Best of 2014 in Metal and Hard Rock – Part I

Starting a countdown of the best albums for this year
By Peter Lindblad

Separating the wheat from the chaff from 2014's heavy metal and hard rock is not really difficult, demanding work, but it does call for the kind of stupid courage that comes from drinking heavily.

These are dangerous times in the blogosphere, a wild west where expressing a harmless opinion is likely to set off gunfights of moral outrage and blistering condemnations. This is music, though, a thing that is said to soothe savage breasts and all that. Of course, talking about it can be akin to conversations about politics or religion.

In the spirit of throwing gasoline on a fire, here's a best albums list for 2014, starting with Nos. 6-10. The rest come later. You've been warned.

Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium 2014
10. Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium: What do you want from Max and Igor Cavalera at this point? A reunion of the classic Sepultura lineup? Jake E. Lee has a better chance of getting Sharon and Ozzy to give him writing credits on "Bark at the Moon." Just give Cavalera Conspiracy's Pandemonium a chance. It is devastatingly violent aural chaos, a mad, multi-layered symphony of thrash-metal ferocity and rusted-out, punishing industrial grind for frustrated children of the digital revolution that'll make your head explode.

Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls 2014
9. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls: Not ready just yet to fly off into the sunset on sad wings of destiny, Judas Priest confounded expectations with this monstrous beast of a record. They sound as hungry as ever on Redeemer of Souls, an unholy communion of epic, expansive melodies with menacing, rugged riffs and electrically charged solos and dual-guitar flights that scream like tortured souls bound for hell. God bless this Priest.

California Breed - S/T 2014

8. California Breed - California Breed: Nobody knew Andrew Watt from Adam before hitching his wagon to Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham – the drummer having bailed on the project just as it was gaining traction, only to be replaced by former Queens of the Stone Age punisher Joey Castillo –  in the vibrant new power trio California Breed. A young guitar slinger with great feel, fiery versatility and raw ability, Watt is the partner Hughes has been waiting for all these years, able to wring out soulful leads, tough riffs and blazing solos with ease on a debut album that pays off with surefire hooks, lean and mean Zeppelin-like stomp and swaggering groove, and some of the best singing of Hughes' career.

KXM - S/T 2014
7. KXM – KXM: Another trio, this one a supergroup made up of King's X front man dUg Pinnick, former Dokken axe man George Lynch and Korn drummer Ray Luzier, KXM came out swinging on their emotionally powerful eponymous debut. Just as happy grinding out rough-and-tumble, slow-burning riffs as he is reeling off sizzling solos, Lynch seems comfortable in the grungy world of KXM, where Luzier's complex drum patterns and Pinnick's grumbling bass provide a pulpit for spiritual profundities, damaged introspection and sharp socio-political commentary.

Revocation - Deathless 2014
6. Revocation – Deathless: Immensely talented, the technical death-metal outfit Revocation upped the ante with Deathless, showing off dizzying musical chops on a record that was both frenzied and brutally heavy. And yet, amid the controlled chaos there are strains of melody that somehow survive all the destruction and carnage going on around them. Down the line, they'll be using the word "seminal" to describe Deathless.

CD Review: Rated X – Rated X

CD Review: Rated X – Rated X
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: B

Rated X - Rated X 2014
The old Blue Murder rhythm section is back together, only this time they're backing former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner in a new supergroup called Rated X.

Cobbled together by Frontiers Records' Svengali Serafino Perugino, old partners Carmine Appice (drums) and Tony Franklin (bass) join Turner collaborator Karl Cochran – a guitarist known best for his work with Ace Frehley – in doing much of the heavy lifting on what is a fairly straightforward, thick-bottomed set of good, solid melodic hard rock that's often both blustery and ballsy, but can also transform into something more expansive and smokey.

At times reminiscent of full-throttle Deep Purple, with an organ spewing out swirling clouds of exhaust, this eponymous release roars out of the gate with "Get Back My Crown" and slams into the rebellious declaration of self-actualization that is "This is Who I Am," before gathering itself for another barreling charge through "I Don't Cry No More." Smoldering darkness creeps into "Lhasa" and "Maybe Tonight," two slow-burning relics from Turner's days in Rainbow that suggest his recent stated interest in a reunion with Ritchie Blackmore is to be taken seriously. And in the transcendent "You Are The Music," Rated X are awed by life's mysteries and the boundless capabilities of the human spirit in an uplifting piece of music carried on choral vocals and soaring guitars.

The musicianship is stellar, as one would expect with Appice's powerhouse drumming, Franklin's thick bass groove and Kochran's searing guitar work, not to mention Turner's still dynamic and expressive singing. Unfortunately, the songwriting is not always up to snuff, as the amalgam of tough melodies, dull hooks and faceless riffs doesn't leave much of a lasting impression. For all the sublime talent gathered together here, Rated X is missing whatever sort of glue or chemical element it is that makes for a cohesive, well-coordinated and energized unit, as Rated X plods along looking for a spark and fails to find one. There nothing terribly embarrassing about it, except for some cliched lyrics, but on the other hand, there's little here that generates much excitement either.
– Peter Lindblad

Judas Priest's 'Defenders of the Faith' gets deluxe reissue treatment

Remastered package includes complete live recording from 'Defenders' tour

Judas Priest from the 'Defenders
of the Faith' era
Judas Priest was on a roll. After birthing the classic 1980 album British Steel, the U.K. metal gods upped the ante two years later with the juggernaut known as Screaming for Vengeance

So, what did they do for an encore? Defenders of the Faith was the response, another platinum effort that spawned legendary tracks such as "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," "Love Bites," "The Sentinal," "Freewheel Burning" and "Jawbreaker." And they incurred the wrath of the Parents Music Resource Center with "Eat Me Alive," a song which will live in infamy as one of the "Filthy Fifteen." 

On March 10, 2015, Defenders of the Faith gets the deluxe expanded reissue treatment, with a three-CD extravaganza from Columbia/Legacy that collects the original ten-track album remastered by producer Tom Allom, as well as a complete live recording from the "Defenders" tour, recorded at the Long Beach Arena in California, on May 5, 1984.

Cleaved into two discs, the 21-track concert recording combines what was then new material from the band's ninth studio effort with Priest gems like "Electric Eye," "You've Got Another Thing Coming," "Metal Gods," "Breaking the Law," "Sinner," "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)," and "Victim of Changes," among many others.

As the band states in the liner notes to the reissue, "It's 30 years since we released 'Defenders of the Faith' – we're very proud to say it has become a classic that's beloved by Priest fans throughout the world."

Still out there wreaking havoc, Priest released its 17th studio LP, Redeemer of Souls, in 2014. The album debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, Priest's best-ever showing. Interestingly, the band is performing a number of tracks from Defenders of the Faith on its current tour.

And soon, fans will get a chance to re-experience vintage Judas Priest, with the 'Defenders of the Faith' reissue. Here's a track listing:

CD1 'Defenders of the Faith' Re-Mastered 

1.   Freewheel Burning
2.   Jawbreaker
3.   Rock Hard Ride Free
4.   The Sentinel
5.   Love Bites
6.   Eat Me Alive
7.   Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
8.   Night Comes Down
9.   Heavy Duty
10. Defenders of the Faith

CD2 Live at Long Beach Arena, California 5th May 1984 

1.   Love Bites
2.   Jawbreaker
3.   Grinder
4.   Metal Gods
5.   Breaking the Law
6.   Sinner
7.   Desert Plains
8.   Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
9.   The Sentinel 
10. Rock Hard Ride Free

CD3 Live at Long Beach Arena, California 5th May 1984 

1.   Night Comes Down
2.  The Hellion
3.   Electric Eye
4.   Heavy Duty
5.   Defenders of the Faith
6.   Freewheel Burning 
7.   Victim of Changes
8.   The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)
9.   Living After Midnight
10. Hell Bent For Leather
11. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming

New supergroup Revolution Saints unveils first video

Group features former and current members of Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Journey
By Peter Lindblad

Forming supergroups seems to be all the rage these days, with Revolution Saints being the latest to make some noise in the form of a new video released today for the song "Turn Back Time," which we have to believe has nothing to do with Cher.

Comprised of former Dio/Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich, Night Ranger's Jack Blades and Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, Revolution Saints is due to release their self-titled first album on Feb. 24 in the U.S., and it promises to be one hotly anticipated dose of soaring, uplifting melodic hard rock.

The brainchild of Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino, Revolution Saints will spotlight the lead vocal talents of Castronovo, with Blades on bass and helping out with some singing. And then there's Aldrich, whose fiery, bluesy guitar should add plenty of electricity to what is already a pretty potent lineup.

So, without further ado, here are the Revolution Saints doing "Turn Back Time." Let us know what you think:

For more on the Revolution Saints and their initial shot across the bow, check out this electronic press kit:

DVD Review: Eric Clapton – Planes, Trains and Eric

DVD Review: Eric Clapton – Planes, Trains and Eric
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B+

Eric Clapton - Planes, Trains and Eric 2014
Japan won't be seeing much of Eric Clapton anymore, that is if the blues-rock guitar legend sticks to his plan to retire from touring when he hits 70 years of age next spring.

Worn out from the rigors of traveling across the globe and performing in far-flung locales for years, Clapton has earned some much-needed rest, and if that means the end of playing in perhaps his favorite place on earth, so be it. Clapton will miss the Land of the Rising Sun, though.

That much is apparent from "Planes, Trains and Eric," an intimate and revealing new documentary film from Eagle Rock Entertainment that follows ol' "Slowhand" on the Far and Middle Eastern leg of his 2014 World Tour, a bittersweet sense of finality hanging over the proceedings.

During an incandescent acoustic reading of "Layla," one of 13 live full live performances of Clapton favorites included here, Clapton expresses his fondness for Japan, adding, "I've been coming here since before some of you were born." His deep respect for the kindness and integrity of its people shining through in reflective and unguarded interviews with Clapton, with much attention paid to his enduring friendship with his concert promoter in Japan, Mister Udo, who Clapton says helped him through "the dark days."

These are happier times for Clapton, who leads his band here through a vigorous, stirring rendition of "Pretending" that simmers and smolders, while "I Shot the Sheriff" protests peacefully and quietly, "Wonderful Tonight" glows and sparkles, and rollicking versions of "Tell The Truth," "Crossroads" and "Key to the Highway" swing and roll with bluesy abandon – all of it played with both a freewheeling, if also somewhat restrained, spirit, an undeniably strong group chemistry and sunny warmth. At times, Clapton seems to turn the stage into a homey back porch, just strumming and picking away at his guitar in front of a circle of friends, but there are other moments where he is still electrifying, displaying that deft, lightning-quick touch and preternatural feel that still leave worshippers slack-jawed.

The rest of "Planes, Trains and Eric" is as much an artfully pieced together tour diary as anything else. There are brief snippets of rehearsal and sound-check footage, meaningful behind-the-scenes interaction, informal presentations related to Clapton's 200th show in Japan – as well as a mention of his 86th performance at Budokan, the most ever by a foreign artist – and scenes from cars, airports and train stations that help the narrative flow. Candid interviews with drummer Steve Gadd, Hammond organ player Paul Carrack, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Chris Stainton and backing vocalists Michelle John and Shar White reveal much about the inner workings of Clapton and those musicians in his employ, adding rather wistful commentary on the possibility that this just might be it for him.

Blind Faith, Cream, The Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominos, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, not to mention his own multi-platinum solo work ... that's an impressive musical history to say the least. "Planes, Trains and Eric" doesn't get into all that, nor does it delve into those scandalous "dark days" Clapton spoke of to provide some sense of context for those words, choosing instead to stay in the moment and give a sense of what it's like for an aging superstar to let go gracefully, with dignity and good humor.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Emigrate – Silent So Long

CD Review: Emigrate – Silent So Long
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: B+

Emigrate - Silent So Long 2014
In danger of being forgotten, having sat idle since launching their self-titled debut album all the way back in 2007, Emigrate has emerged from a long exile to release Silent So Long, another fine example of slick alternative-metal engineering masterminded by Rammstein guitarist Richard Kruspe.

The impact of the Emigrate's sophomore record is felt immediately, as Kruspe and company load Silent So Long with enough pulsating punk energy, misanthropic electronic menace and industrial, metallic crunch to excite and unnerve even the most stoic and cynical of scene observers.

Clean, urgent and modern, Silent So Long is bolstered by the contributions of several big-name guest vocalists. On the sexy and seductive "Get Down" the always provocative Peaches slithers over throbbing, creeped-out cyber funk that somewhat resembles Massive Attack's "Angel" and the whole thing explodes when the bombing campaign of crashing guitars is initiated. With Korn's Jonathan Davis' subversive intonation, the closing title track is just as sinister, as dub undercurrents quietly rumble and roll in the song's deep recesses. And then there's the gravelly voice of Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister adding grit to the racing, but almost weightless, "Rock City" flying down musical straightaways.

Somewhat innovative, although not a great leap forward in that respect, Silent So Long is, nevertheless, a modern-rock, radio-friendly monster, the big, irrepressible hooks and heavy, driving momentum of "Rainbow" and "Giving Up" tailored for such programming. In a perfect world, so would the swaggering opener "Eat You Alive," featuring a devilish Frank Delleti, from the popular German band Seeed, on the mic and giving '70s glam-rock stomp a futuristic makeover.

Emigrate's first album cracked the Top 10 in Germany, and it's not a stretch of the imagination to believe this one will, too. While it could be the soundtrack to some sci-fi film noir experiment, the multi-layered Silent So Long is, at its core, an album based around strong beats, surging rock riffs and impenetrable song structures, and that's always an appealing formula for luring listeners.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: New Model Army – Between Wine and Blood

CD Review: New Model Army – Between Wine and Blood
earMusic/Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A

New Model Army - Between
Wine and Blood 2014
The risks taken on the adventurous and inspired Between Dog and Wolf paid off big for New Model Army, garnering the veteran post-punk rabble-rousers some of their best press in years.

Emboldened also by the record's strong chart action in the U.K. and Germany, the Justin Sullivan-led outfit embarked on an ambitious European tour, but blood clots found in the leg of Michael Dean cut the campaign short and clouded their immediate future. There was a silver lining, however.

Relegated to the sidelines, Dean, responsible for creating the varied and gripping rhythmic gyrations of Between Dog and Wolf, made himself useful by collaborating with Sullivan on a captivating and diverse six-song EP of new material that fills up half of New Model Army's latest two-CD release, Between Wine and Blood – the other contains 11 compelling live cuts, most of which energetically and artfully revisit Between Dog and Wolf's innovation and dark beauty as if trying on old clothes and finding them an even better fit than before.

Performed with a raging fire in the belly and a good feel for the changing moods of the material, "Storm Clouds" slashes and burns, "Seven Times" gallops like a thoroughbred, "Horseman" rings in the apocalypse and the galvanizing "Between Dog and Wine" sweeps you up in its fervor – these concert versions running the gamut from quiet introspection to glorious populist awakenings.

As for the new stuff, there's nothing about Between Wine and Blood that sounds tired or stale. Instead, there is purity and clarity of vision, a batch of well-developed, sweeping melodies and sure hooks, anthemic choruses, evocative lyrics delivered with passion and a poet's soul, and supple, rich instrumentation. Almost unbearably tense and bracing, the pulse of "Angry Planet" races – angry, distorted guitars bounding across a bleak, shadowy landscape, as New Model Army takes Radiohead and Muse on the ride of their lives. "Guessing" is just as vigorous and propulsive, while "According to You" and "Devil's Bargain" empathetically couch probing questions and concerns in brooding, gently rolling melodic waves and "Sunrise" is carried by a generous chorus and taut momentum.

Still savagely critical of humanity's self-destructive drive, Sullivan can also paint beautiful imagery and balance his pointed political commentary with personal reflection amid the stormy rumbling of New Model Army's insurgent, grasping punk aesthetic. Blood still courses through their veins.
– Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – From The Vault – L.A. Forum – Live in '75

DVD Review: The Rolling Stones – From the Vault – L.A. Forum – Live in '75
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B

The Rolling Stones - From
The Vault - L.A. Forum -
Live In '75
The relationship had been on the rocks for some time. Tired of the rampant substance abuse, a dysfunctional working environment and a sense that his ideas were falling on deaf ears, Mick Taylor broke it off in late 1974.

Into this chaos walked his replacement, Ronnie Wood, the versatile former Faces guitarist a perfect fit from the very start. At least Keith Richards seemed to think so, as Wood's ability to play both lead and rhythm equally well expanding the possibilities for The Rolling Stones, a group needing an infusion of new blood. 

"I've never found it tricky to play with Ronnie" asserts Richards in a quote included in the informative and contextual liner notes to "From the Vault  L.A. Forum  Live In '75," one of two new concert films recently mined from the The Rolling Stones' archives to kick off the band's new "From The Vault" series.

Wood debuted with the Stones on '75's "The Tour of the Americas," a long jaunt that included five nights at the L.A. Forum and a touring band that boasts Billy Preston on keyboards, with his spirited piano fills and propulsive organ, and session percussionist Ollie Brown fleshing out Charlie Watts' drumming with poly-rhythmic groove. "L.A. Forum – Live In '75" documents the fourth show from that brief residency, and although this romp through a deep 25-song set list is as uneven, if also gloriously shambolic and messy, as it is fiery, it's fascinating watching Richards and Wood play off each other, the liberties they take on a medley of "If You Can't Rock Me/Get Off Of My Cloud" performed here indicative of just how in sync and instinctual they've always been as a guitar duo.

Two-and-a-half hours of the Stones at their rip-roaring best and their self-indulgent worst, "L.A. Forum – Live In '75" is marred by maddening inconsistency, as rollicking, feverish versions of "Brown Sugar," "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" and "Star Star" burn red hot, while Mick Jagger – mostly an energetic, whirling dervish on this night – appears so disinterested with a sluggish "Fingerprint File" that he lies down ostage for a nap before the song fades out.

Although the imagery is rather dark, the film was shot professionally, with multiple cameras adroitly chasing the action but not always framing it perfectly, this footage finds the Stones opening with raucous versions "Honky Tonk Women" and "All Down the Line," emerging onto a lotus-shaped stage that seems straight out of "Spinal Tap." But, they can't hold together ramshackle, breakneck takes on "Happy" and "Rip This Joint" that don't just veer close to going off the rails, they fly from them, break apart and end without satisfaction. And when they arrive at "You Can't Always Get What You Want," the Stones sleepily meander through it, that is until an extended jam workout where Richards and Wood heat up and produce furious, sweaty guitar interplay seems to send volts of electricity through the whole building.

Finishing strong with an inspired triple play of "Street Fighting Man," "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Sympathy for the Devil," it seems as if the Stones were revived by earlier tackling Preston's "That's Life" and "Outta Space," the dynamic Preston and Jagger playfully dancing together during "Outta Space" without a care in the world. In a celebratory mood, as opposed to those times where they play with vicious, cutting intensity and raw anger, this isn't the Stones out for blood. Still, there are moments when they build up a good head of steam, and when they do, they are untouchable. Eagle Rock Entertainment.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Soen – Tellurian

CD Review: Soen – Tellurian
Spinefarm Records
All Access Rating: A-

Soen - Tellurian 2014
Often compared to Tool, Swedish progressive-metal architects Soen are serious about their craft and the precarious state of human existence, not to mention the growing threats to a fragile planet. Naming their latest album Tellurian drives the point home. 

Defined as "of or inhabiting the earth," Tellurian is not a word used much in common, everyday conversation, and it speaks to Soen's lyrical commitment to explore topics such as ecological catastrophe, injustice and man's cruelty toward his fellow man – things anybody who considers oneself a citizen of the world shouldn't take lightly.

By the same token, there's nothing ordinary or parochial about Soen, who've designed a series of complex musical passages for Tellurian that beg for deep exploration. Led by former Amon Amarth and Opeth drummer Martin Lopez and Willowtree vocalist Joel Ekelof, Soen also includes bassist Stefan Stenberg and guitarist Joakim Platbarzdis, and the engrossing Tellurian expands on the promise of their 2012 record Cognitive.  

A richly melodic and rhythmically diverse listen, with the strange and intriguing artwork of Mexican painter Jose Luis Lopez Galvan giving notice that what's inside is truly unconventional stuff, Tellurian is beautifully sculpted and often mesmerizing, brooding and mysterious, Soen's supple musicianship bending and twirling like a quartet of acrobats all moving in perfect unison. Every track is a chameleon, a changeling that assumes new shapes and identities at the drop of a hat. Some are pleasing, and some are dissonant and crazed, but every time, Soen turns back to what keeps them grounded, namely their graceful and organic sense of melody.

Sharp and striking, with whiplash time signature changes and bi-polar mood swings, "Ennui" and "Void" are unpredictable and volatile, capable of building gripping drama, turning meditative and then gnashing their teeth in fits of anger. There is thunder in the drums of "Tabula Rosa" and agile movement, each instrument seemingly stalking some extraterrestrial prey and then pouncing with a lust for blood, as existential angst plays out in the lyrics. There is savage, pummeling aggression in the drumming of a particularly stormy part of "Kuraman," cracking through the song's knotty muscle and expansive melodies, and there is urgency and tumult in "The Other's Fall," whereas the thick, watery "Koniskas" swells with harmonic majesty.

Tellurian can be a willful and difficult child, as might be conceived by King Crimson or somebody of that ilk. Its tantrums, like the ones in "Pluton," are purposeful, however, and brief, little bursts of emotional turmoil meant to convey distress and dissatisfaction. Soen has a lot to say and many ways of expressing what it hates, what it fears and what it loves.
Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Rog & Pip – Our Revolution

CD Review: Rog & Pip – Our Revolution
Rise Above Relics
All Access Rating: A-

Rog & Pip - Our Revolution 2014
Collecting dust no more, the recordings of Rog & Pip – guitarist Roger Lomas and singer/guitarist Pip Whitcher, once members of the U.K. freakbeat collective The Sorrows – are just now seeing the light of day.

Having followed the rest of The Sorrows to Italy in the late ‘60s, where the band was massively popular, Rog & Pip moved back to Britain in short order, repatriating to record loads of thundering psychedelic/progressive proto-metal and dirty-faced, stomping glam-rock at the ultra-modern AIR studios throughout the ‘70s. Lomas, who would become a Grammy-winning producer for The Specials, Echo and the Bunnymen, Roy Wood and The Tubes, just to name a few, saved it all, preserving it for this raucous and raw 12-track vintage collection of previously unreleased recordings. 

Housed in a deluxe package, from Rise Above Relics, with comprehensive sleeve notes and a passel of candid photos, rugged, rollicking songs like the spirited party anthem “A Little Rock ‘N’ Roll,” the rabble-rousing “Our Revolution” and the shaking, rumbling “Hot Rodder,” which predates the stoner-metal movement by a good 20 years or more, demand an audience. And although the songwriting is rudimentary, there’s a beautiful simplicity at work here, the Beatlesque “It’s a Lonely World” a bittersweet lament that hints at bigger ambitions, whereas “From a Window” and “Warlord” emerge as potent blasts of wild garage-rock that do, indeed, kick out the jams.
– Peter Lindblad

Bobby Whitlock's ups and downs with Delaney & Bonnie

Rock/soul revue's instability, substance abuse led to group's downfall
By Peter Lindblad

Bobby Whitlock is doing jewelry design
these days, along with music and other
artistic endeavors
Almost from the very start, the soul/rock revue Delaney & Bonnie and Friends was a band of musical vagabonds, the lineup always in a state of flux.

When Bobby Whitlock, reared at Stax Records, joined up in the late 1960s, however, he found it to be a close-knit assemblage of talented artists, even going so far as to call it a "family." They were kindred spirits, according to Whitlock, passionate and knowledgeable about Southern music and making themselves right at home in the nurturing environment of Stax.

At the same time, there was constant turnover, and Whitlock sympathized with Delaney Bramlett, knowing that the transience vexed him.

"It's frustrating to be the leader of it, because it's always changing," said Whitlock, the keyboardist/guitarist who would go on to help form Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton and play on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album. "If everyone is always going, and everyone is always changing and every situation always changes. Everyone wants to better themselves, and the doors of opportunity are always open for everyone to get themselves on a higher plateau."

Whitlock eventually did likewise, but he remained with Delaney & Bonnie from 1968 to 1970, playing keyboards and lending vocals to 1969's Home and Accept No Substitute albums. Members at the time included a horn section consisting of Bobby Keys and Jim Price, bassist Carl Radle and drummers Jim Keltner and Jim Gordon, with guitar god Eric Clapton becoming lead guitarist midway through the summer of 1969 on a U.S. tour.

At first, everything ran like clockwork. Then, the group began to suffer from a chemical imbalance. "That carried on until D&A got involved. I call it 'drugs and alcohol,'" said Whitlock. "That kindred spirit seemed to fall to the wayside. In the beginning, everyone could relate to each other."

Bobby Whitlock performing with
his wife, CoCo Carmel.
Nowadays, Whitlock has a family with wife Coco Carmel, the two forming a husband-and-wife musical duo. He said she does everything well, and added that " ... she sees the big picture. She saw the big picture in me before I did." Coming into focus currently is Whitlock's art work, including his jewelry design. Whitlock is currently auctioning a piece called the "Mountain Ring" and preparing to see his works to the public. Information regarding the ring can be found here:

Whitlock works in a variety of mediums these days, including root art, wood carving and painting. As a musician, versatility has always been his calling card, and he was called on to do something with Delaney & Bonnie that was a bit out of his comfort zone.

"Yeah, I was surprised. I didn't know I was going to be singing chick parts number one," said Whitlock. "It all worked out. I kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open, because I was surrounded by great people, but I had always been surrounded by great people, always."

That was the case at Stax, a place that had been his home, where he cut his teeth with Sam & Dave and Booker T. & the MGs. "When I got with Delaney & Bonnie, I left my career at Stax to be with them," said Whitlock, who had become a part of a disciplined unit that prized tightness and efficiency. "It was like being with James Brown. It was Delaney's way or no way at all."

Bobby Whitlock at the piano, with Eric Clapton on the guitar.
Delaney & Bonnie excelled at vocal harmonies, and Whitlock sang those "chick parts" with zeal. "As it turned out, it was a good thing that for me, because singing those second-part harmonies, that's what we did with the Dominos."

His background in gospel music made it easy for him to assimilate into the vocal harmony boot camps of Sam & Dave and Delaney & Bonnie, and what Delaney & Bonnie did at first, as an acoustic duo, influences what Whitlock and Carmel do today. Still, Whitlock feels the Delaney & Bonnie and Friends "couldn't be topped" as far as vocal harmonies go.

And while the ever-evolving lineup caused consternation among those who stuck it out for a while, Whitlock is quick to say that "nobody ever got fired from Delaney & Bonnie. Everybody left. It was like a revolving door, just coming in and going out." Eventually, Whitlock went out that door as well, going off to work on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album and then forming Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton. His days with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, however, were important to his development as an artist.

(We'll have more from Bobby Whitlock on his work on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album and his days with Derek and the Dominos coming soon)

Riot is reborn as Riot V

Mark Reale encouraged band to carry on after his death
By Peter Lindblad

Riot V is bassist Don Van Stavern,
guitarists Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee,
vocalist Todd Michael Hall and
drummer Frank Gilchriest

Mark Reale's health problems were far more serious than he let on.

In 2012, the founding guitarist of heavy-metal cult favorites Riot died after an almost lifelong battle with Crohn's Disease, only months after the reunited Thundersteel-era lineup released the power-metal tour de force Immortal Soul. 

His passing shocked and saddened the metal community, and many figured Riot, having been through so much in its 30-odd years of existence, was not long for this world either. Reale wasn't having any of it.

Having formed Riot in 1975 with drummer Peter Bitelli as a powerhouse, straightforward metal outfit capable of produced such blazing classics as Narita and Fire Down Under, Reale was the one constant in Riot's existence, reviving and reshaping the band after devastating personnel losses and orchestrating Riot's transformation as a storming power-metal beast on 1988's Thundersteel with new partner Don Van Stavern.

It was Reale who urged his comrades to forge ahead in his absence, as Van Stavern and guitarist Mike Flyntz conspired to write the compelling material for Unleash The Fire, the electrifying new album from a unit rechristened Riot V that includes drummer Frank Gilchriest, guitarist Nick Lee and Todd Michael Hall, a vocalist of extraordinary power and expression.

Flyntz talked in this interview about Riot V's new adventures, Reale's final days and how Riot V carried on after the death of their leader to bring Unleash The Fire to life.

Riot - Unleash The Fire 2014
What was the hardest part about making this record without Mark?
Mike Flyntz: Besides the obvious musical and emotional difficulties the hardest part was not having Mark there for the final everyday decisions. Mark was very generous with letting everyone involved contribute ideas. He let everyone shine. In the end he would decide on different arrangements and tempo changes etc.  Don and I had to make all the final decisions for this record.

They say that tragedy that can sometimes unite and strengthen the bonds between survivors. In that respect, did the writing and recording of Unleash the Fire bring the remaining members of the band closer together, or was it a difficult process?
MF: We were on a mission to make the best record possible since it was written for Mark. We had big shoes to fill and most people didn’t think we could do it or if it was even possible without Mark. We were very close and Mark’s spirit was with us the entire time.

In what ways does the new album seem reminiscent of Thundersteel? That album was such a classic, and a lot of the elements that it made it so special are here as well.
MF: Todd’s voice mixed with the songwriting I think are the main components. Also Don Van Stavern wrote eight of the songs on the new record. He was also a main writer of Thundersteel along with Mark.

“Bring the Hammer Down” and "Return of the Outlaw" are such phenomenal tracks. The singing makes the hair on your arms stand up, and so do the guitar riffs. Was there a real sense of excitement in the air when those songs in particular were being recorded?
MF: The music was done first. Although we heard the demos we really didn’t realize how much Todd was going to step up to the plate until the music was recorded. We were blown away when he added his vocals.

As much as anything, Unleash the Fire is great guitar album, with really strong, tight riffs, fiery solos and really interesting, melodic dual leads. What did you hope to do instrumentally on this record in tribute to Mark?
MF: Our main focus was to stay true to traditional Riot and to honor Mark. I just wrote all the guitar parts the same way Mark and I would over the past 25 years. Mark always liked to combine melodic parts with bluesy elements.

Mark encouraged the band to continue on after his death. Why did he feel that it was important to do so, and how much pressure was there in trying to make a record that would make him proud?
MF: During the recording of Immortal Soul Mark was having trouble recording his parts. He told me to record the parts, and he would come in when he was better. I wound up doing all the solos and 90 percent of the rhythm guitars. He heard the recordings and approved them. He was very proud of us and said to keep going. We didn’t realize how sick he was.

What inspired the words to “Land of the Rising Sun” and was there a sense that you wanted to make a more hopeful statement with the lyrics here?
MF: Don wrote this about our first trip to Japan in 1989. We were shocked at the reception at the airport and the hotel. There were hundreds of people awaiting our arrival. We felt like the Beatles. We will never forget this and chose to write a song for them to say thanks.

Going back to Thundersteel, just before that Riot was trying to rebuild and re-establish itself after some problems with record labels and some lineup shuffling. Even though you weren't in the band then, what are your thoughts about that record?
MF: Mark did want to experiment with a new sound and Donnie was real influential in the Thundersteel sound. A lot of older fans didn’t like the change. On the other hand, there was an entire different fan base developed with the new sound.

What are your impressions of that record today? Was it somewhat ahead of its time?
MF: I think  the songs are great. It was ahead of it’s time. When we play live the Thundersteel songs are constantly requested and always go over the best.

With The Privilege of Power, that was such an experimental album, with the use of horns. What did you think of it?
MF: I think it was a great idea. Everything in life is timing. Not sure if the timing was right with the grunge era approaching, but who knew?

It is natural, given all the lineup changes over the years, to wonder how solid this version of Riot is. Is it different this time around? Do you sense that this group could stay around for a while, or are you guys just trying to live in the moment and not think too much about the future?
MF: We are looking towards the future now. At first our idea was to pay tribute to Mark and see how the fans reacted. Due to the blessing and constant support from the Riot fans it is obvious to us that we should continue. As long as Mr. Reale and the fans want it we will continue.

What would be the greatest compliment you could receive with regard to this new record?
MF: Already happened. The fans have spoken. The fans have showed overwhelming support and enthusiasm over this new record. To our surprise the writers and critics have all joined in too. We are so thankful.

Where there moments in the making of Unleash the Fire where you said to yourself or to the others, “Mark would have really liked that,” or, on the other hand, “Mark would have really hated that”?
MF: There wasn’t a day when Mark’s name didn’t come up whether we were asking “how
would he do it” or just joking about things he would have said. We constantly used Mark’s sayings and jokes throughout the entire recording process.

I have to ask about the cover. You used the seal from Fire Down Under, and you’ve utilized it extensively for Riot album art. What is the story behind its use and why was it important to bring it back for this record?
MF: Not sure where it came from. It is referred to as “Mighty Tior” or “Johnny”. Since the album was a dedication to Mark and the entire Riot catalog we wrote music and used themes that combined all the eras of Riot’s history.

What’s next for Riot?

MF: We look forward to touring and then doing another record and DVD.