Book Review: Jim Peterik – Through the Eye of the Tiger: The Rock 'N' Life of Survivor's Founding Member

Book Review: Jim Peterik – Through the Eye of the Tiger: The Rock 'N' Roll Life of Survivor's Founding Member
BenBella Books
All Access Rating: B+

Jim Peterik - Through the
Eye of the Tiger: The
Rock 'N' Roll Life of
Survivor's Founding Member
Usually, rock 'n' roll autobiographies are a damn sight more tawdry and scandalous than this.

A faithful husband devoted to his wife of 40-some years, Karen, and a good Catholic, whose greatest vices seem to be a love of fast cars and vintage guitars, Jim Peterik, practically a teetotaler, never experienced a harrowing descent in the dark world of addiction or took part in out-of-control sex orgies with underage groupies and farm animals.

Nobody's doing blow off a stripper's ass or tossing televisions out of hotel room windows in the refreshingly sweet, sometimes tumultuous and deeply personal "Through The Eye of the Tiger: The Rock 'N' Life of Survivor's Founding Member," from BenBella Books. Aside from a brief moment of weakness in a hotel room with Connie, made famous in the Grand Funk Railroad song "We're An American Band," that ended before anything serious happened, Peterik was practically a choirboy.

His story is pretty tame stuff compared to the endless debauchery of Motley Crue's "The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band" or even Sammy Hagar's "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock." The juiciest bits have to do with Peterik unwillingly ceding control of Survivor to Frankie Sullivan and their often fractious relationship, as well as behind-the-scenes power struggles with meddling music-industry Svengali types – kingmaker John Kalodner being one of them – and the dirty dealing that resulted in .38 Special's hit version of "Rockin' Into the Night," originally written by Peterik and members of Survivor for their own use.

Mostly a straightforward account of Peterik's struggles and triumphs in a music industry, as well as interpersonal relationships with band mates, friends and family, "Through the Eye of the Tiger" –featuring a forward by REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin – focuses on Peterik's almost obsessive drive for success, which almost cost him his marriage and his own sense of identity. The commissioning of the rousing Survivor anthem "Eye of the Tiger" by action-movie star Sly Stallone for "Rocky III" is addressed right up front and without delay, and his sometimes scattered prose, competently shaped by writer Lisa Torem, turns almost giddy with excitement any time the conversation turns to the process of making music, which, for him, has always been something magical. That's what garners the lion's share of attention in the book.

From his teen years fronting Ides of March and riding the smash hit "Vehicle" to the top of the charts on through the mega success of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," Peterik leads readers into intensely creative studio sessions, recalls sensational live performances and gigs that fizzled, and handles uncomfortable matters, such as the firing of band members or personal failings, with kid gloves. His musical fandom and admiration for bands like The Turtles, the Allman Brothers and British Invasion influences comes shining through, as well, and, in the end, even though it's not a torrid page-turner, "Through the Eye of the Tiger" has a charming and rare innocence and a good heart that other books of this ilk simply don't. That makes Peterik's story one worth telling.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain

CD Review: Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: A-

Cannibal Corpse - A Skeletal Domain 2014
Cannibal Corpse has crossed just about every line imaginable in its 26 gore-splattered years of existence.

So, when the band's new producer, Mark Lewis, says of the death-metal destroyers' new Metal Blade Records release, A Skeletal Domain, that "there are moments on this record that have never happened in musical history," he may not simply be engaging in wild hyperbole.

Lewis, who's worked with such heavy-hitters as DevilDriver and the Black Dahlia Murder, replaces Erik Rutan, who honed the sound of the band's last three records. Having updated Cannibal Corpse's extreme sonic assault, Lewis has somehow intensified their already enormous, swirling maelstrom of violent, blood-and-guts imagery, frenzied blast beats, George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's guttural roar, Alex Webster's impossibly fast bass currents, psychotic tempo shifts and flaying riffs seemingly run through a wood chipper.

Executed with surgical attention to detail and a tortured mix of calculated instrumental discipline and crazed, completely unpredictable guitar attacks from Pat O'Brien and Rob Barrett, A Skeletal Domain is a uniquely brutal rampage of thrash energy. Unleashing a barrage of diabolical progressions that go places that would be off limits to less twisted imaginations, delirious blitzkriegs like "High Velocity Impact Splatter," "Icepick Lobotomy," "Sadistic Embodiment" and "Kill or Become" – "Corpsegrinder" raging, "Fire up the chainsaw" with homicidal intent – become scary aural loony bins, with complex stuff going on in the dark recesses that's truly shocking and unexpected.

There are interludes of heavy, slower crawls, such as those in the title track, that allow for brief respites from the all-out war Cannibal Corpse fights in the closer "Hollowed Bodies," where the chugging guitars grind bones into sawdust, just as they do in "Vector of Cruelty." Amid the malevolent chaos there is structure, and it's strong and flexible enough to withstand this wicked, destructive sonic turbulence.

Inevitably, most Cannibal Corpse conversation revolves around the ridiculously graphic nature of the band's iconic album covers and lyrics, the depictions of mutilation and dismemberment so outrageous they're almost cartoonish. The ferocious ambition and sheer audacity of A Skeletal Domain, suggestive of bands like Meshuggah, might just steer the discussion more toward Cannibal Corpse's technical skill and lethal precision.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Justin Hayward – Spirits ... Live – Live at the Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta

CD Review: Justin Hayward – Spirits ... Live – Live at the Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Justin Hayward - Spirits  
Justin Hayward's choice of guitars for his 2013 tour in support of his beguiling solo album Spirits of the Western Sky made all the sense in the world.

For the first time ever, the legendary Moody Blues' singer/guitarist decided to bring his "song writing" guitars on the road, thinking that perhaps they might help recreate onstage the intimacy and warmth of his music room at home.

Apparently, Hayward was on to something. Spirits ... Live – Live at the Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta is a pristine concert recording of Hayward and friends performing an uplifting and gorgeously rendered mix of a few Moody Blues classics and newer Hayward originals with sincerity and romantic idealism. Ever the tenderhearted optimist, his acoustic strumming giving off a golden glow as his songs swell with emotion, Hayward still has an expansive voice capable of carrying his lovelorn pleas to heaven. Though slightly weathered, making his guileless delivery here more approachable than ever, it emits purity and light, Hayward rejecting despair to remain open to enchantment and deep connections. This troubadour still believes in love, and so do his fans, who he seems to pull ever closer in such a lovely setting, which can be seen on the DVD and Blu-ray versions of this live release.

Drifting ever so gently away from the haunting, mist-shrouded progressive-rock readings of the Moody Blues' staples "Nights in White Satin" and "Tuesday Afternoon," which opens the brilliantly rendered set with soul-searching introspection, Hayward and acoustic guitarist Mike Dawes and keyboardists/backing vocalists Julie Ragins and Alan Hewitt mostly engage in affecting, wistful and often sunny folk-pop throughout Spirits ... Love, with "In Your Blue Eyes" and "One Day, Someday" sounding especially dreamy on this August night in 2013.

And though they run somewhat wilder through a jaunty, joyous version of "Your Wildest Dreams," it's the twinkling magic of "Land of Make Believe," the winsome natures of "It's Up to You/Lovely to See You" and "I Know You're Out There Somewhere," and the spare, natural beauty of "The Eastern Sun" that benefit from simple, quiet instrumentation, the well-crafted melodies therein allowed to shine on their own without gaudy embellishment. So does the country-tinged "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart," an unexpected gem nostalgic for old Nashville but still English to the core.

Maybe Hayward is the musical equivalent of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," but Hayward's also always had a gift for writing timeless music that speaks of love and loss and triumph over darkness. In that respect, it's a refreshing departure from the noise and violence of a world obsessed with flash and scandal at the expense of innocence and hope. http://www.eagle-rock.com/
– Peter Lindblad

Ian Wright is ready for his close-up

Rare photos of The Beatles, Stones, Hendrix to be auctioned
By Peter Lindblad

Mick Jagger and a soda bottle, photographed before
a performance in which he was struck above the eye
by a filed-down coin. The image appeared on
page 1 of The Northern Echo with the
headline "Blood from a Stone."
He was only a teenager, riding his bike from assignment to assignment in northeast England in all kinds of weather. Lugging his heavy camera equipment to and fro, young Ian Wright found himself in the middle of a cultural and social sea change.

Working as a dark room boy at a newspaper in the early '60s, Wright eventually was entrusted with the task of photographing a pop music scene that was suddenly exploding, his candid, expressive photos of stars like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, The Animals and The Kinks appearing in a supplement to The Northern Echo newspaper called "The Teenage Special."

And then there were the American acts, such as Johnny Cash, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison, that brought their exciting brand of music over to Britain. Wright's lens captured them all, including a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix. When England was swept up in the Swinging '60s, Wright got as close to the action as anyone, and he would later rejoin the famed editor of The Northern Echo, Sir Harold Evans, at The Sunday Times in London, working all over the world, including the U.S.

Wright's book "On the Brink of Fame" includes a treasure trove of images from those thrilling days of yore, along with the fascinating stories behind each and every one of them. His work also appears at The National Portrait Gallery collection in London, with some included in the present exhibition "Beatles to Bowie," and will also be exhibited at The Morrison Hotel Gallery later this year in New York.

Soon, you'll have a chance to own your own piece of the Swinging '60s, as Wright is preparing to auction off some of his most beloved photos of The Beatles, The Rollings Stones, Hendrix and other greats through Backstage Auctions. In this interview, Wright talks about the sale and shares tales from a time when revolution was in the air.

Why did you decide to auction these photos off now?
Ian Wright: I do books now myself, and I’m going through this procedure, and I thought at 70 I might as well start a new life. And I’ve played around with this stamp collection for long enough, and I’ve got as much out of it as I possibly can. So that is the reason behind putting these things in with Jacques, to see what we could do, to see if we could get anything from them, because in the publishing industry, the same is happening as far as anybody now wanting to buy your material at a reasonable price to reproduce. And secondly, there isn’t enough coming in enough numbers to be represented by a gallery, and so I thought it’s time for me to move on. I’ve had them for 50 years. It’s about time I got something for them, get rid of them, get some cash in and then invest that into the publishing side. So that’s the reason behind it, no other reason for it. It’s just we thought we might take the money and do something with it in the autumn of our years. 

What do you hope the people who buy them get out of them?
IW: The one vehicle that should be marketed for some of this material is that if they have that material, then they own it. They have the rights to it. It gives them a hands-on something, particularly with the collectors. Secondly, of course, with that material, the other people that are going to be interested are going to be things like the Hendrix estate, and also the possibility that news agencies like Getty Images and people like that are always on the lookout to hoover up material.

Take me back to when you began. What got you into photography?
IW: It started in 1959. And the draw line is the Duke of Edinburgh brought in an awards scheme for youngsters to give them sort of a head start in various areas, such as keep fit and having a hobby, but they didn’t want you to have a hobby, because you got marks for each area that you were involved in. You had to do first aid, keep fit and hobbies of another kind, which I can't remember what that was … but you couldn’t have a hobby which was just like stamp collecting. It had to be a bit more than just model airplanes. And so, once again, what happened was, they led young people through the age of 14 into the three stages of this to go for two or three years was a bronze, silver and gold. So bronze obviously was for the youngest, and I was in for that. And consequently, they put all of these things through school. 

Now in those days in England, the Duke of Edinburgh Award was something that was a very prestigious thing to be involved in, and as well in those days, school teachers who had an interest in whatever it was always would put their name in a hat to say how they could help people who were looking to take on a hobby that needed some form of training. So we had a teacher in my school in the northeast of England ... and Arthur Soakell put in his name and said, “Well, I’d be prepared to teach photography.” And I thought, “Well, that sounds good. That sounds good. My dad’s got a camera.” Well, he did. It was a Box Brownie. And he said I could use it. So I stick my hand up and say, “Well, what do you want?” So for months and months, I was under the tutelage of my old school teacher, and twice a week I’d go around to his house, and his wife was there and his daughter was there, and he would get them to shift all the casserole dishes off the kitchen table, and then he’d put developing dishes dishes up on there, and then he’d teach the junior how to load a spool and put the film in with his eyes closed – things like that. And he taught me all the basics, the fundamentals of it all, and that’s basically my first interest in photography. 

Going on from there, I started building portfolios of pictures which he would look at and then critique them. But what I didn’t know was that his next door neighbor was a chap called Teddy Page. And Teddy Page was the chief photographer of the local paper The Northern Echo. And he showed these photographs to Teddy Page. Teddy Page said, “Well, the Duke is coming in June.” And he said, “I’m going to get your lad – because he’s the only one, your lad – I’m going to get him to go with the rank of press photographers and get him accreditation so that he can carry on doing his part for his medal, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, so that he can go and learn from the professionals." And so, like Keith Richards, whose first gig was singing in the choir at Westminster Abby at the Queen’s coronation, my first gig was by royal appointment because I had to go and photograph the Duke of Edinburgh when he came to the town to find out how his awards scheme was progressing. And then what happened was, we developed all these pictures – on the sofa, in his darkroom, in the kitchen, in the toilet, whatever, you know, putting towels under the bottom of the door so everything was light tight – and then they saw my photographs the next day. They took them to the editor of the paper, and the editor says, “Well, we’re expanding. We’re getting a new editor next year, and your lad leaves next year. Get him to apply for the job as the darkroom boy.” So I did, and I went the same day as Sir Harold Evans went to his editorship. We went for interviews on the same day. After our respective interviews, he became the editor and I became the darkroom boy that washed the floors, made the tea and do what they do as doormen.

Who was the first pop celebrity you ever photographed?
IW: Ella Fitzgerald. That was the first one, because what happened – I assume you know who Sir Harold Evans is … so Harry, in his week or month there, he found that I was upstairs in the darkroom. He wanted to begin his first-ever supplement. He eventually was the founder of Conde Nast travel magazine when he was the president and publisher of Random House. But the first supplement he did ... because he was a visionary, a modernist and he was only 33 and I was 15, and he was into The Beatles. He was into the Stones. He was into all this by ’62. He knew. He called it “The Revolution of the Last Century.” He wrote it, he chronicled it, and I photographed it and sent it across the world. And he made this little supplement. 

It was a broadsheet page, four pages, fold-over, every Monday, and by the beginning of ’63, on every Monday, it put 30,000 extra copies on the circulation. It was that good. It was that good. And it was called “The Teenage Special.” Because all the other photographers had all come through the war and had come through the ‘50s, they had no idea who these up-and-coming artists were. They knew who Ella Fitzgerald was, naturally, but these were the people coming over from Vegas, playing the nightclubs in the northeast. I didn’t really know who Ella Fitzgerald was, and Billy Epstein and people like that, but they came over from Vegas and played there. But the emerging Beat groups started or were formed about January or February of 1962, when The Beatles came back from Hamburg. And I was the one in the office that was the youngest of them all, and I was the only one that knew who these up-and-coming people were. And so, Harry asked me if I could do the photographs. The chief photographer agreed, with certain restrictions that I wouldn’t get time off, I wouldn’t get any overtime and I wouldn’t get any expenses, so I rode my bicycle to all of these events, all of these things that were just starting to happen. And that’s when I photographed The Beatles. They were on the bottom of the bill of “The Helen Shapiro Variety Show” in February 1963.

How many times did you photograph The Beatles?
IW: I photographed all four tours in 1963. First of all, Harry’s wife, his first wife – of course he’s married to Tina Brown now – his first wife, Enid, who’s passed away, she went out and bought a record player and bought all The Beatles records, and Harry used to jive around to them in the office. He even took me to see what he called “The Revolution.” He actually went and took me to one of these “Beatlemania” concerts, with 50,000 people in Hyde Street. And then I’d gotten to know them, of course, because I’d done them a favor with the picture of mine in the lift, "On the Way Up." That’s what set it all off really ... and Harry really got into this; he got into the groove. I got him backstage, and he met The Beatles, and he was jiving around. He was just a bit nervous, you know, because he had his university scarf on ... and I took him backstage and I introduced him to the boys. And then George Harrison came up and said, “Hey, that scarf is a little bit grotty.” And Evans had no idea what he was meaning, because “grotty” was a Liverpool expression for the word “grotesque.” So when Harry was given this, it was like being touched by the hand of God. Everything in the office was grotty – “I don’t like that headline. It’s grotty.” “I don’t like that intro. It’s grotty.” “I don’t like those shoes. They’re grotty.” And he just drove every bugger mad for about six months, but he captured what was in front of him, what he could see the other side of. He could see the political side of the change, he could see the social change and the music was what was driving all these changes.

Are there any unusual or funny little stories you can tell from your days of hanging out with The Beatles?
IW: Well, basically when I started, I was only 15 and I was on my bike, and I had a big plate camera. In those days, naturally, I would just leave my bicycle in the stage door. And the doorman would say, “I’ll look after your bike. Off you go. You know where everybody is.” And I had free range backstage, because in those days, there were no backstage passes. They didn’t exist … So that was the first thing. I had carte blanche to go backstage and photograph whoever I wanted. Nobody was there to stop me. And usually, I was the only one, because no other newspaper at the beginning had a magazine like that. 

When we started, it was the end of October or November in 1962, and we started covering what was called the U.K.-U.S. beat tour, and they would send over American stars. It could be Buddy Holly. It could be Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. And then they promoted the bill with a lot of up-and-coming beat groups, which The Beatles were one of. And then you had The Shadows and the Telstars and Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, and all these people – 10 acts on each bill, with an American headliner. So I photographed all that lot. And then, of course, I got to know The Beatles, and I did this one photograph of them, because I heard this sound coming from the stage and I was completely awed by it. And it was at this variety show on a blizzard of a night on Feb. 9, 1963, and I can still hear it today. I just heard this mouth organ and “a one, two, a one, two, three, four.” And I was just riveted. I mean I’d never anything like it before in my life. And I went out front, and I think I was using the plate, I only had 12 plates. I took one of them live on stage … What was that first song they had? “Love Me Do” was No. 47 on the charts. And that was it. 

You could tell just by watching them perform on stage how they got the audience going, clapping their hands over their heads. You could hear the first screams from the young girls from the front row. And McCartney, who was never one to be shy about taking the limelight, he was cupping his hands around his ear and bending down and would wave at them to get them to scream more. And Ringo’s in the back. He’s like a Rolls Royce engine was Ringo. I mean this guy was born to drum. I mean he was the guy who was driving them on. He literally was like a wrecking ball was Ringo, but he was the sweetheart of the group. I would be backstage between the shows, two shows every night, and when they started to get popular only a few weeks after, because “Please Please Me” came out by the end of March of that year, and then it started, all of the stuff – the screaming started, all this mayhem, 50,000 people in a town that only had 30,000 inhabitants. You know, 30,000 people … More than the people who lived in the town were out in the streets.

And they would throw all this stuff on the stage, and the charladies, between the concerts, while one crowd was going out and the next audience was coming in, would sweep up all of the presents when they were gone. Usually, they were things like autograph books, but occasionally, people would throw a shoe, things like that. But the majority of things were teddy bears, toys, dolls. And when the charladies had collected it all up, they were all in bins … you know, dust bins. And they would bring them all up into the dressing room, and they’d all pile in and sign the autograph books, ‘cause the next day the doorman would get their books and then he’d charge them a couple of shillings to get their books back all signed by The Beatles and all the other people on the show. But Ringo would just sit there very quietly and he’d just pick out all the little dolls and all the cuddly little bears and this, that and the other, and he’d put them all in a lovely pile in a chair and he’d go to George Skelton, one of the managers of the (The Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees), and say to George, “Just make sure you send them all around for the children’s hospitals in the morning, would you?” You had to be there. You just can’t make these things up. You had to be there to see it.

What was your favorite photo you ever took of The Beatles?


Taken in 1964 at the Futurist
Theatre in Scarborough, England,
on the eve of The Beatles'
"Eye of the Hurricane" U.S. tour.
IW: I think the early ones, of course, are very, very scarce, because there weren’t many photographers taking them. There’s great value in the first two that I’ve just explained. But my favorite portrait of them was the one of them in the window ... there’s one of them in a window of a theatre, and in the background, you can see the crowd and you can see the Futurist Theatre background, and I kind of got to know them. They nicknamed me “Wrighty,” that’s where I got my nickname from. John Lennon nicknamed me “Wrighty” after I took the picture in the lift. And about 18 months later, they were there in the theatre, and John said, “Hey Wrighty,” he said, “Have you got a passport?” And I said, “No, I don’t.” And he said, “Oh, you’re out of luck. We’re going to America next week. You could have come with us.” And then he said to the rest of the lads, “Hey, let’s just go next door and do a picture for Wrighty,” before the Futurist Theatre. And they walked into this other room where those windows are. None of the other photographers were allowed in, and I got that one picture, and that was so encouraging to a young lad that had seen them on the bike about 18 months before. Now there’s 50,000 people on the street looking up at the theatre. There’s 150 photographers, journalists – radio, television – and suddenly the kid on his bike wasn’t a kid anymore. So I think that has to go down as one of the nicest portraits I’ve ever seen or ever done, and then they left a few days later for the “Eye of the Hurricane” tour, which they just celebrated here yesterday – 50 years yesterday, that The Beatles performed in Las Vegas on that tour that they invited me to go on. And I think that picture is definitely in that auction, too. There’s a lot of anecdotes I’ve written as captions to with them. 

What do you remember about your first encounter with The Rolling Stones?
IW: Well, the first one, I met them was the first time they ever played outside of London in one of these middle annexed towns, because Mick Jagger had an agreement with the group that to if he was going to stay with them, he had to honor a grant that was being given to him by the Conservative government, that was issued by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, that he had been awarded a grant for extra education. I mean, the guy was brilliant in whatever he did. If he’d become the CEO of British Telecom or whatever, he’d still be there. He was that good. The guy was bilingual in French, Latin, Greek … it was just unbelievable. But what this grant afforded him was the fact that he had a place in the London School of Economics, and he was so determined that he wasn’t going to let his parents down or the government that was giving him this grant, that he told the Stones that he had to go through those doors at 9 o’clock every weekday. They agreed to do that. He went to the London School of Economics. 

Of course, that played out very well later on in life, because when they had Allen Klein, after he bankrupted The Beatles, Allen Klein just about bankrupted the Stones. And then all of a sudden, Jagger stepped in with Count Loewenstein, or whatever his name is … he just died, this guy from Lichtenstein. And the two of them got their heads together and they became the financial wizards behind Rolling Stones, Inc., and when they got Warhol to do the red tongue, the Rolling Stones’ logo. And it was because of that intervention and Jagger’s expertise in learning at the London School of Economics, that’s what got them financially set forever more on end. And that’s how I got to meet with them the first time, as they came out of their cocoon of London, they came up to the northeast of England. And the one I got to know probably the best of all the people I know that are in my book is Mick Jagger. And that’s because we were both hooked and completely besotted by the English game of cricket. Yeah, yeah, yeah. When we first met, we talked about cricket. When we met on previous occasions, we talked about cricket. I bumped into him once at [an airport], where we were getting on the same flight from Paris back to London, and we sat back and started talking about cricket on the plane. And that’s how it all came about. And then when I was living in France, I wasn’t living very far away from where what he calls his main world residence, in the Loire Valley in Saumur. He’s got one of those chateaus on the river Loire. And we had a cricket team in France, all ex-pats. And when he moved there, he became president of the Saumur Cricket Club, and I saw him in France playing cricket. 

So, all the way through, there’s been this connection, and I haven’t seen him for a while, but a few years ago, we were both members of a cricket charity called the Lords Taverners. And a few years ago, they were doing an auction of prints of mine to raise money for a charity, and it’s a patronage with members of the Royal Family, etc. It’s a very well-respected club, a lot of celebrities, authors … people like that who indulge in it. Anyway, Jagger had agreed to open it for me, but neither of us gt there. It was the time when the volcano erupted in Iceland, and he was in his home in Guadalupe in the West Indies, and I was here. And neither of us got there. It was a bit of a shame ... So it was just one of those … but that was something [different], because none of The Beatles were interested in any kind of sport or anything like that. But in the years that have gone past there’s been one or two of us that have come out into the cricketing … Tim Rice is a big cricket supporter. Eric Clapton is, as well. Bill Wyman was a lunatic on cricket. So often, that’s a very good connection going from this kid on a bike still pertains today, that relationship … yeah.

What would you say is something interesting about the Stones or individual members of the Stones that the public doesn’t know about, maybe about them as people or a story?
IW: Well, gosh, I thought I’d given you about 10, hadn’t I? (laughs) I mean, people don’t realize that Keith Richards sang at the Queen’s coronation in 1953. So there’s one. And then I met Jagger when I was 17, and in ’64. That’s when I took that picture of him holding the Coke bottle (taken at the Globe Theatre at Stockton on Tees, England), and he was telling me that he had promised his father that if they hadn’t made it and weren’t earning money in any way, shape or form earning money, then he said he, after six months, was going to give up. And I said, “What you were going to do?” And he said, “I know what I was going to be. I was going to go into your game.” I said, “Be a photographer?” He said, “No, be a journalist.” I said, “Really? What were you going to do?” Oh, he said, “I had it all worked out. I was going to be a bilingual economist/journalist working for the Financial Times, working at the stock exchance, etc., in England, and at the bourse in Paris.” And I said, “Oh, yeah? Really? Good.” That’s just how he was. He was so intelligent, it was beyond belief. Nobody . He passed every exam going in every category ... he would go with his brothers, his mother and father, because they lived in Kent, where you could get across the channel pretty quickly on the ferry to France, and they would go on camping holidays. And he was 12, was Jagger, and he acted as the family interpreter.

What do you remember about watching them as performers compared to The Beatles?
IW: Well, they didn’t have that … because their music was rhythm and blues, as opposed to The Beatles, which used quite a number of things. But their songs were really all up-tempo, even though a lot of them they covered from people like Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly and made them their own. And they were much more dynamic ... I think both of them had the same professionalism, and they certainly enjoyed what they were doing every time they walked on stage. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. You never got anything but their level best. But as for the Stones, they had to try and find a way to present themselves, whereas The Beatles had … the Stones didn’t have someone with the charisma, the style or the vision of Brian Epstein to put his guys in suits. The Stones were all sort of a motley “rag-tag and bobtails group,” which then led to the long hair and they got a bad press reputation really, basically because they didn’t have anyone do what Epstein had been with The Beatles.

What is your favorite shot of The Rolling Stones or Mick Jagger even?
IW: Well, there’s only one that stands out for me, and that’s the one taken after the portrait of Jagger holding the bottle. It was the night that some people were throwing filed-down coins. That was just the lunacy of the Teddy boys. And they had filed down these coins and they were just throwing them at the stage in the hopes of cutting someone up and taking their eye out. And I was down in the orchestra pit. I was watching this before this happened, and a banner? flew over my head and crashed into Charlie Watts’ part of the stage where his drums were. Jagger was adept at ducking flying stiletto heels, but he didn’t duck because he couldn’t see the coin coming and the coin came and split him, it split him above his right eye. And blood just came cascading down in a second all over his face – all down on his shirt, on his trousers and dripping on the floor, and I got a picture of him being taken in with a white hanker chief out and he held it up to his eye to stem the flow of the blood. And I got the shot and went straight back to the office with it. And Harry said, “That’s page 1.” And I left it. I left the picture with him, and then I come for it – I think he had to go for a swift pint before he went home – and I went over and I got the paper the next morning. There was Jagger standing … there he was on page 1 of the paper, the Northern Echo, and all it said was, “Blood from a Stone.” So not only is that a rare photograph. It’s also the best headline anybody ever wrote for one of my photographs.

Another big star you met and photographed was Jimi Hendrix. How did you come to shoot him and what was he like?
IW: He was very nice. He was very shy, a tall chap, very skinny, buck teeth, very sure of himself, as all the Americans were, whether it was Tommy Roe, Bobby Vee, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash – all the Americans had all this charisma about them and the way they conducted themselves. Jimi was
Famed photographer Ian Wright was
on assignment in Darlington, England, when
he met Jimi Hendrix. This photo is
regarded as the very first posed,
non-concert photo of Hendrix in the U.K.
immaculate in everything that he did, and I got a call from Chas Chandler, who I’d known from The Animals, because he came from the same part of the world as me, and of course Chas had been the bass player for Eric Burdon and The Animals. And he remembered me on my bike, and, as you might be aware, he found Jimi at CafĂ© Wha? in the Village, in Greenwich Village … and they had recorded “Hey Joe,” and they started the tour in my part of the world. 

And Chas called me up and invited me ‘round to a rhythm and blues club in a pub, and he said, “I’ve just come back from America with this chap.” He said, “Nobody’s heard of him. His name is Jimi Hendrix.” I even wrote the name down incorrectly. I’d written it as “icks,” not “ix.” So that’s how famous he was. And Chas says, “Can you come around and take a couple of pictures?” He said, “He’s going to be big. He’s going to be big.” I said, “Oh, I know how this goes.” But I went around and took two photographs. They’re in the sale. They’re the first professional portraits, as far as we know. They pre-date the Gered Mankowitz studio pictures, because “Hey Joe” wasn’t in the charts, but the recollection I have was Chas was making the rounds at sound check, and he introduced me. He was very polite and Chas asked me what I thought, and I said, “I thought he was a very nice fellow.” He had Noel Redding on bass guitar and Mitch Mitchell on the drums, and you can tell it’s very early because Mitch Mitchell hasn’t got an afro yet. 

So they get everything plugged in, they start and I thought this is like the orchestra’s always out of tune when they’re tuning up before a recital. Well, they started playing all this stuff out of tune and out of key, and I thought, “Well, they’re just tuning up.” Apparently, that was the bloody music – just terrible. Anyway, within a few seconds of this, they’re blowing the fuses in the amps. That was the first thing that went wrong. You could see smoke coming out the back. Anyway, this sort of club president, he said they knew that was going to happen and they just kept going, and then all the bloody fuses blew in the whole place, in the pub. It was done. Everything was in total darkness, so I was off. I never saw him again.

That was the only time you saw him?
IW: Yeah, I think I was only there 20 minutes. Why would I do anymore? I didn’t know he was going to be famous. This was 1966. We had no idea. In the back of my book, there are pages of photographs … who are they? We don’t know. You can’t identify them, because they weren’t on the bill. A lot of them died too young. A lot of them fell by the wayside. And so consequently, by the time this happened, I’d gotten pretty wise to all this by then. I’d become a bit of an old salt by then, I knew the deal. But I wasn’t going to let Chas down. They’d been good to me, the Animals. Every time they came up, I’d always had to photograph them before “House of the Rising Sun” became a hit.   
   
Were you aware of the other ones by Gerard Mankowitz that were said to be the first?
IW: Well, I don’t think anybody could say they were the first because the clothes that Jimi’s wearing in the photographs I took were all dated, and they were exactly … he had on exactly the same Carnaby Street uniform as he’s got in Gerard Mankowitz’s studio, which was probably about a month later. So it was just fortuitous that I knew Chas and he had the sense to call me up. In fact when the photograph was published, there was a reporter there and there was a critique in there – she didn’t see the show either, because it was over almost before they went on. She wrote two paragraphs in “The Teenage Special” and my photograph went in of Jimi Hendrix and it was the size of a thumbnail.

When did you realize that Jimi was a huge star?
IW: Well, it wasn’t long after that. I think either Spencer Davis or Denny Laine of the Moody Blues had been telling me something about being on a recording for the British television “Top of the Pops” show. And he’d been on there, and they were raving about him. They were raving about him. They’d never heard anything like it, and apparently, I didn’t know Eric Clapton at all, but he said a big influence was Jimi Hendrix. He just thought the sun shown out of every part of his orifices.

Out of everyone you’ve shot, who was your favorite out of these three or any other stars you photographed?

IW: Well, I don’t know, but for facial expressions, Jagger’s face is pretty, pretty unique. I mean, that aura that we were talking about earlier, I think it comes through in portraits I’ve taken of him … but for me, photographing people, I never had problems with any of them. Never did I have any problems at all. But for me, the nicest and one of the greatest solo singers of all-time, a guy who would bend over backwards when you were with him … that was Roy Orbison. And on the ladies side, the nicest person, with the best voice ever in the whole of the ‘60s, was definitely one of the nicest persons on the female side ... one of the nicest people of any genre which sticks out in my mind is No. 1 Roy Orbison and then Dusty Springfield. But from what we’ve got (in the sale), the biggest character, of course, was Lennon, and he was the charismatic leader of The Beatles. When I did my picture of them in the lift, if I had to talk to them, it was him that thought about it. It was him that told them, “Get in the lift.” And then it was Lennon who then placed himself front and center square under the counter in the middle of the picture. He was totally in charge of The Beatles in early ’63, but as far as my favorite portrait goes, I think it was the picture of Jagger. He had a marvelous face, wonderful features.


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CD Review: Sepultura – Sepultura and Les Tambours du Bronx: Metal Veins – Alive at Rock in Rio

CD Review: Sepultura – Sepultura and Les Tambours du Bronx: Metal Veins – Alive at Rock in Rio
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Sepultura - Sepultura and Les
Tambours du Bronx: Metal
Veins - Alive at Rock in Rio 2014
Whether assimilating the organic tribal rhythms of their native land into their swirling sonic maelstrom or harnessing the harsh abrasions of industrial beats for nefarious musical purposes, Sepultura has always been game for some adventurous percussive experimentation, even in the band's post-Max and Igor Cavalera era.

When the Brazilian thrash/death metal beasts stormed Rock in Rio in 2013, innovation and crushing brutality collided head on, as Sepultura teamed with disciplined French industrial percussion mob Les Tambours du Bronx for an intense, groundbreaking performance that grabbed a frenzied audience by the throat and never released its grip.

Available on CD, DVD or Blu-ray – the DVD containing an essential behind-the-scenes look at how this awe-inspiring collaboration was conceived – from Eagle Rock EntertainmentMetal Veins – Alive at Rock in Rio introduces the metal world to Les Tambours du Bronx, an ensemble known for intricate stick work and pounding the hell out of 225-liter barrels with axe handles or beech wood bats in perfect synchronization. Percussion isn't all they do, however, as Les Tambours du Bronx sprinkle in edgy samples and synthesized sounds to create an atmosphere of nihilistic, Ministry-like barbarism in "Fever" and a manic, thundering cover of Prodigy's "Firestarter."

Building an enormous, monolithic background of powerful drumming, the group, in lockstep throughout, provides energy and muscle in support of Sepultura's unbridled and relentless rage, which reaches a fever pitch on ferocious classics "Refuse/Resist" and "Territory," with Andreas Kisser's growling, surging riffs setting up fiery solos, such as the one that tears through "Big Hands," and drummer Eloy Casagrande matching Les Tambours du Bronx beat for marauding beat.

None of it compares to the riotous send-off that is the closer "Roots Bloody Roots," the chanting crowd having worked itself into a lather as the orgies of roaring vocals, rampaging rhythms and withering, corrosive guitar fury that erupt in sanitariums of sound like "Delirium," the charging "Spectrum" – from the visionary Kairos full-length – and a darkly sinister "We've Lost You" rise to blazing crescendoes.

There is almost unbearable tension between the two entities in this unforgettable and utterly unique live experience, as the push-pull dynamics Les Tambours du Bronx and Sepultura engage in are breathtaking to behold. At times, the drumming does threaten to overwhelm Sepultura, as impossible as that seems. Nevertheless, Metal Veins – Alive at Rock in Rio clearly separates itself from the pack, making other, more mundane concert releases seem tame by comparison.
– Peter Lindblad

Short Cuts: Yob, DragonForce, Circle II Circle

CD Review: Yob – Clearing The Path to Ascend
Neurot
All Access Rating: A-

Yob - Clearing the Path to Ascend 2014
Ascension is, undoubtedly, part of the plan for Yob, as the Oregon doom-metal destroyers prepare the release of their first full-length for Neurosis's Neurot label.

An ambitious work, full of cataclysmic guitar riffs, writhing dynamics and long, slow death marches into bleak, unforgiving sonic territories, Clearing the Path to Ascend is alternately ponderous and tumultuous, ethereal and alien. And as prone as Yob is to doling out methodical, malevolent poundings like "In Our Blood" and "Unmask the Spectre," it's the ferocious tempest "Nothing to Win" – the drumming is superhuman – that truly awes, as does the trio's supernatural atmospherics.

Comprised of only four tracks, the shortest of which clocks in at 11:37, Clearing The Path to Ascend is nightmarish and intense, but it's also a daunting listen, although the variety of vocal treatments – the primeval shrieks and growls sometimes giving way to sinister whispers – captivates, adding interesting textures to what is already a strangely hypnotic and enveloping blackness. Yob is on a righteous path.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Dragonforce – Maximum Overload
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: B+

Dragonforce - Maximum Overload 2014
What DragonForce does to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" on the British power-metal dynamo's latest Metal Blade Records release Maximum Overload won't win them any friends among country music traditionalists.

An odd choice to say the least, given their fondness for video-game sounds and electronic blips and snorts, this version of the Cash classic is easily the most bombastic ever recorded. Making it their own, in DragonForce's nimble hands, "Ring of Fire" actually seems built for speed, transforming into a soaring, frenetic epic of high-velocity guitars, jackhammer blast beats and Mark Hudson's clear, spiraling vocals.

Interestingly enough, it's the first cover song to be included on a DragonForce record. And there are other noticeable differences between the aptly named Maximum Overload and its predecessors, this outing being heavier and more thrash-oriented, as stampedes "The Game," "No More" and "Defenders" – it's no accident that Trivium's Matt Heafy contributes powerful backing vocals to all three – set pulses racing with adrenaline-fueled riffing.

Nevertheless, this is DragonForce we're talking about, and, as per usual, iconic shredders Herman Li and Sam Totman throw themselves headlong into an endless series of blindingly fast, hyper-kinetic guitar solos while glorious melodies fly overhead. Maybe DragonForce has become formulaic and predictable in always going for the big climax, but every track on Maximum Overload is a whirlwind of dazzling activity – "Three Hammers" and "Symphony of the Night" being the album's purest specimens of full-on, triumphant power-metal found here.

With their fantasy-based lyrics and "Guitar Hero" shredding, DragonForce is not everyone's cup of tea, but their attention to detail, overblown production values and insane technical skills make for an entertaining ride. It's like Disneyland for guitar fanatics.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Circle II Circle – Live At Wacken (Official Bootleg)
Armoury Records
All Access Rating: B+

Circle II Circle - Live at Wacken
(Official Bootleg) 2014
The plan was to play as much of Savatage's classic concept record 1998's Wake of Magellan at 2012's Wacken Open Air as humanly possible, given the time constraints of festival performance slots.

That was the last Savatage record Zak Stevens sang on before departing from that league of progressive-metal masterminds. Revered for its compelling story, stormy riffs, rolling emotions and maze-like arrangements, Wake of Magellan is a theatrical tour de force, a rock opera that connects two real-life incidents – the Maersk Dubai Incident and the story of Irish reporter Veronica Guerin and her tragic journalistic crusade against drug trafficking.
Circle II Circle doesn't shrink form the challenge, even if they do only manage to fit in eight of the 13 tracks on the original LP. His colossal vocals pushed way up to the front of the mix, where they belong, Stevens is a born storyteller, his power and expressiveness adding nuance to an already gripping morality play.

From the uplifting, piano-driven power ballad "Anymore" to the tension-packed pounding of "Complaint in the System (Veronica Guerin)," the golden folk of "Morning Sun" and the sweeping, melodic build of the title track, Circle II Circle follows the winding map laid out by Savatage with a bold, adventurous spirit, paying all due respect to the original source material while, at the same time, breathing new life into it. A rich pageantry of instrumental prowess, resonant sound and wonderful drama, Live At Wacken (Official Bootleg) serves as an ideal companion piece to Savatage's unassailable masterpiece.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Ace Frehley – Space Invader

CD Review: Ace Frehley – Space Invader
eOne Music
All Access Rating: A-

Ace Frehley - Space Invader 2014
Making his former KISS band mates Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons eat a hearty helping of crow would surely delight Ace Frehley to no end. Dinner is served.

With no easing of tensions in sight between the parties involved, the jilted guitarist, his sobriety having sharpened both his songwriting instincts and his instrumental chops, Frehley lets its rip on the rollicking eOne Music release Space Invader, the follow-up to 2009's Anomaly. 

Digging into his past, Frehley recaptures the raw energy and hard-rock crunch of early KISS and the surprising pop sophistication and vitality of his 1978 solo album – the one that puts all other KISS solo outings of the time to shame – with a tough, rugged title track, an equally ballsy "Gimme A Feelin'" and the infectious glam-rock nugget "I Wanna Hold You." For openers, that's a tough hand to beat – three of a kind comprised of tight, irresistible hooks, bashing drums and searing guitar solos that hit a bulls-eye dead center every time.

More metallic and heavy, "Change" and "Toys" smolder and stomp, as Frehley's riffs bite down hard and draw blood. His claws are out, and these tunes have an air of confidence and a trashy swagger born of past successes and little concern for the critics he's so eager to silence. The Zeppelin-like boogie "Inside the Vortex" seems to channel the spirit of John Bonham, while "What Every Girl Wants" updates the sleazy bump-and-grind of the New York Dolls for a new millennium – Frehley always has had a better grasp of what made the Dolls great than the rest of KISS.

A collection of punchy, slickly produced songs that kick like a mule and have a chip on their broad shoulders, Space Invader hardly ever hits a flat note. Even his version of "The Joker," by the Steve Miller Band, smokes. While every one of these tunes now lives in the penthouse suite, it seems they also revel in trawling through the gutter, looking for cheap thrills. They are rambunctious, but rarely reckless – except when Frehley launches into daring, acrobatic leads that like to wander but never go too far afield. Space Invader, with that classic cover art created by longtime Frehley collaborator Ken Kelly, is just a good bit of rock 'n' roll fun, a little wild, a little sleazy and exceedingly satisfying. That crow is getting cold boys.
– Peter Lindblad

CD/DVD Review: Randy Bachman – Every Song Tells a Story

CD/DVD Review: Randy Bachman – Every Song Tells a Story
Independent Label Services Group
All Access Rating: A-

Randy Bachman - Every Song
Tells a Story 2014
The intimacy and warmth of the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in his home town of Winnipeg proved to be the ideal environment for a pleasant evening of storytelling and music from Canada's favorite rock 'n' roll son, Randy Bachman.

Describing his life as "a series of accidents" that he's followed wherever they lead, sharing funny and insightful yarns from a long life in music, Bachman takes a rapt audience hanging on his every word on a tour through the dusty back roads and well-traveled highways of a legendary career. The resume now includes an award-winning radio show called "Vinyl Tap" that served as the inspiration for this wonderful event, captured on a new Independent Label Services Group CD/DVD release called Every Song Tells a Story.

The first stop on this journey: "Prairie Town," a really lovely, nostalgic ode to where he hails from – Winnipeg in the '60s being Canada's version of Liverpool, says Bachman – that appears on his 1992 solo album Any Road. From there, a lighthearted Bachman revisits the humble birth and ascendant rise of The Guess Who and tells personal tales about quitting college, the confused recruitment of Burton Cummings, navigating the treacherous waters of the music industry, his friendship with Neil Young and taking the act to the States, a foreign land where they encountered hippies, surfers, a biker gang and the sociopolitical turbulence of a nation at war in Vietnam.

All the while, as the engaging, self-deprecating Bachman reveals the true stories and inspiration behind the band's biggest hits, he and his backing band – playing on a stage designed to look like someone's living room – perform light, electrified versions of those songs, sliding into the raw garage-rock of "Shakin' All Over," the tender, beguiling ballads "These Eyes" and "Laughing," the sparkling folk-rock of "No Time" and the proto-metal blast of "American Woman" with both gentle ease and reckless abandon.

Sticking to a chronological timeline, Bachman breaks from The Guess Who and finds starting a new project harder than he thought, as he recounts how Brave Belt simply spun its wheels. When all seemed lost, in walked Charlie Fach of Mercury Records with a record deal, and the dark clouds disappeared.

Bachman's relief is still palpable, and the anecdotes he sprinkles in between rugged, driving BTO anthems such as "Let It Ride," "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," "Takin' Care of Business" and "Hey You" – these live versions still retaining that blue-collar vigor and slamming horsepower that made them hits in the first place – show how ingenuity and dumb luck, as well as a handful of great riffs, lifted the band to the top of the charts. Perhaps Bachman's tale is not the greatest story ever told, but it's a damn good one, filled with plenty of plot twists and surprises. And he delivers it in a manner that stays true to who he is.
– Peter Lindblad

First Impressions: Ace Frehley covers 'The Joker'

KISS guitarist takes Steve Miller Band classic
By Peter Lindblad

Ace Frehley will release 'Space
Invader' on Aug. 19
When the track listing for Ace Frehley's upcoming eOne Music release Space Invader was released, the mercurial ex-KISS guitarist sprung a surprise that gave everyone pause.

It's safe to say that nobody expected a cover of the Steve Miller Band staple "The Joker," but then again, predicting Frehley's next move has always been impossible. After all, who could have foreseen his version of Russ Ballard's "New York Groove," recorded by Hello way back in 1975, being the best thing to come out of the four KISS solo albums of the late '70s?

One of the hotly anticipated records of the summer – especially with the still simmering feud between Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley on one side and former KISS members Frehley and Peter Criss on the other garnering headlines even after all the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction awkwardness – Space Invader is Frehley's chance to shut up critics who long ago gave up on him. (eds. note: a more complete review of the record will be posted soon on this site)

Ace Frehley - Space Invader 2014
Earlier this summer, Frehley gave the world a little taste of Space Invader, the follow-up to 2009's Anomaly, by releasing the first single "Gimme A Feelin'" and it's a catchy little nugget of spirited rock 'n' roll fun that cleans up the glam rock of the New York Dolls without completely scrubbing away its grit. Now comes Frehley's take on "The Joker," and it's the one that has people a little nervous. Issued this week, you can hear it for yourself here: http://ultimateclassicrock.com/ace-frehley-the-joker-steve-miller-premiere/

Thankfully, although opinions have been mixed, Frehley's version is a damn sight more lively than the original, moving at a quickening pace as the modern production and big guitar rush breathe fresh life into what's become a moldy, sluggish oldie played way too many times on classic-rock radio. Less organic and earthy than the original, this sleek, updated cover trims away the fat to reveal a tighter, leaner song that now sounds as if it was made for these times. And maybe, just maybe, Frehley's career could be on the verge of a renaissance that few could have imagined.

CD Review: Unisonic – Light of Dawn

CD Review: Unisonic – Light of Dawn
Armoury Records
All Access Rating: A-

Unisonic - Light of Dawn 2014
Some of the parts used in the creation of Unisonic were salvaged from power-metal titans Gamma Ray and Helloween. Others were pried off of fellow German metal machine Pink Cream 69.

Add guitarist Mandy Meyer, more of a six-string mercenary who's worked with the likes of Krokus and pop-prog giants Asia, to the mix, and suddenly, a supergroup is born. This one has a flair for the dramatic.

On the heels of an EP titled For the Kingdom that was released in May comes the bombastic Armoury Records offering Light of Dawn, a thunderous power-metal epic with a touch of glam that's brimming with melodic grandeur, trampling blast beats, theatrical vocals and surgical guitar strikes.

The sophomore release from singer Michael Kiske, guitarist Kai Hansen, Meyer and a rhythm section consisting of bassist Dennis Ward and drummer Kosta Zafiriou – household names in the world of power-metal – rides like the valkyries through stirring anthems "Venite 2.0," "Your Time Has Come," "For the Kingdom" and "Blood" with pummeling urgency, soaring majesty and molten metal riffs and searing solos that take no prisoners. Darkly stylish, with tightly woven strands of dual guitar wrapped around the song's body, "Night of the Long Knives" is caught in between beautifully arranged ballads, namely "Not Gonna Take Anymore," with its building emotions, and a rather medieval "Find Shelter."

Finishing with a flourish, as metallic, fast-paced power surges take over and big hooks are brandished like scythes, Light of Dawn could be less predictable and not as beholden to the past, but such criticisms shrink in the face of Kiske's dynamic, wind-swept vocals and Unisonic's rousing spirit. A new day is dawning for power metal. Awaken to the light of Unisonic.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Nils Lofgren – Face The Music

CD Review: Nils Lofgren – Face The Music
Fantasy Records
All Access Rating: A

Nils Lofgren - Face The Music 2014
A massive undertaking, curated by none other than Nils Lofgren himself, Face The Music examines with painstaking care the remarkable consistency and craftsmanship of a 45-year solo career of long overshadowed by the masters he's served.

Going on 30 years now, Lofgren's been a part of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, and when he was a precocious 17-year-old unknown fronting the gutsy Washington, D.C., hard-rock combo Grin, Neil Young recruited him to play guitar and piano on Young's classic After The Gold Rush album, thereby starting a fruitful musical relationship between the two.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and Lofgren made the most of it, putting in long hours getting his parts down pat. That tireless work ethic, combined with the heart and soul of a poet, fueled Lofgren's solo artistry, and this is the comprehensive retrospective he's deserved for so long.

Nils Lofgren playing live
Spread across 10 discs – one a DVD of vintage live performances, with two others unearthing 40 previously unreleased songs and rarities – are 169 tracks, hand-picked with care by Lofgren from his albums with Grin and critically fawned-over solo efforts, some of them out of print for years, released between 1975 and 1992 for labels like A&M, MCA/Backstreets, CBS and Rykodisc. And, thankfully, he didn't ignore material he's been putting out on his own Cattle Track Road Records imprint since 1993.

There's not a cynical bone in his entire body of song, where honesty, passion and integrity mean as much as a keen pop sensibility and sparkling production. Stax Records, the British Invasion, countrified blues and elegant folk, early rock 'n' roll – Lofgren assimilates easily when visiting a variety of genres, his songwriting a natural extension of his influences. On top of that, as a guitar player, his economical approach, sure-footed fretwork and tasteful licks never seem needlessly ostentatious or flashy, and yet they never fail to make an impression.

It's easy to see why Springsteen took a shine to Lofgren, the two sharing an affinity for the simple truths and hopeful energy of Heartland rock, as "Girl in Motion" and a stylish live version of "Black Books" could have slipped right into Springsteen's Tunnel of Love without The Boss ever knowing. His version of the Del Shannon-penned "I Go to Pieces" has the rousing spirit of the Springsteen anthems, and gritty rockers "Across The Tracks" and "Secrets of the Streets" shove their hands in pockets full of solid hooks and blue-collar dreams as they wander around Asbury Park, just as the strains of the sublime "Valentine," immersed in soulful longing, escape from Memphis under the cover of night to help lovers everywhere negotiate treaties of raw emotions.

Nils Lofren and his guitar
From his days with Grin comes the summery mood-elevator "Everybody Misses The Sun," an ambling, exceedingly likable romp with a bright chorus and carnival atmosphere that imagines The Kinks' Ray Davies sitting in with The Grateful Dead. Altogether exuberant, "White Lies," with its acoustic guitar jangle, finds Lofgren working out steely guitar figures designed to ensnare listeners, while "I Came to Dance," from his solo days, embraces disco with unabashed joy and drags it into the street.

That's just a small sampling of this bounty, accompanied by a page-turner of a booklet, handwritten by Lofgren and jam-packed with photos, anecdotes, insight and reflections on a life in music. Get lost in it as Face The Music cycles through soft, introspective piano balladry ("Heaven's Answer to Blue"), bluesy slide guitar excursions ("World on a String"), zydeco-infused drinking songs ("Whatever Happened to Muscatel") and grizzled romantic pop contentment ("When You Are Loved"), as well as the usual tight, sharp blasts of well-chiseled, immaculately produced rock that's always been his bread and butter.

As an introduction to Lofgren's catalog, it's a bit overwhelming, but the Fantasy Records box set Face The Music is certainly worth the time spent slogging your way through it. And for devotees, there are surprises galore, as well as familiar highlights. Don't be afraid to Face The Music. This is the good stuff, and there's plenty of it.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: John Garcia – John Garcia

CD Review: John Garcia – John Garcia
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: B+

John Garcia - John Garcia 2014
The name John Garcia still carries a lot of weight among glazed-over dwellers of the desert/stoner metal community. People there will never forget what he did with the archetypal Kyuss, having blazed rough trails through the most unforgiving of sonic terrain.

There are cults that would kill for the kind of devotion Garcia and the rest of Kyuss have inspired. And although Josh Homme has gone on to bigger and better things with Queens Of The Stone Age, his Kyuss co-founder has not so quietly built an impressive and remarkably consistent catalog of recordings with projects such as Slo-Burn, Unida, Hermano and, most recently, Vista Chino.

That arid, distant voice of his a dagger cutting straight through the sonic haze, vague menace and hypnotic pull of a sub-genre he helped establish, Garcia goes the lone-wolf route on this his first solo album, out on Napalm Records. Leaner and more clean-shaven than other works his name's been attached to, although some of the fuzz remains, John Garcia is a record with a strong pulse and an undeniable affinity for the brawny riffs and catchy hooks of '70s classic rock, as "5000 Miles" sounds like ZZ Top trying to swim its way out of quicksand and the steely, acoustically sketched closer "Her Bullets Energy" reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's brushed folk supplications, with a little Spanish guitar thrown in for good measure.

And while "Argleben," heavy and trance-inducing, is deep-fried in distortion and stuck in great, thick groove ruts – the album is full of them – "My Mind" rides with Steppenwolf into dark skies rumbling with heavy-metal thunder, all the while brandishing guitars wrapped in barbed-wire. Every song on John Garcia is sinister and seductive, sounding mean as hell on the agitated, pounding post-punk engagement "All These Walls." He swims with especially strong currents in the rugged, mid-tempo, swinging hammer "Rolling Stoned," the deliriously infectious "Saddleback" and the spellbinding, serpentine "Flower," as a sense of unease pervades the throbbing "His Bullets Energy," its slashing guitars and unpredictable bass counter melody stalking its prey with murderous intentions and practically begging for a restraining order.

Notwithstanding the sluggish blues of "Confusion" and its equally sedentary "The Blvd," John Garcia crackles with energy and brands its deep, dynamic grooves into your brain. Guests like Danko Jones, Nick Oliveri and Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger – his intricate work can be found on "Her Bullets Energy" – go with Garcia on this vision quest and help him discover his true nature.
– Peter Lindblad