Monday, March 29, 2010

Dio, Dokken, Iron Maiden

So, after a two-week hiatus that was spurred by March Break for my son, and an absolute mess of work-related issues, I've finally returned. And today, I've decided to return with a visit to the world of metal.

My intention is to make Monday into Metal day. We'll see if I can keep the content up.

Rather than getting into a modern branch of metal, today I decided to go with the roots of the genre. Not specifically to say that these bands invented it. Arguably you could say that Led Zeppelin got the ball rolling on that whole thing. But these bands really don't have an awful lot in common with the almighty Zep.


Before the advent of Guitar Hero, this song had basically been forgotten by all except for those who still carried the metal torch from the early 80's. The reality is that this song is far too good to have been left behind.

Ronnie James Dio was actually a pretty big star. He replaced Ozzy in Black Sabbath, and the first Dio album is a total front-to-backer. Not one piece of filler on that thing. Obviously this song is the most well known from it, and rightly so.

Please pay close attention to the excessive use of broadswords, battleaxes, and green-screened fire. Also, Ronnie James Dio looks like a fucking hobo.


Not nearly as well known as some of their contemporaries, this song is an iPod must. Besides containing nearly every torn-down metal trick in the book, this song contains what I believe to be the most excessive use of pinch harmonics this side of anything Zakk Wylde has ever played on.


Rather than choosing a more well known Iron Maiden song (2 Minutes 2 Midnight, The Trooper, Number Of The Beast, Wrathchild), I decided instead to go with my favorite Iron Maiden song, from 1984's classic Powerslave, this is Aces High.

I've included Iron Maiden in honor of the fact that I believe they are playing at the Ottawa Bluesfest this year. I haven't seen official confirmation of that yet, but I'm praying that it's true.

I'm not sure if this is the official music video for the song. It seems to match up pretty good, so I'm going to assume that it is.

Incidentally, there is a hilarious video on youtube of a deaf guy singing this song. You should look it up, it's ridiculous.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Face To Face, Jawbreaker, Rancid

For the most part, 90's punk rock was a lot like Jose Canseco's MMA debut: too fast, disappointing, and ultimately too predictable.

However, that description can't be applied as a blanket statement. Here's three bands from California that are worth checking out. Two of them sort of broke into the mainstream, at least for a short period of time, so I know I'm not breaking new ground here, but I do like it, and these are iPod staples for sure.


This was the song that made Face To Face "sort of" famous. Apparently it got picked up by KROQ in L.A. and made it into their regular playlist. I'm not saying that the band tried to milk this song for every last drop of what it was worth, I'm actually going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they probably hated this song by the end, but it did appear on Don't Turn Away, the Over It EP, AND Big Choice and AGAIN on their live CD.

However, there's some logic behind this, because it's a good damn song. Here they are performing it live on Jon Stewart's old talk show. I chose this version because I think the performance here accurately captures the awesomeness of this band when they were live, which is truly the best Face To Face experience. The good news is that they've got back together and are touring again, so the opportunity to see them again will come around.


I had a hard time picking which Jawbreaker song to include today. I'm sure I'll put more on later. For the time being, I've chosen Indictment, because it's currently the one I'm playing the most.

This band actually achieved a fair bit of critical acclaim, yet remained criminally ignored by the media. I think they could have been as big as Green Day had they been given the chance. The first few records really lacked overall production quality, but if you pick up a copy of Dear You, you'll see what this band was capable of in the hands of the right studio, engineer, and producer.

Following Jawbreaker's demise, their singer Blake Schwarzenbach went on to form an emo supergroup called Jets To Brazil, along with ex-members of Handsome and Texas Is The Reason, which are incidentally two other bands that I'm likely to talk about on here at a later date.

Again, I've chosen a live video because it's a more accurate picture of what the band really is. And punk rock STILL remains something that is best experienced live in a noisy little dive.


Rancid are clearly saw themselves as their heir apparent to the crown vacated by the Clash when they made Combat Rock. I don't think that's a poor description, and I also don't think it's unfair to say that this band possessed the chops and songwriting to match nearly everything that the Clash released. They certainly didn't break new ground like the Clash did, but Rancid's 1995 album "...And Out Come The Wolves" is as good or better than everything that the Clash released EXCEPT for "London Calling".

I've chosen a song from that record called Roots Radicals. The album itself had two singles, which were Time Bomb and Ruby Soho, both of which made it into regular radio rotation. This song was actually the 3rd single, and sadly it was ignored, which is a bit surprising to me because this really does define the Rancid sound, at least as much as the other two.

Here's a video of them playing it live in front of what appears to be about 40,000 people at a festival. Some would argue that it's not very punk rock for them to be doing this. I think that's an unfair statement. Clearly this band, and other punk bands over the years (Sex Pistols, Clash, Green Day, etc, etc...) have got a good deal of crossover potential, and despite being buried in noise, feedback, and brutality, you can't hide the fact that the songs, and the bands that wrote them, are good. The problem I've always had with punks is that there is a perception among some of them that image is more important than substance. I had that same mentality when I was a teenager, but as I grew up, I started to realize that I can have a family and a career and a mortgage and STILL find a way to love bands like Rancid. I think it makes me more punk than dirty, snotty teenagers for me to walk my own path and like what I like. I think that's what it was about in the beginning (I can't say for sure, I was about 9 months old when punk started in the 70's), and somewhere along the way that got lost on a lot of people.

Anyways, that's enough commentary from me. Here's the song.

Next update coming Monday...think metal.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Raspberries, Off Broadway, Artful Dodger

I've had a few false starts along the way here while I've been trying to figure out how to approach this first group of songs. I figure that maybe the best way to tell this story is to go ahead and do it as time actually progressed.

When I was a teenager, I was really into Superstar Car Wash by the Goo Goo Dolls. There is no doubt that I'll be pushing songs from that record later on. Anyways, I read the liner notes, and I noticed that one song on the record was co-written by Paul Westerberg. I also had the Singles soundtrack, and my two favorite songs on it were both by Paul Westerberg. At this point I had put it together that I was going to be into tunes that this guy was involved in. However, at the time it never clicked that Westerberg might have had a career BEFORE the Singles OST. I don't really think I was ready for it at the time anyways, this was about 1994, and I was really into bands from Seattle (Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam) or Southern California (face to face, Descendents, Lagwagon), and that was pretty much it. I wasn't grown up enough yet to understand that good tunes could come from anywhere, I guess you could say that I was more concerned with image than substance. Certainly there were lots of great bands that I loved, but for every f2f that I loved, there was at least one terrible Fat Wreck Chords band that I was into. I'm glad to say that I've refined my tastes since then.

Anyways, flash forward a few years, probably to about 1999, and I went through a bit of a musical renaissance. I think that's when I first discovered that I didn't care where it came from, or what it was, I liked it as long as it was good. Incidentally, that's the same year that I started working at HMV Rideau, where I met and worked with lots of people who introduced me to a broader variety of songs and bands than I had originally conceived was possible.

Around this time, I started going back through history to find bands that I hadn't heard before. It was then that I revisited Westerberg for the first time, and shortly thereafter I made the Replacements connection. I'm not certain that it was the first time I'd heard the Replacements, I seemed to have some vague recollection of seeing the Bastards Of Young video on MuchMusic in the early 90's. It's hard to forget that one when you've seen it.

After spending a few years obsessing over the Replacements and their Minneapolis counterparts (specifically Husker Du and Soul Asylum), I did a little more research, and that ultimately led me to a band called Big Star. And THAT is truly where the 3 songs I've chosen today came from.

Big Star is AWESOME. About 5 years ago, they became my favorite band pretty much overnight. I did some research at the time, and thanks to the Allmusic guide and it's ability to lump bands into both broad and narrow categories, I found the songs that I'm posting about today. Big Star, according to Allmusic, falls into a category known as power pop, and I became OBSESSED with finding new power pop bands to get into. The problem is that what counts as power pop today kind of blows it on the delivery, at least in my opinion. I'm not saying that the genre died in the late 1970's, but I am saying that it became twisted by new wave in the 1980's, and ultimately went into hibernation in the 1990's. By the time bands came along doing this kind of thing, the spirit of it had been altered by the grunge hangover. I'm not saying that this made it bad, but I am saying that it made it different, and there's something about power pop from the 70's that is infinitely more appealing to me than bands like Weezer and the Fountains Of Wayne.

So, here's three little gems that you should check out:


Yes, you probably already know this song. Of the three here, this is the only one that I knew prior to starting high school. However, there is no denying the awesomeness of this song, you just have to be confident enough in your taste, and comfortable enough with your sexual orientation. If you can get past the sappiness, then you've got a winner. This song predates Eric Carmen's ear-poisoning 1980's power ballads by at least 10 years, so there's no worries from that angle.

There is a pro and a con to posting the below video in live format. The pro is that the song rocks just a bit harder live than it does on the studio version. The con is that you lose the pants-shittingly awesome 3-part harmony on the chorus. The studio version is worth tracking down for that harmony alone. Here's the Raspberries, appearing live on a TV show at some point in the mid 1970's


Apparently, Cleveland was the place to be in the 1970's if you rocked. I guess Drew Carey was right.

So, I freely acknowledge that this band bears a little more than a passing resemblance to Cheap Trick. They sound A LOT like Cheap Trick actually. I guess one could say that they're like a poor man's version of that band. I found this song by accident on the internet when I was looking for back catalogue songs by Cheap Trick. This one is obscure for sure, though maybe it wasn't if you lived in Cleveland in the 1970's. I believe that the record this is on has since been re-issued, though I can't confirm that. Allmusic says that it is worth tracking down, though I've only heard 2 or 3 songs from it so I can't say that for sure.

It's interesting to note that this band has reformed and is now playing live again. They definitely look like fat, sweaty versions of themselves from 35 years ago. But the spirit of it is there.

The live video of this that I found unfortunately doesn't completely do the song justice, though the singer does do an awesome cartwheel a little over halfway through it. You really should find the studio version of the song, it's well worth the search.


Yes, there is a DJ from the UK who goes by the name Artful Dodger. That is not this band. This was another short-lived AM radio band from the US midwest, circa 1975. It's impossibly hard to find songs by this group, though their entire back catalogue was re-issued on CD several years ago. I do intend to pick up their records, because if the songs on them are even remotely close to as good as this one, then they're probably going to be one of my favorite bands of all time.

The singer's voice has the perfect combination of range and grit. The guitars and drums sound like Who's Next-era Who. The song is just awesome. And fortunately, the version of it that I found is properly placed, this performance was for some promotional video in 1980, a mere 5 years after the song was released. The only thing you lose on this version, again, is the exceptional vocal harmonies in the choruses. There's a falsetto on the studio version, and that's missing from this performance. However, the rock is all over the place. Good band, and probably one of my favorite songs ever.

(The embed code was disabled on the damn video, so here's the direct link, go check it out)

Artful Dodger - Wayside, Live 1980