Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews: Dick – Dangerous Dreams

ClassicRockRadio.co.uk Music Review

Spotlight: Dick – Dangerous Dreams (2017)

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter @GBrown0816

Dick - Dangerous Dreams (1400 x 1400 RBG)

You know, the one thing Jon Kirkman requested from me on the day I became a correspondent for Classic Rock Radio (UK), was not to post prog-rock stories all the time. A friendly reminder that the station has a huge rock n’ roll playlist, consisting of every form of rock music imaginable from the 1960’s and on. Thousands of musicians and bands under the classic rock umbrella, in which to do stories on. And that I did.

Over the past five years via Classic Rock Radio’s main website, and or its social media pages, I mentioned a ton of different people and products associated with them. Nowadays focusing on either interviews or straight up music/movie reviews. And then anything under the  ‘pop culture’ roof, should I get a bug up my bum and feel compelled to express my opinion about whatever it is.

Pertaining to music, Classic Rock Radio (UK) has given me the opportunity to do pieces on acts I’ve known for decades, or be it something new to these now maturing ears. And remember, it has been said that in general, people over age fifty do indeed if able, become more adventurous. That for me is where ‘Dick’ comes in.

A multi-instrumentalist, songwriter gentleman by the name of Jaakko Soimakallio recording under the name, Dick, somewhere in Finland, contacted me through my archival website asking if I’d be interested in hearing his new album. I get these requests several times, every day. No exaggeration. Not all from Finland, of course. The website is still fairly new. One can add also as contacts, Twitter or my own personal Facebook page. No guarantee. Only so much time in a day. Yet I appreciate the requests because the fact of the matter is, I need topics to write about. One doesn’t need to be established, to create something worth the time for others like myself to check out. Saying that … no country or opera music, okay?

Comparing myself to other entertainment journalists out there, I know there are some that listen twice to something, and then type a thousand words on it, declaring to the whole WORLD, their yay or nay vote. Works for them … I just don’t do shit that way. MAIN reason. Knowing and understanding myself, my own first impression can be and is WRONG on many occasions. My mind needs to absorb and sometimes even understand all the sounds that made up the beats and tones, that make up the full project. I write (type really), expressing my viewpoint, when I feel it’s the proper time to do so, and not a minute sooner. Include editing, and you’re typically looking at a few weeks or longer.

I told Jaakko yes, by the way. Snail mail from Finland. The dude sent me two CDs, autographing one.

Note: The CD artwork by Niina Helimaa is extremely well done. Niina did a wonderful job on the wrap and booklet, capturing the overall feel of the music found within.

“Uncle G” discusses … Dick – Dangerous Dreams (2017)

A death of a friend, one of the first ones I made here in Fort Collins occurred right after I gave this CD, the first couple spins. The human condition. We all at one time or another experience situations that we’d rather not. Then a health issue for myself popped up. Nothing modern medicine can’t (hopefully) take care of. Taking some time off my writing, I did go back to Dick – Dangerous Dreams. Seven tracks total with one being an instrumental. Is certainly put together like a prog-rock album. The influences should one hear them, can range from random 1970’s/1980’s FM radio sounds to a classic rock group like Steely Dan. And I say that due to the album (Dick – Dangerous Dreams) having a tad of rock-jazziness to it. Blend in some Gabriel era Genesis. I can see old school art rock fans getting into this, as much as I do the Millennials.

Oh … lovely instrumental; Winter Ghost. Well done! Repeat plays for sure!

“Uncle G” rates … Dick – Dangerous Dreams (2017)

Using a five-star rating system, whereas one star basically means it SUCKS THROUGH A LONG  STRAW to five stars in which would mean I seriously think it’s worth your time and money checking out, Uncle G rates Dick – Dangerous Dreams (insert a Jaakko Soimakallio drum roll) … 5 STARS! In a nutshell, Dick – Dangerous Dreams has become a soundtrack to my Summer of 2017. Strong writing! Original and modern Progressive Rock that sounds GREAT on a decent set of headphones.

FYI: Since I mentioned headphones, for decades now (since the 1970’s) yours truly has been using; Sennheiser. Top notch products! I always get my money’s worth, plus!

I’ll close by again saying what some might find shocking: “I really LIKE Dick!” And again, THANKS to Jaakko for playing on a hunch. Sorry, I took so long in regards to producing at least a few words on your CD. Keep making music my new friend, and I’ll keep listening. and please pass on congrats to ALL involved in putting out such a solid album. Am looking forward to seeing where things go musically from here. DICK & Finland (country of origin) ROCKS!

Uncle G’s HELPFUL WEB LINKS:

Dick – Dangerous Dreams (Bandcamp Dot Com)

https://dickmusic.bandcamp.com/album/dangerous-dreams-full-album

Dick (Official Website)

www.dickmusicblog.worldpress.com

Gary “Uncle G” Brown Archival Website

www.garyunclegbrownarchives.com/home

Trevor Rabin – Jacaranda

As Seen On ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
First Published: 28 July 2012
Spotlight: Trevor Rabin – Jacaranda
Music Review by Classic Rock Radio (UK) American Correspondent Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 

Trevor Rabin - Jacaranda - cover

Then: I, like many other YesFans became aware of Trevor Rabin back when the hit album 90125 came out. Read the name in the credits. When the tour came I checked it out. Yes was now a band with a new focus. They had a hit song with Owner Of A Lonely Heart, and the album was making the charts. All seemly guided by a very competent new guitarist. Not only did he play guitar, but other instruments as well. An all around multi-instrumentalist. Add to that, songwriter. He says ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ came to him while sitting on the toilet. Plus he sings. All this he does very well. A talented musician and performer.

Trevor stayed with Yes, appearing on three other studio releases; Big Generator, Union, and Talk. At the end of the Talk tour, Mr. Rabin resigned from the band to focus on becoming a movie score composer. I always personally loved the medium myself. I grew up admiring the composing skills of John Williams. Another 20th century Beethoven. His scores equated to some of the best classic pieces even written. Typically performed with a symphony.

Not to be confused with songs that appear in movies. A song in a movie would, later on, appear on the film’s soundtrack. Keep in mind, a soundtrack is not a score. A score is typically original music composed and performed just for the film. Could also include dialogue or sound effects from the movie. Think Vangelis – Blade Runner.

When you think of the film Jaws (original score by John Williams), the music you hear in your head is likely to be the main theme which was composed by Williams. The music was meant to envision a shark attack. A short and very effective instrumental.

An example of a song in a movie that would appear on a follow-up soundtrack could be; Aerosmith’s – I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing. Was in the 1998 disaster film; Armageddon. Was a big hit for the band. Appeared in the actual movie during some mushy love scene.

The score or the original instrumental music heard in the background of the film Armageddon, was composed by Trevor Rabin. His first real BIG hit in films. So being a fan of both Aerosmith and Rabin’s, I ended up purchasing both the soundtrack and the score from the film.

After a while, the scores were becoming hard to find or were too highly priced to keep up getting them all. I do have a small collection anyway of his film work.

Here’s a sample of titles that Trevor did the music for:

The Glimmer Man (1996)
Con Air (1997) …with Mark Mancina…before that Trevor also helped Mark with his score to the film, Twister (1996).
Armageddon (1998)
Jack Frost (1998) …does a cameo as Trevor, The Jack Frost Band Lead Guitarist.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Remember The Titans (2000)
The 6th Day (2000)…does commentary on the DVD
Rock Star (2001)
Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
National Treasure (2004)
Flyboys (2006)
Snakes On A Plane (2006)
National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2007)
Get Smart (2008)
I Am Number 4 (2011)

Add to this, his guest appearances over the years; Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Manfred Mann, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Seal, Paul Rodgers, Rick Wakeman, and Roger Hodgson just to name a few. And by the way, all this is NOT everything Trevor has ever done. The information I listed, just an attempt to answer the question as to who Trevor Rabin is. People ask me this. So there, in a nutshell, is my answer. Trevor has an official website. Additional information can be found there. I recommend bookmarking/keeping up. A player in the world of classic rock. Someone whose CD’s I automatically purchase based on past performances. My opinion is he helped resurrect the band Yes. Without his help, the relaunch of the group would have never happened, or been anywhere as successful. Worked out well for both. Yes needed the new blood, and Rabin needed a place he could shine.

Now: In May of this year, Trevor released what would be his fifth solo record; Jacaranda. To compare it to previous solo efforts would not be fair. Trevor’s matured as a musician. Not so he’s boring anyone to death. He’s been at this game for a few decades now. The man’s progressed. Kind of funny since he’s made a name for himself doing progressive pop type songs. Where some of our greats remain the same, Trevor’s taken his playing, and composing to a whole other level. In my past columns, I made mention of Twenty Century Beethoven’s. Twenty First Century now. Here’s old school showing itself. Musicians whom I would consider among the ranks of the great classical composers of yesterday. Two Hundred years from now I bet a symphony orchestra on another planet performs the music of this man.

Jacaranda: An almost all instrumental that covers a wide range of different musical styles. Worth every penny I paid for it. When’s the last time you could say that about a CD you purchased?

I knew I’d be writing this review on here. It’s impossible to comment about anything intelligently unless you know at least a little something about the subject matter. So I listened to this CD at least twenty times within the past few days. In the process, I have gotten to know it really well. I love instrumentals. I like when things are changed up some. Which could explain my getting into progressive rock as much as I do. I wrote a few notes alongside song titles. So to cut the suspense, I’ll tell you ahead of time I like Rabin’s Jacaranda very much. Here’s some of why.

Spider Boogie — Quick picking fun jam.
Market Street — Final Eyes 2. At times a similar tone or rhythm that reminded me of.
Anerley Road — Old style start — dream like jazz style — a solid song.
Through The Tunnel: Ball’s to the wall moments.
The Branch Office — nice melody.
Rescue: Very Mike Oldfield like. In a way too beautiful for words.
Killanney 1 & 2 — Piano playing that rivals Vangelis or Wakeman.
Storks Bill Geranium Waltz — like a song heard and applauded 300 years ago.
Me And My Boy — it’s a rocker !! Multi-layered & very cool.
Freethought — feelin’ happy.
Zoo Lake — lazy feeling in an old fashion kind of way.
Gazania — Happy ending.

Trevor plays almost just about everything you hear on this CD. It’s simply incredible. He’s a magnificent player in every sense of the word. Classic rock fans take note. Two current players accompanying Jeff Beck lately are found on here; Vinnie Colaiuta, and Tal Wilkenfeld. Trevor in the liner notes, remarks how happy he was with their appearance on here. Good job producing. They can be heard and enjoyed.

If the song titles sound or read a little strange, it’s due to this CD being autobiographical. In the liner notes on each song, Trevor makes comments with a lot of them being stories of his growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa. Uncle G’s favorite one is from a song called; Zoo Lake. It reads in part: When I was around 17, we use to go out on a rowing for 20 cents an hour and smoke some pot. Hard place to be stopped in the middle of the lake”.

For the classic rocker whose looking to branch out some. For everyone else who likes good music. Hopefully, it won’t be so long between solos for us to get the next one. A fantasy concert would be Trevor doing music from Yes and his films. I’d like to see that, and maybe for one night Trevor conducting the Boston Pops Orchestras. I love to hear them do Endless Dream.

Uncle G’s CD Rating: From one to five stars…Trevor Rabin’s Jacaranda: 5 stars !!

Official Trevor Rabin Website

http://www.trevorrabin.net/

Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie (Self-titled)

ClassicRockRadio.co.uk Music Review

Spotlight: Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie (Self-titled)

By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown

Twitter @GBrown0816

Buckingham McVie - (album cover)

Just recently I was sent a link to a behind the scenes documentary on the making of a new ‘Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie’ album. First news I heard of this. So I viewed the almost 18 minute (well made) video and made a mental note that when the album became available, that I would make an attempt to give it a listen.

A few days later and I saw a ‘first listen’ announcement compliments of National Public Radio online. Made a tweet about it to alert all my classic rock friends. From then till now I’ve been taking advantage of that kindness and giving the ‘Lindsey Buckingham_Christie McVie’ self-titled album, multiple listens. Is not the usual rock album I favor/review, that I am known for. The music here is categorized: pop rock. Isn’t my usual cup of tea, so therefore I am not labeling it ‘pop-rock’ as it would be meant in a derogatory fashion. When it comes to music, we all have our thing. I’m more drawn to hard, heavy metal, instrumental, and progressive rock more than any other styles of rock n’ roll music. That does not mean that I can’t acknowledge/appreciate good sounds when I hear it. Under the ‘pop rock’ umbrella, millions if not billions of dollars are made every year in the music industry. Stupid to completely ignore, at least for a journalist like myself who covers pop culture in general.

I first learned of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Fleetwood Mac, back in 1977 when their mega-popular album ‘Rumors’ was released. Age wise, I was 15 years old. My favorite song off it; The Chain. Interesting fact … ‘The Chain’ was the only tune on ‘Rumors’ that was a group composition.  

When the follow up, Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (1979) came out, I purchased the ambitious double album initially on 8-Track. How lucky for teens today that they don’t have to deal with that shitty technology. In between clicks, I over time memorized every song on it. Of course, I had my favorite numbers (the title track Tusk_Sisters Of The Moon), but this write-up isn’t about that particular release. I do recommend if not already having in your rock collection, to add both Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Tusk. Avoid the old 8 tracks if possible. Goes without saying that the entire Fleetwood Mac album catalog is worth having.

“Uncle G” discusses … Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie (self-titled album)

Released today (June 9th), a new duet album by legendary rock musicians, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. Their first album together where the focus is on them, together as a real duo act. Both known for being in a band that sold countless of records, and whose songs the classic rock station I write for, play every day; Fleetwood Mac. Along for the ride on Buckingham_McVie (2017) is one of the best rhythm sections in all recorded pop-rock music. And also from the group Fleetwood Mac; John McVie (bass), and Mick Fleetwood (drums and percussion). The only other musician credited to Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie is Mitchell Froom (keyboards).

Ten songs make this album, with a healthy combo of material from both featured musicians. Lindsey contributed five songs in which he sings lead vocals, while Christine brings along two songs she wrote herself, and then has three co-writing credits along with Mr. Buckingham. Christine does lead vocals on four songs, and then shares that duty along with Lindsey on what can be perhaps my favorite song on here; Too Far Gone.

Many solid consistencies with this almost forty minute modern pop-rock masterpiece.

For the record, on the new Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie release, the highly skilled drums/percussion of Mick Fleetwood shines, while maintaining the flow, John McVie’s bass work is spot on. Every song!

The melodies and chorus’ are memorable to the point of where I should warn … eargasm material included.

The lyrics, poetry/life reflections, it should be noted, is something one can play aloud around kids, old people, and here in America, Republicans.  

Listening with a very good set of headphones (Sennheiser), the finished product of what happened in the studio once the audio started, presented itself. The album itself has a nice crisp sound, where one can hear each member’s participations precisely as their performance(s) was meant to be heard. The entire ten-song recording has a nice flow, whereas the songs advance, and compliment each other. Playing the album from start to finish makes two-thirds of an hour fly by rather quickly.

Out of the ten songs, there are tracks that sound very much like Fleetwood Mac. The third track entitled, In My World, is one of them. If forty years ago this would be a huge hit on the radio. One of those songs they would play every 15 minutes, throughout the whole day. Track seven is another one; Lay Down For Free.

I got to mention the closing track; Carnival Begin. Clocks in as the longest composition on the album. Has a slow, mellow prog-rock vibe to it. Chill out with whatever adult libation you are into, and turn up the volume. Just what the doctor ordered. Additionally, and being wishful thinking, I’d love to see this song live in concert, along with ‘Too Far Gone’. Would be fun times!

“Uncle G” rates … Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie (Self Titled 2017)

Using a one to five-star rating system, whereas one star means it belongs in the cut-out bin, to five stars which means you can safely spend your hard earned cash on it, “Uncle G” rates Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie … insert a Mick Fleetwood drum roll … 5 stars!

The musicianship involved is what you’d expect from professionals who survived the music business, and turned what they do into an art form. Lindsey Buckingham excels on acoustic guitar, as well as electric. Christine McVie … I think I have a crush on her. So talented a piano and keyboard player, and with the voice capable of giving someone goosebumps. Having John McVie and Mick Fleetwood’s participation, was a smart move. After all, it’s the end result that counts most. No, it’s not a new Fleetwood Mac album. Hopefully, the classic line-up has at least one more studio album in them to release. And damn soon (by the end of 2018). But in the meanwhile, this new Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie should help carry over any follower of Fleetwood Mac jonesing out for new material. In closing “Uncle G” predicts that if allowed (which also means being promoted properly), and played on decent sound equipment, that Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie (self-titled duet album) should do the same as the music that these people were involved in decades ago; entertain the masses.

OH … sell a shitload of albums/CD’s also, but that is an entirely different thing. Another story, for yet another day.

Helpful Weblinks

The Official Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie Website

https://www.buckinghammcvie.com

The Official Lindsey Buckingham_Christine McVie Website

https://twitter.com/buckinghammcvie

Bonus Video (The Making of the Album… Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie)

Music Review: Audio Fidelity: Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973_2014)

*Re-Post*
As Seen On: The Audio Fidelity Website

Spotlight: Re-Issue/Re-Master
Artist: Alice Cooper (original band)
Album: Billion Dollar Babies
Producer: Bob Ezrin
Year First Released: 1973
Audio Fidelity Re-Issue/Re-Mastered Release:  2014

As Seen on the main Classic Rock Radio UK website

Review authored by Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816
First Published: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk (main website)
Date: 16 March 2014

Alice Cooper - BDB - Audio Fidelity - front with cover

If I had a list of Uncle G’s Top Twenty-Five All-Time Favorite Rock Albums, then Alice Cooper’s 1973 hit album Billion Dollar Babies would certainly be towards the top of it. Here’s an album that as a teen gave me my own identity. Out of everyone in my inner circle of friends back then, it was I that was into Alice Cooper. Instead of getting turned on, I turned on others. My introduction to Alice Cooper was their 1972 hit song ‘School’s Out’. What’s not to love about getting rid of teachers and textbooks? Check it out, age-wise I was barely out of my single digits. Due to lyrics I identified with and a steady rock beat, I’m like a pat of butter on freshly baked bread. My mind is open and I’m absorbing all I can.

By the Winter of ’73, the album Billion Dollar Babies by the group Alice Cooper is in my record collection. It was purchased for me by adults who later on pretended to be repulsed because I was a fan of Alice Cooper’s music. I’ve remained a listener, pressing on after the band’s demise and until after Alice’s third solo effort Lace & Whiskey came out. If I played Alice Cooper after that, it was original band material only. Alice’s solo records, I really didn’t begin to appreciate except Welcome To My Nightmare in which I consider to this day, one of his best efforts, until he released Trash (1989). After that, I re-evaluated my opinion of what Alice has done since splitting with the original group.

From his debut solo record Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), to the year 2014, there are more pluses than minuses. The man known as Alice Cooper is considered an elder statesman in heavy metal nowadays. Age wise, is well into his sixties and to this day is still more than capable of teaching the younger bands how to rock out as well as putting on one of the highest energy metal shows being offered. There is an occasional ballad thrown in the set list, which is more than welcome seeing how some of his best known songs are just that, ballads. Classics like Only Women Bleed, or I Never Cry. Alice Cooper is currently in the process of releasing a cover/tribute album, and performing shows with Aerosmith and Motley Crew. Not to mention this is right on the heels of charting an original band reunion of sorts with a studio album again produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin called Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011).

Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies (1974) album, and the original band’s last album together Muscle Of Love (1974), is what seriously caught my attention. These records got the repeat plays at social functions. At least the ones I attended. For the record, Uncle G thinks anything in the original band’s catalog is worth having, especially the stuff they did for Warner Brothers. I fell into the albums Billion Dollar Babies and Muscle Of Love likely because they were new at the time when I was seriously focused. I can still remember Alice making the promotional rounds for Billion Dollar Babies on TV. One such time had Alice performing ‘Sick Things’ on a drama/mystery program called The Snoop Sisters. A show about two old tough broads solving crime, Alice was perfectly cast as the leader of a cult. It definitely motivated me to play the album more.

And yes, first it was wax in which I played on an early 1970’s record box. This was modified with the original speakers being disconnected, and then the player being hooked up with better speakers and separated on each side of a bedroom I shared with two older cousins (one in which was a pothead). Why this even matters is that this ended up being one of my first lessons in what stereo really was, and how different sounds were heard from each speaker. Remember, I first grew up with mono.

In the song ‘Elected’, Alice’s vocals mainly come out of one side (left), while the band’s actual music, comes out the other (right). The music could sometimes overpower the vocals. So another lesson learned early on; it was important where and how the speakers were located, as well as how the balance button on the stereo receiver was set.

Next, comes the wonderful world of headphones and a company whose headphones I absolutely fell in love called Sennheiser. Now I could hear every detail. Over the decades, the record player was replaced by better and better stereos. Sound was important to me. I grew up when transistor radios were all the rage. A rock song filled with different sounds, all coming out of this shitty little speaker. Two words, fuck that.

I purchased Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies after first having it on wax, cassette, 8-track, and now I have three different versions on CD, with one being the new SACD mastered by a man with a reputation for being the best at what he does in today’s music world, Mr. Steve Hoffman.

Self confession, I’m NOT a committed one-hundred percent audiophiliac. Due to having too much on my plate as a rule, when I have the free time, I come close. I don’t like to be anal…not as a rule. Sometimes I think they go hand in hand. I’m glad the purists are out there. Needed for archival reasons the most, so many good recordings that now sounded dated, only because they were mastered at a time when technology was at it’s best for being in the twentieth century. My review here might sound slanted a bit. I admit to being an old time Alice Cooper listener, and also to digging better sounding stereo equipment. I’m still dragging my feet in MP3 Land. The only thing I feel should be compressed is waste products, not music. MP3 music brings back the memories of transistor radios with a crappy speaker (broadcast in wonderful mono).

I know the words and music to Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies by heart. I also probably know more than the average Sick Thing when it comes to the band Alice Cooper, and the original bands’ music catalog. I’ve never seen myself as a fanatic though. My association with Sick Things (fans of Alice Cooper) has gone from rather well to horribly wrong. In all that time, I had a few entertaining moments meeting members of the original group and hanging out with them for a spell. I’ve conducted/coordinated interviews with Michael Bruce and Neal Smith. I also did a beer and a cigarette run for Glen Buxton (RIP). I’d like to meet Dennis Dunaway and Alice (formerly Vincent Damon Furnier) one day. So, before you are my credentials for reviewing this SACD. A story that needed to be told, especially if you the reader were so inclined as to like and follow up after reading by buying if you have not already, this new SACD.

For the record, the Alice Cooper band sixth studio album, Billion Dollar Babies, was a team Alice project. All involved from Shep Gordon in management to the album’s producer Bob Ezrin, deserve credit in this being as successful as it was. Plus some additional musicians that played shall we say, a tad under the radar, and contributed to the best of their abilities, such as Donovan, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, and the much underrated talents of Mick Mashbir and Bob Dolin, who went on a few years later to form a band called Billion Dollar Babies, with original Cooper members Bruce, Dunaway, and Smith. They did one album called Battle Axe. It would be wonderful if Steve Hoffman could re-master Cooper’s Muscle Of Love and the band Billion Dollar Babies Battle Axe in the same way. Anyway, the BIG secret at the time was that lead guitarist was having health issues. Explains the other hands in the BDB project. All that mattered was the end result, with everyone being a team player focused on making the best Alice Cooper record they could. In an imagined That Metal Show showdown, Billion Dollar Babies would surely be a contender as one of Alice’s best, with or without the original band.

Comparison: I enter as exhibit A the original Billion Dollars Babies CD that Warner Brothers first offered. Exhibit B is the Rhino 2001 two CD re-mastered version. Exhibit C is the new SACD put out just recently by Audio Fidelity. Exhibit A has been played in the presence of Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, and Neal Smith without them saying anything bad about the audio. All discs are in near mint or mint condition. The Uncle G Music Collection is kept up nicely and stored in a dry and cool place. Playback of each disc was done on a real home stereo (Sony – Phillips) and on a Blu-ray player (was lunch time and the living room was more convenient having a meal in then our home office). I would like to make clear…NEVER ONE TIME…was any of these versions of Billion Dollar Babies heard via a computer. Am sure the iTunes version is cool and all, but that’s not really what this is about. First off, it’s considered an honor that a company like Audio Fidelity would be interested in re-issuing any CD. I see it as a way to properly preserve and recreate with newer technology what was not available at the time. In my mind, there is no improving the work Bob Ezrin or all those that helped make this brilliant album did. What Steve Hoffman and Audio Fidelity materialized forty years after the Billion Dollars Babies release, let’s find out.

Alice Cooper - BDB - Audio Fidelity - front (promo)

Uncle G reviews Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (2014 Audio Fidelity)

The first thing I did was listen to the Warner Brothers CD of Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies. My earliest comparison would be that of the CD to the memories of the Billion Dollar Babies album I grew up listening to. The CD had its advantages. No flipping the album over from Side A to Side B. No skipping anywhere. The stereo mix was the same as I remembered from the album. No difference in clarity that I could remember. I took care of my turntables and records. Back in the 80’s / 90’s my home stereo was made up of either Pioneer or Kenwood equipment. I admit, more convenient to have on Compact Disc. Seems to play/sound the same each and every time.

The original released CD to the Rhino version, I found interesting. Of course, the Rhino edition is presented LOUDER. The re-mastering process isn’t bass-friendly all the time. That can be evident on the album’s closing number, ‘I Love The Dead’. The plus side is a fuller sound in parts, especially in the piano lead homage to transvestites, a show-tune called ‘Mary Ann’.

Wake the kids and gather the folks from the hood, it’s Hybrid SACD Time!! First off, I took care in opening it. Artwork from the album is re-created, and much to my surprise and approval, so is the BILLION Dollar bill that came inside the album that I of course, taped to my teenaged self’s bedroom wall. The one included today is suitable for framing. My SACD was numbered; “Limited Edition 1101.” I took pictures, I was so impressed.

Pressing the play button, the first song on Billion Dollar Babies ‘Hello Hooray’ begins to play. My hand reaches for the volume knob. I turn it up from 2 to 3, and then 4. No distortion. It’s not as much in the red as Rhino’s remastering job. At this point, I have all three versions of BDB in separate CD trays and can pause and play from any of the three, at any time. It’s obvious the SACD is superior and that’s just hearing the first song.

The second track ‘Raped and Freezin’ proves it more. Keyboards in the background are clearer after the 2-minute mark, as is Alice’s vocals all throughout.

Track three is ‘Elected’. Alice’s vocals mostly come out the left speaker and the music mostly on the right. Listening in any format, it was always due to a placement of speakers as to if I could clearly make out every lyric, and even the political banter at the end. It’s all good here on the SACD release. Remember we have two vital ingredients to Alice Cooper; audio and visual. Every word Alice sings is important, for they paint a visual in which the music helps to project. These songs are like tiny plays. It’s theater for the mind. Some might have labeled Alice Cooper art rock because of this, but most just saw them as a hard rock act, even when touring with a guillotine and an electric chair as props. Not exactly the same as Deep Purple being a real hard rock act. KISS was Alice on steroids times four. And what drama they ended up being.

I noticed when all three CDs were in my players that I had three different total times on display. The Rhino / Warner Archives comes in at 41:05 – original Warner Brothers version at 41:08, and the new SACD leads the pack at 41:14. I asked myself why that was.

Easy explanation concerning the extra five seconds between original BDB and the Steve Hoffman mastered one. The Hybrid SACD version kept in the studio banter found before the song, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’. It goes something like this:

“OK I need one more. Tape four Dolby version.”

Could it be Mr. Ezrin in the control booth? I LIKE rarities, and it sure does sound RARE, for it didn’t appear on the BDB album I had as a teenager. Don’t know why it was included here on the hybrid SACD, but as a purist, I don’t really dig it being there. So much for a perfect 5 star review. The song itself sounds GREAT!! It’s a real hard-rocking drum song, and Alice Cooper’s drummer Neal Smith simply smokes on this one. I CRANKED the volume up listening to it. When I listen to Alice Cooper, so do my neighbors. I can report no other audio ID surprises. I feel weird bitching, but it is what it is. I’m just not used to that being inserted before hearing Neal’s drum intro after the lapse of silence in-between songs. Maybe I’m a tad anal? Because of the type of record this is, I feel it ruins the atmosphere that the songs played before this one set up. The mind should be fully focused, and it kills the concentration. Saying that I must point out that it’s easily re-established once the number starts up.

‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ gives me the opportunity to say that without the songwriting ability of Michael Bruce, the successful writing team of Bruce / Cooper would not have ever existed. Michael Bruce’s real talent is to write music that remains in your head long after the song had stopped playing. Alice knew/knows how to make a song his own by creating words and phrases his onstage character could react to. And here’s how you got one hit composition after another. The same formula is used on Welcome 2 My Nightmare with the newest Bruce / Cooper composition (with the additional help of Bob Ezrin) being ‘When Hell Comes Home’. This is the FIRST a Alice Cooper record charted in the Top 25 since Trash. Congratulations to all involved.

Also worth mentioning in the song ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ is Dennis Dunaway’s bass and how clear one can hear his playing, not only on this song but throughout the whole SACD release. Dennis’ bass work is simply superb. Explains why he was consistently at the top of the best bass player polls in those 1970 rock magazines year in and year out.

‘Generation Landslide’ is the next song and sounds as crisp as I’ve ever heard it. Followed by The Cooper’s heartfelt appreciation to their fans, a rather darker number called ‘Sick Things’. Pay attention, for the work of Glen Buxton can be heard, as can be said on the album’s closer ‘I Love The Dead’. Minor contributions but important ones nevertheless. Would be Glen’s last time working on a Cooper project. Dude’s really nowhere to be found on the originals band next, and last Alice Cooper album, Muscle Of Love.

For the louder I played this CD, the clearer the music became. Enjoyed it to its last lyric and closing note.

Alice Cooper - BDB - Audio Fidelity - Billion Dollar Bill (promo scan)

Rating: Using the one to five star rating system, Uncle G gives Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (2014 Audio Fidelity) – mastered by Steve Hoffman, 4.75 stars. It’s perfect in every way except well…you know (see above).

Alice Cooper - BDB - Audio Fidelity - back

Date Posted: 2014-03-16T00:00:00

https://audiofidelity.net/press-release/spotlight-alice-cooper-billion-dollar-babies

http://classicrockradioeu.blogspot.com/2014/03/spotlight-alice-cooper-billion-dollar.html

THANK U AUDIO FIDELITY! — *  GB  2017 * 

Music Review: Neal Smith: Kill$mith & The Greenfire Empire

Originally Published: 28 October 2014
Review: Neal Smith – Kill$mith & The Greenfire Empire (2014 Kachina Records)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Neal Smith - KillSmith And The Greenfire Empire - cover pre-signed_zpshyd9jd99.jpg

I’ve been familiar with Neal Smith since the 1970’s, ever since I got turned on to Alice Cooper. I’m guessing around 1972 when their song ‘School’s Out’ was first released. Stayed a fan until the dismissal of the group. With Alice deciding to keep his solo career afloat after the huge success of his first solo record, Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), the rest of the guys in the Cooper band saw themselves no longer with a lead singer. It was the end of Alice Cooper, the band. Ends up I lost interest in Alice’s solo career pretty much after his follow up to ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’, with 1977’s Alice Cooper – Go To Hell album. As time marched on I’d play the original Alice Cooper band music every once in a while. Anything new with Alice and without the original guys, I just wasn’t interested. Stayed that way for over a decade. In the 1990’s and aided with something called the Internet, I renewed my interest in the runaway vocalist. In doing so, I started getting a new appreciation for Alice’s solo studio offerings. Fact is he’s worked with a shit load of brilliant musicians since 1975. The coolest thing here was that I could also find out and keep up on the other original band members doings as well. Since then I have managed to somewhat kept up.

Glen Buxton passed away back in ’97. His legend has / will live on.

Michael Bruce just weeks ago played a charity show coming out of retirement benefiting foster kids.

Bassist Dennis Dunaway is going strong currently playing with a can’t be missed rock band called Blue Coupe.

With nineteen studio solo albums under his belt, the year 2014 sees Vince / Alice co-headlining Motley Crue’s BIG farewell Tour. Alice’s last new studio effort was a sequel to 1975’s Nightmare and cleverly titled ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare’. To this writer’s delight, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith perform on three songs. This makes the first time the Billion Dollar Babies appeared on an Alice Cooper studio album together since 1973’s Muscle Of Love. Nightmare 2 did well, charting all over the world.

Last, but not least is Neal Smith, who has been musically kicking ass and taking names lately. The RnRHoF member (Alice Cooper) just released the third installment to his KillSmith series. On this outing, all songs are written by Neal, and besides pounding away on the drums, Mr. Smith can be heard on keyboards, guitar, and sharing the vocal duties. Titled, Neal Smith – KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire. Now that the intro and history lesson are over, let’s focus on that.

For starters, ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’ has very cool cover art, with the front of the CD showing an evil glow-in-the-dark green human skull. Would make for a cool poster. I ordered this new CD from Neal’s own personal website. Doing so, he autographed it, which is a super cool added bonus. He does so on every CD ordered, free of charge! A legible signature too, so it compliments the cover, instead of scribble which would take away from it. Cover / Booklet opens up to reveal more cool artwork as well. Important is the two images provided because they are what sets sail your imagination. For like original Alice Cooper music anyway, it’s all theater for your mind’s eye. KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire is a concept album. Nothing I’d share with a seven year old. Neal’s lyrics can be very adult at times, which can lead to questions like; “Mommy, what are junkies, thieves, and whores?”

In a nutshell, ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’ is a modern day tale about a special ops military hero nicknamed KillSmith, who takes on the most ruthless, ferocious, and just downright evil drug lord named Diablo the Emerald King. A story that happens around the holidays. Emotionally, a roller coaster ride filled with action and suspense, that besides being capable of ripping your head off, simply rocks out.

 photo Neal Smith - KillSmith And The Greenfire Empire - credits_zps4flgbrnz.jpg

Uncle G’s Favorite KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire Tracks:

All of them really. Enlightening story told in various styles of rock music including industrial, heavy metal, and power ballads. Frankly, I can’t say enough good things about ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’. Don’t know where to begin, for I’m afraid I’ll miss something. Here I go.

Every musician on KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire project did an excellent job (see accompanying image for credits). Am sure it wasn’t easy for any of them because it’s a pretty ambitious project. Neal’s work on here is just outstanding, so only capable musicians need apply. Back to Neal, I love the cool guitar work he does, as well as his keyboard contributions. Plus behind the drum kit, Neal’s drumming is second to none. Either providing a good foundation or having moments that are absolute bat-shit crazy, such as found on the song ‘Pandemonium’. A real killer drum performance here. Overall, the album is more upbeat than mellow. Together, all eleven songs combine for a stunning example of musicianship and storytelling.

I broke this CD in while heading into Houston from Katy, driving down super Hwy I-10 East doing an average 70 MPH and being able to hear the first six songs usually without slowing down. Sunrise Saturday morning. Driving down the city streets trying to miss red lights is where I got to know tracks seven to the end of the disc. I did this on three other days as well. The rest of the time I’d been playing it almost non-stop on my home stereo. Between the lyrics and the superior accompanying music, I’m able to fully understand and enjoy Neal’s return to theatrical rock.

Rating: Honestly this was way more then I was expecting. More than one song sticks in my head, when not actually playing ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’ aloud. Impossible to say what songs I like best, but the one that caught my attention first was ‘I Want Money’. KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire is solid in both production and presentation. Using the one to five star rating system, where one star sucks through a long straw, and five stars kicks total ass; Neal Smith – KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire get 5 stars easily. Every song a gem. Different musical styles presented so to keep one’s interest. Feet planted firmly in the rock world. Even with such excellent flamenco guitar work as heard on track four, ‘The Killsmith Overture’. Lady Elizabeth Dellinger could sure hit those notes. Blends in very nicely. This song, I would love to see done live, as well as the rest of this new concept album. Perhaps a KillSmith DVD shot in concert over 2 or three nights someplace that could accommodate? I could only imagine the KILLER encores.

Well done Mr. Smith!

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/nealsmith4

http://www.nealsmith.com

Music Review: Exovex – Radio Silence

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
First Published: 06 June 2015
ClassicRockRadio.co.uk NEW Music Review
Spotlight: Exovex – Radio Silence (2015)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Exovox - Radio Silence - cover_zpsp4w6enir.jpg

Everyday I open my snail mailbox, I never know what I’m going to find. Eliminated bills by going paperless, so that cut down on the volume delivered, a little. Now the metal containers contents range from the typical junk mail, that we’re told pays the letter carriers salary so to please tolerate, to correspondence by those unfamiliar with email, or just not having my email address. Items I buy on the Internet arrive on time and unharmed, thanks in part to the Katy, Texas Postal Service doing an excellent job, and then I get total surprises. Could be items from friends, or family. And then last but not least, comes the small boxes and bubble pack envelopes that have music CDs, or DVDs in them. Some I ordered, and some I didn’t have a clue was coming. I think of these as; GIFTS FROM STRANGERS. Those who play along know that if inspired, that I might use their product as something to write about, and thusly tell the world via the world wide web, my hopefully positive opinion of their newest project. Musicwise it could be a musician, or a band that I already know, or a player(s) that I’m entirely unfamiliar with. It happens. In the case of Exovex, I was completely unaware of its existence, up to the time I opened the package it arrived in. Also, the name, Dale Simmons, who is the principal musician in Exovex, didn’t ring any bells. What else to do but put the new CD in my Philips CD player, and press the play button.

As a writer, one will develop a reputation. Those who read my columns on a regular basis know that when it comes to rock, I may prefer hard rock to soft, but I’m a Prog-Head through and through. Stimulates my mind more than, say a three cord, three minute, straight forward rock n’ roll song would. Then again make it upbeat, and possibly I’ll dig that as well.

Fact is Prog-Rock is special to me, be it old school (Yes, Pink Floyd, or Genesis .. just to name a few), or today’s Modern-Prog sound. I certainly don’t confess to enjoying it all. Besides liking something, the flip side would be whatever I hear bores me to tears. Acoustic guitar and voice is hit and miss as far as I’m concerned. Or to my ears, the vocal performance could just out and out suck. Sound out of place. Sometimes I’ll tolerate or even come to enjoy what I consider questionable vocals, if I like the other musicians the vocal performance is associated with. Other times not, with strike one, meaning you’re out. If I can’t make it past two plays, I can’t review it. Apologies ahead of time.

Part of writing is the research. The most important question to me after committing to writing about my experiences listening to Exovex – Radio Silence was; Who is Dale Simmons? Answer is; a professional singer, lyricist, songwriter, guitarist (acoustic, electric, and bass), piano / keyboard player. And besides doing his own thing, was a front man for several bands from the early nineties. Experience to me is a good thing. Dale digs progressive art rock, jazz and funk. He’s also a self proclaimed coffee addict. A little more research and I could tell you his shoe size. Neither here nor there.

Joining Dale Simmons in which he performed and produced all six songs that make up Radio Silence is members of Porcupine Tree, Nine Inch Nails, Devo, Sting & Steely Dan! Featuring Josh Freese (Nine In Nails, A Perfect Circle, and Devo) and Keith Carlock (Sting, John Meyer, and Steely Dan) on drums. The album also showcases two members of Porcupine Tree, Gavin Harrison on drums and Richard Barbieri on keyboards and synthesizers.

If a first timer reading my work, within what is considered the prog-rock realm is, the concept album. Tells a story. Radio Silence tells one of a man who just wants to be alone. For every action a reaction as the man finds out isolation isn’t as fulfilling as he has thought it would be. Official promo for the album states: “The central theme of the album focuses on the downward spiral and ultimate demise of a man due to the psychological and physical effects of a long term, self-imposed isolation.” I conclude, lyrics are brain candy for those once focused. Dale’s vocals ranging from mild to wild.

Musically I hear sounds at times that remind me of prog-music past; David Gilmore late 70’s and forward playing style, and Circa:, a superb modern prog rock band with Billy Sherwood, and among others, original keyboard player for Yes, Tony Kaye. More so comparing vocal sound and style in which is delivered. I also hear 90’s prog-rock group Porcupine Tree somewhat, with their being a good reason as to why. Two musicians from that band make guest appearances on Exovex – Radio Silence; drummer Gavin Harrison, and keyboardist Richard Barbieri. Fit very nicely to what Dale got going on. Each performing on a different number. Other notable players join in, drummers Keith Carlock, and Josh Freese. Credits also include Nicole Neely, adding textures of cello, viola, and violin. If keeping score at home, we have Dale in three positions (all vocals, all guitar work, and all piano / keyboard work except for the one song in which Richard Barbieri kicks ass), Vs a drummer and string position. Nice touch by the way. Wait…Tim designed the CD cover. Bonus point for the win! Ends up being what you hear coming out of the speakers, is three quarters all one guy. Very impressive!

Rating:

Using the one to five star rating system, whereas one star means it’s not worth investing time nor money in, to five stars which means it’s not only cool to dive in head first and submerge yourself, but also spend your hard earned money on, Uncle G gives Exovex – Radio Silence …5 stars! Spacy prog to seriously rocking out, this album has it all. I would say buy it just to hear Dale Simmons play. He spent years perfecting himself musically. The guitar work on Radio Silence jumps out of my three foot speakers, and takes command of all inside the house. Dale’s piano / keyboard work is just as good. All other musicians contributions are top notch. On headphones, Radio Silence sounds crisp, and alive. A tip of the hat to those behind the scenes. Oh, and I also like the use of voice and sound effects, especially on a concept piece of work. Adds dimension, and believability if done right. Just perfect here! The more repeat listens, the more this brilliant debut album on the whole, will be appreciated. My experience exactly!

For additional information, please check out Dale’s official website @ http://www.dalesimmons.com/

Music Review_Circa: Valley Of The Windmill

As Seen On ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
Spotlight: Circa: Valley Of The Windmill (2016 Frontiers Records)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Circa - Valley Of The Windmill - cover_zpszrw43plp.jpg

The newest Circa: record has recently hit the store shelves; Circa: Valley Of The Windmill. I ordered mine from Amazon Dot Com, a few days after it was released. Was a reasonable price, and it arrived in good time. The pre-sale promotion had me hooked. Four songs, for a total of around fifty minutes. The longest of them, the closing number entitled ‘Our Place Under The Sun’. Almost nineteen minutes. Just knowing that can make a long time progressive rock fan like myself, damn near wet themselves. After all, one characteristic of progressive rock, is the composition of longer musical arrangements. Now, throw in a quote from Circa: guitarist and vocalist Billy Sherwood saying how ‘super proggy’ the new release is, and it’s purchased without even hearing one note played. At least it was that way for me.

Circa: been around since 2007. This is their fourth studio effort. Joining Billy Sherwood, is original Yes keyboardist, Tony Kaye, who’s been with Circa: like Billy, from the beginning. Other players have come and go. Circa: 2016 also includes Scott Connor (Drums and Percussion), and Rick Tierney (bass). ‘Valley Of The Windmill’ is produced by Circa:, and was recorded and mixed by the master himself, Billy Sherwood.

Uncle G Discusses … Circa: Valley Of The Windmill

The first track called ‘Silent Resolve’ starts off for a few seconds real mellow like, and then kicks in. It’s the one song out of the four, that has continually stayed in my head, pretty much since the first play of the CD. For the most part up-tempo, as is the rest of the album. All musicians involved do a great job, but it’s Billy’s guitar work that for me makes this song so infectious. And speaking of which, this album marks the first time Billy played lead guitar and not bass on a Circa: studio offering. Does fantastic!

It’s the second track entitled ‘Empire Over’, where I can say it’s Tony’s playing that really makes the song for me. I love hearing his keyboard work, which is not only outstanding on this song, but throughout this whole album. Fans of Mr. Kaye work will rejoice knowing he’s don’t hold anything back, and that his trademark Hammond sound, is here in all it’s glory.

The rest of the album sparkles. Behind the drum kit, Scott Connor is there keeping things lively, along with Rick on bass. The lyrics are sharp, and holds one attention. Billy’s a fine lead vocalist, and always has been. The last two songs as as good as the first two. Bonus: Circa: Valley Of The Windmill has a cool looking album cover to boot. It’s the pure definition of a real progressive rock album, inside and out. Looks like one … Sounds like one … MUST be one!

Uncle G Rates … Circa: Valley Of The Windmill

Using the one to five star rating system, whereas one star would equate to drinking warm beer out of a can, and five stars equaling the best draft beer available in a chilled mug on a hot Summer day, I rate the new Circa: record, Valley Of The Windmill … 5 stars! Would like to see the band tour this record. At least do a few shows and have them filmed for audio / visual release. Am sure fans would be more than interested. I’d try to make one show if I could. California here I come?