one of the many beautiful versions of Silent Night (my personal favourite), popular music has it’s moments of sublime Christmas beauty. Consider the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, a lush piece with surprising depth; Murray McLauchlan, with Paul Hyde and Tom Cochrane, three Canadians doing the Celtic tinged Let the Good Guys Win; Heavy Metal kings Twisted Sister turning O Come All Ye Faithful on it’s head to wonderful effect.
There is something about Christmas time, something that brings the very best out of a wide variety of artists.

I could probably have gone on from there and, in truth, on rereading the essay feels unfinished. But it was good enough to get the job done, and sometimes that’s enough.

My CD dutifully arrived at the median point between when I won it, Dec 4th, and Christmas. That is to say, I’ve had it now a little over a week.

The CD itself is fun, and throughly enjoyable. As a singer, Steyn thankfully has a day job. It’s not that he’s bad, mind, it’s that the style of music usually requires better. The duo get away with Steyn’s singing because: he never takes himself too seriously; he takes the music seriously; the arrangements are excellent; so is Jessica Martin. A big part of the fun of the CD is listening to Mark Steyn have fun – you can hear the grin on his face.

Christmas is a fun light time, and this is a fun light album. It is, in fact, my new favourite.

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The Freedom of Music: Gettin’ Sassy in the S.U.N.

December 16th, 2012
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Late spring 1982. I was done school and wondering, what next? Plan A was guitar player: Rock Star, back-up player, studio musician, any and all choices where acceptable. Hey, I wasn’t picky – I just wanted to make gobs of money doing what I loved doing.sidebar-1

When an 19-year old decides what they want from life, they often then need to get an apprenticeship to learn their craft. In the music world, the apprenticeship is playing in a band. Rehearsing daily, learning a lot of songs in a short time, developing some stage craft and learning a few moves without throwing the song off are all requirements of the job. To that end, I set out to find a band.

At the time, there was a musicians classified service out of Toronto. You registered with them, then called the number daily and they would give you contact info of people looking for what you were offering: “guitar, rock” in my case. Using this service, I went on a number of auditions for various bands at various levels. Dutifully lugging my number 2 guitar – a Gibson S1 that I never could get the hang of playing (#1 was a beautiful, and now extremely valuable 1979 Antigua Stratocaster – sold in the mid-1980’s for a relative pittance, that a friend had borrowed and was using on the road) – around Toronto.

One day I went to a house where the band was living. They were older and had a female lead singer. The band was set up in the basement and the gig would require me to live at the house with the band. They had a record deal, I was told, and we were to work on developing the songs as well as gigs to keep the money flowing. All that’s required was to pass the audition.

The audition did not go well. I always struggled with the intonation on the S1 and was basically out of tune the whole time. As well, I could never get the S1 to do my bidding in any real way. Top it off with the fact that I wasn’t that good, and these guys were, and looking back I can only marvel at how nice they all were to me. I had forgotten I even went on all these auditions until something jogged my memory a few years back. Thinking about it after 20-years, I realized I had tried out for Sass Jordan’s band.

Tell Somebody, her first album and single, would propel Jordan onto the charts six years later and ten years later Jordan would release her masterpiece, Racine, still one of the best Canadian albums ever produced. Just imagine what she could have done if she’d taken a chance on a young, not very good guitarist back in 1982: the mind boggles.

Lately, Jordan has teamed up with an internet pal of mine to produce one of the best rock records of the last few years. I began interacting with Michael Devin when he was playing bass for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience and I wrote a bio of him and other relatively unknown members of the band. Devin moved on to Whitesnake with his favourite rhythm section partner, Brian Tichy, and together they spent 2011 touring the world in rock star style.

Moving to guitar, Tichy and Devin teamed up with Jordan and drummer Tommy Stewart to form S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing). The four decamped to an abandoned cabin in “the mountains of Canyon Country,” and spent two weeks writing songs. The result was a hard rocking album straight out of the 70’s that inspired it.

When two Zep-heads like Tichy and Devin formed the rhythm section for former Coverdale/Page singer David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, I expected a Zeppelin sounding album. It wasn’t so, and these guys so influenced by 70’s rock still sounded like an 80’s band. That problem has been corrected on Something Unto Nothing. Opening with Burned the Zeppelin connection is obvious: Burned is Black Dog dressed differently. Even the production sounds more open and ambient in the Jimmy Page style, rather than the tightly compressed sound that most producers go for these days.

That’s not to say Something Unto Nothing is just a Zeppelin clone. It is influenced, not taken from. Many of the songs play to singer Jordan’s strengths, tight melodic lines interspersed with occasional bursts of belting it. Did Me No Good is a great example of this, while Mobile Again shows off how good the rhythm section is, playing off the funkiest groove I’ve heard in years.

The album’s first single, I’m The One, is doing fairly well charting in the mid-50’s in the weeks since the albums release. It is, again, just a straight ahead piece of rock and roll, well played and fun to listen to. If I Was You slows it down a touch, sounding like a classic Sass Jordan song on first listen. Mid tempo Wide Ocean, bluesy , S.U.N. a Bad Company-esque 7 minute power ballad: all excellent songs that get better on repeat listenings.

The bottom line is, if you miss the days when rock music was loose, fun and ambient, if you miss when rock was considered danceable and dynamics where encouraged, you’re gonna love Something Unto Nothing.

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The Freedom of Music: Black Country Communion’s Afterglow

November 4th, 2012
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

A random thought passes as I listen to Black Country Communion’s new album Afterglow: with the recent bad blood between bassist Glenn Hughes and guitarist Joe Bonamassa, if Bonamassa was on fire, would Hughes put him out? sidebar-6
Answer, not on Afterglow he doesn’t.
Throughout the band’s third studio album in as many years, Bonamassa’s playing is smoking: Big Train’s wah-wah infused rave up; the white hot solos on Midnight Sun and The Giver; the guitar intro to Midnight Sun; or the slow burning slide on Cry Freedom. Bonamassa lights the album up with his best playing to date with this band. Hughes response is to fuel the flames with a collection of songs of great licks and words that twist and turn, offer loud and soft (light and shade?) moments throughout.

If, as has been allowed as possible through various media outlets, this is the end of the line for Black Country Communion, it will prove to be a great pity. On reviewing their first album, I offered a number of times their influences came to the top, on their second album, I noted less of this. On this album, they sound from start to finish uniquely like themselves. Hey are a band that has found an identity. Moments like the dual Hughes/Bonamassa vocals on Cry Freedom or the tight, super-funky groove Hughes and drummer Jason Bonaham get on the Bonham penned piece Common Man sound like Black Country Communion and no one else.

You can’t talk about Afterglow without also mentioning Derek Sherinian, who takes a greater role than the first two albums, playing a couple of organ solos that are exceptional. His playing throughout is top notch.
Black Country Communion’s Afterglow, which was released Tuesday, is a great rock and roll album that will improve with time and listenings. It is what these guys do best, flat out rock.

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