CD Review: Mr. Big – ... The Stories We Could Tell

CD Review: Mr. Big – ... The Stories We Could Tell
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
All Access Rating: A-

Mr. Big - ... The Stories We Could Tell 2014
"To Be With You" had hit written all over it. Spun from pure acoustic guitar gold, with pleading hooks, a sunny disposition and a gushing romantic sensibility, it brought Mr. Big worldwide fame and fortune. Even the overwhelmingly dour grunge movement couldn't darken its glow.

Somehow, even as other like-minded acts were being publicly flogged for their crass commercialism and lack of substance, Mr. Big's sterling reputation for world-class musicianship survived all that completely intact. ... The Stories We Could Tell, the band's second album since a 2009 reunion of the original lineup, won't tarnish it any.

Always able to walk that fine line between crafting accessible pop metal and punching out nasty, bluesy rockers like the sizzling "The Light of Day," the bumping and grinding "It's Always About That Girl" or the swaggering "What If We Were New" – all off the new record – Mr. Big's appeal was never limited to love-sick girls, high-brow musos or scowling, testosterone-fueled metal heads. They found a middle ground, as they do here, with the big, gusty strumming and flooding harmonies of "Eastwest" and the aching beauty, thorny hooks and tough, tenderized heart of "Fragile" hitting all the sonic erogenous zones. "Fragile" is the kind of song Def Leppard should be making.

Of course, it helps to have one of the most dynamic bass players in rock history in Billy Sheehan and a high-flying guitarist such as Paul Gilbert, not to mention a versatile, soulful singer in Eric Martin and the well-manicured bashing of drummer Pat Torpey. Sparks fly as they put their blazing chops on display throughout ... The Stories We Could Tell, the hard funk of "I Forget to Breathe" updating Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic" for the 21st century, while "Gotta Love the Ride," and the title track mix slinky, laid-back grooves with Zeppelin-like power and mystique.

Lance the boil that is the plodding "Cinderella Smile" and take the leash off Gilbert, as they do on a smoldering, hot-wired "The Monster In Me," and Mr. Big ends up tearing the roof off the place on ... The Stories We Could Tell. The production is striking and bold, heightening the band's kinetic energy, as well as its obvious vim and vigor. Mr. Big has never sounded ... well, this big. http://www.frontiers.it/
– Peter Lindblad

Randy Bachman: Still 'Takin' Care of Business'

New live release from iconic artist tells tales of a life in music
By Peter Lindblad

Randy Bachman - Every Song Tells
A Story 2014
What a life Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" has lived.

Before it was released in 1973 and included on BTO's Bachman-Turner Overdrive II album, it had lived an orphan's existence, unable to find a permanent home.

Eventually, though, it did, and it became one of the biggest hits of Randy Bachman's career. The story of how "Takin' Care of Business" came to be is one of the highlights of a new CD/DVD set titled "Every Song Tells a Story," which finds Bachman mining his past for tales from a musical life and playing a number of favorites from The Guess Who and BTO.

"My favorite story of all, which even amazes me, is the entire story of 'Takin’ Care of Business,' how I started it in the late ‘60s, and it was called 'White Collar Worker,' how it transformed to become what it became about five years later through an accident at a BTO show when Fred Turner lost his voice and I had to sing, to the pizza guy who came in [to the studio] and brought the pizza and played piano on it ... no writer in Hollywood could have written a better story, but it happened and I tell the story and it’s pretty amazing," said Bachman.

That's right. A pizza delivery guy named Norman Durkee played piano on the recorded version, adding his part at Kaye-Smith Studios in Seattle, Wash. This song that had started out as a story of a recording engineer who took "the 8:15 into the city," going by train, and was originally called "White Collar Worker" when Bachman wrote it while with The Guess Who got a new name when Bachman heard the phrase "takin' care of business" on the radio while heading to a gig in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Turner's voice gave out that night. Bachman had to take over on vocals and started singing "White Collar Worker," only with a new chorus, "Takin' Care of Business."

"Every Song Tells a Story" is a CD/DVD live set that captures Bachman's "Storyteller"-type performance from Spring 2013 in his hometown of Winnipeg at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre. Here's a teaser clip of the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rqJ8pG0Ir0&feature=youtu.be

Ray Davies of The Kinks is the one who persuaded Bachman to do this. Bachman saw him do something similar in London.

"Well, I’m a fan of Ray Davies, as most people are," said Bachman. "He tells the story of The Kinks, and I go backstage and I say, 'That was amazing.' And he looks at me and he says, 'Well, you could do it better or more amazing than this.' I said, 'Well, what do you mean?' He says, 'Well, you’ve got two bands. You could tell the stories behind the songs. You’ve got more hits than me.' And I went back to Vancouver after that, this little bit in London, and got asked to do a show for the Canadian Cancer Society – a fundraising dinner, $5,000 a plate, black-tie dinner at a big golf country club, everybody’s dressed up and a silent auction is auctioning Harley Davidsons and stuff; this is to raise many hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cancer society, and the people voted that they wanted me as the entertainment."

When asked, Bachman was a bit apprehensive. They were persuasive.

"They said, 'Could you come and play for these people?'" recalls Bachman. "I said, 'But they’re having dinner. I don't want you to blow the plates off the table.' They said, 'Can you kind of do an acoustic show?' And I said, 'My music doesn’t really translate acoustically, at least the BTO stuff doesn’t. But how about if I sit on a stool and tell stories about how I wrote the songs, and I’ll play a little bit of the songs, and it won’t be a night of blasting it in their faces, because they can kind of talk as they’re having their dinner?' So I go there and I do the night and nobody talks when I’m telling my stories. They’re all listening. And I’m kind of frightened at this – that they’re listening to me. And then we play the songs, and when the evening is over, they came and said, 'You know if you would put this on a CD or a DVD, we would buy a dozen copies and send it to our relatives all over the world. This is just the most wonderful insight into all these songs we all grew up with. It’s the soundtrack to our lives – our teenage lives, our married lives, our working life and everything.'"

Thinking that was the end of that, Bachman was asked again to "do that storytelling thing again," and it became “'Every Song Tells a Story,'” he said, "and I put it chronologically so it’s from the early Guess Who right up to the present. And I did a run last spring, about 38 dates, and near the end was Winnipeg. And my manager said, 'Well, if you’re going to be in your hometown, where all these songs originated and you’re talking about Neil Young and the Guess Who and BTO and Portage and Main, and things like that, which is the main intersection in Winnipeg there, let’s DVD it.' So we did it and they put together a montage to show behind me, a visual of where we were – the haircuts, the clothes, the cars, the guitars at the time. So it’s kind of a history lesson of biographical significance if you grew up in Canada and into the States, too – you know these songs."

The reviews, so far, have been glowing.

"Some of the greatest critiques I’ve had is that it’s the most wonderful history lesson of Canadian music, especially out of Winnipeg, that anybody could have, because that’s the music that rocked the world – the Guess Who and BTO and Neil Young were the music that came out Winnipeg that’s still going and still being played on radio to this day," said Bachman. "It wasn’t a big plan. No big producer came and said, 'Let’s do this.' It kind of evolved from me just following my passion and getting that idea from Ray Davies and developing the idea, putting visuals behind it, incorporating both bands, taking it on the road, and doing a DVD of it and now this DVD that we put out a little while ago has now gone triple platinum in Canada. It’s triggered now releases in the States, in the U.K., in Germany, in Denmark, and Australia. I’m kind of stunned at the reviews. My manager just sent me 40 or 50 great reviews that are just … I’ve never had reviews like this in my life. I don’t know what I’m doing, but it must be something good (laughs). I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but it’s funny, it’s funny."

"Every Song Tells A Story" is out on the Independent Label Services Group.

We'll have more from our interview with Bachman in the coming days.



CD Review: Sarah Silverman – We Are Miracles

CD Review: Sarah Silverman – We Are Miracles
Sub Pop Records
All Access Rating: A

Sarah Silverman - We Are Miracles 2014
Danger lurks behind that sweet facade, that girlish laugh and those twinkling eyes.

Just when the brilliant comic Sarah Silverman has buttered an audience up with some charming little story about her Jewish childhood, growing up in New Hampshire, she drops the hammer, delivering a shockingly funny and incisive punchline about rape jokes – she's not a fan, by the way – or religion that feels like a knife in the gut.

And after she's done twisting it, she smiles as if to say, "Sorry," even though she doesn't really mean it. Because she will do it again ... and again and again and again.

We Are Miracles is a audio recording, released by Sub Pop Records, of Silverman's first headline special for HBO, a fearless and hysterical performance that earned her an Emmy nomination. Eschewing political correctness for blunt honesty, Silverman starts by talking about how she incorporates watching internet porn on her phone into her "Nightly Rituals" and what strange key words she uses, before calling into question the sanity of some deeply held religious beliefs of Christians and Scientology – Silverman remarking how strange it seems that some would choose to follow a guy named Ron – that require an almost superhuman leap of faith.

Even when addressing uncomfortable subjects, such as bed-wetting into her teens and the futility of vaginal deodorants in dealing with what she says is women's greatest insecurity, "smelly vagina," Silverman elicits howls of laughter, her uncanny ability to spool out multi-layered jokes in stages to save the biggest reveal for last being just one of many qualities that make her, as Rolling Stone said, "the most outrageously funny woman alive."

More than that, however, Silverman is fiercely intelligent and disarmingly empathetic, especially when it comes to discussing insecurities and how they manifest themselves in ridiculous female and male behavior. Like the best comedians, Silverman is eviscerating in her social commentary, but there is a deep-seated concern for humanity and feminine empowerment hidden inside the racy, caustic humor.

A multi-talented actress who's worked alongside John C. Reilly in the animated kids' film "Wreck It Ralph," made memorable appearances in critically acclaimed TV shows "The Good Wife" and "Monk" and taken the Comedy Central series "The Sarah Silverman Show" to places TV feared to tread, Silverman is in her element onstage. Oh Sarah, you are, indeed, incorrigible.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Stryper – Live at the Whisky

CD Review: Stryper – Live at the Whisky
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: A-

Stryper - Live at the Whisky 2014
A modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah in the '80s, the Sunset Strip was swimming in sin and depravity. It was the sort of place a vengeful God might reduce to rubble with a wave of His mighty hand.

Into this devil's playground walked four yellow-and-black clad crusaders, carrying the cross of Christian metal into dens of iniquity like the Whisky a Go Go. What a place for a band like Stryper to try to make a name for itself, fighting the good fight and eventually gaining acceptance from skeptics with a rugged, uplifting pop-metal sound full of blissful vocal interplay and spiraling, pealing guitar harmonies.

Some 30 years later, long after the platinum success of To Hell With The Devil, Stryper's original lineup of vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet, guitarist Oz Fox, drummer Robert Sweet and bassist Tim Gaines made its return to the Whisky last November, eager to perform for the first time material from the heaviest album of their meaningful lives, No More Hell to Pay.

Available now as a 16-track CD/DVD package from Frontiers Records, Live at the Whisky is the raw, punched-up recording of Stryper letting it all hang out that night, kicking into high gear immediately with a venomous, hard-charging version of No More Hell to Pay's "Legacy" and churning through the tough, defiant riffs of "Marching into Battle," before sinking their perfect teeth into the big, joyous pop hooks, striking melodies and ragged glory of "Reach Out," "Calling on You," "Always There For You" and taking a whip to a high-spirited cover of the Doobie Brothers' "Jesus Is Just Alright."

Playing to a raucous crowd behind them every step of the way, Stryper deliver the goods and then some, giving as good as they get in return with a tight, energetic performance, as Fox and Michael Sweet reach into their deeply into their bag of tricks to solo like demons and harmonize like angels. A rampaging take on "The Way" rams into the double-barreled blast of "To Hell With The Devil" and "Soldiers Under Command" with all the force of a wrecking ball, as Robert Sweet's drums snap and crack and Gaines controls the low end with a firm hand.

This is Stryper firing on all cylinders, invigorated and sweaty, evangelizing without sermonizing and having the time of their lives. On message and on point, they play with renewed vigor and a sharpened sense of purpose that should be obvious to anybody with an open mind. The yellow-and-black attack is back, and it's ready to embark on another crusade.
– Peter Lindblad

New Pink Floyd album artwork unveiled

More details about 'The Endless River' revealed
By Peter Lindblad

Pink Floyd - The Endless River 2014
A classy tribute to a fallen comrade, keyboardist extraordinaire Richard Wright, the cover to Pink Floyd's upcoming LP The Endless River features a lone boatsman paddling across a blanket of clouds into a glorious sunset.

The metaphor may be a bit obvious for the Floyd, whose album art is usually somewhat more enigmatic, but it's a beautiful and poignant piece of work and given the circumstances surrounding this release, it's an entirely appropriate meditation on mortality, loss and the afterlife.

Wright died of cancer in September 2008, leaving only guitarist/singer David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason as remaining members, following Roger Waters' acrimonious split from the group.

In 1993, the trio hunkered down at Brittania Row and Astoria Studios for sessions that yielded the Division Bell, Pink Floyd's last studio album. It was the first time they had done so since the seventies, when they hashed out the iconic Wish You Were Here LP, another moving Pink Floyd record that ruminated on former band leader Syd Barrett's sad decline and mental disintegration.

Last year, Gilmour and Mason went back through the music that came out of the Division Bell studio work and decided to hone and shape these orphaned pieces – with the help of modern recording technology – for a new album, The Endless River. The whole LP is a celebration honoring the genius of Wright, whose keyboards helped mold Pink Floyd's uniquely spacey and conceptual progressive-rock sound.

According to a statement on the www.PinkFloyd.com web site, The Endless River is "a mainly instrumental album with one song, 'Louder Than Words,' (with lyrics by Polly Samson), arranged across four sides and produced by David Gilmour, Phil Manzanera, Youth and Andy Jackson."

Some, like Mike Portnoy, have expressed their reservations about the new album, wondering how it can be a proper Pink Floyd album without Waters and the deceased Wright and Barrett. He would prefer a special edition reissue of the Division Bell. That's splitting hairs, especially considering the contributions Wright made to these recordings while still alive. Throughout music history, there are numerous instances of artists taking work from sessions for one album and using them later for another.

How many stories are there out there of songs being written long ago in the distant past and then brought out of retirement for inclusion on future releases? What makes these creations any different? And as for Waters, he made his own bed, opting to go solo and talking about how Floyd was "a spent force" way back when and prematurely proclaiming the band's death. It was his hubris that led to his departure, and while he certainly was the driving force in Floyd in the aftermath of Barrett's death, how much of that was due to his own need to for full control?

Anyway, you'll be able to form your own opinions when The Endless River comes out on Nov. 10.

Here's the track listing for The Endless River:

"Things Left Unsaid"
"It's What We Do"
"Ebb and Flow"
"Sum"
"Skins"
"Unsung"
"Anisina"
"The Lost Art of Conversation"
"On Noodle Street"
"Night Light"
"Allons-v (1)"
"Autumn '68"
"Allons-v (2)"
"Talkin' Hawkin'"
"Calling"
"Eyes to Pearls"
"Surfacing"
"Louder Than Words"

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.


The 2014 Rock and Pop Auction goes live on September 27th. 

For additional details and to sign up for your All Access VIP Auction Pass click here: Auction Information


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