Soen's 'Cognitive' development expands on 'Tellurian'

Complexity, melody not mutually exclusive for progressive-metal think tank
By Peter Lindblad

Soen is Martin Lopez, Kim Platbarzdis,
Stefan Stenberg, and Joel Ekelof
There's a domesticated rhinoceros sitting down to a meal of very small, naked human beings – possibly children – on the cover of Soen's sophomore album, Tellurian. Even for prog, that's some pretty bizarre artwork.

Designed by artist Jose Luis Galvan, the piece is striking and thought-provoking, and when asked how it tied into the lyrical themes of the new record, singer Joel Ekelof talked of a strong connection between them.

"We just thought his work and our work, as it sounds on Tellurian, fitted right away," said Ekelof, who released two albums with the band Willowtree before joining forces with former Amon Amarth and Opeth drummer Martin Lopez, bassist Steve Di Giorgio (Testament, Death, Sebastian Bach and Obituary) and guitarist Kim Platbarzdis in Soen in 2010.

As enigmatic as the album art is, Soen's byzantine brand of melodic progressive-metal – imagine if Tool were more song-oriented – is just as difficult to pigeonhole, and that's just how they want it. Poetic and dark, Tellurian is elaborate, multi-layered and full of exquisitely crafted detail, like the artwork of M.C. Escher, and in the same way Escher's work is delightfully strange, Soen, too, creates sprawling music that is both accessible and challenging.

Tellurian, a word meaning "of or inhabiting the earth," may seem a series of complex corridors leading to uncharted territory, but the melodic character of the music makes it approachable. And therein likes the genius of Soen. They make beautiful sounds, while still managing to be quirky and arty.

Recruiting people like Dave Bottrill (Smashing Pumpkins, King Crimson and Muse) to mix the record and Adam Ayan – both of them Grammy winners – to master it only speaks to Soen's passion for musical quality control, as Platbarzdis produced Tellurian.

Di Giorgio having been replaced on bass by Stefan Stenberg, Soen appears to be solidifying its lineup and growing more confident in its abilities, as Tellurian is one of the more interesting releases of 2014. Ekelof and Lopez recently talked about Tellurian and the band's inner workings in this interview.

What's the significance of the album title Tellurian? Do you see the music as having a very earthy quality?
Joel Ekelof: Not necessarily earthy, but sometimes we could take a step back and reflect on the implications of our actions. Whether we do it to ourselves, people around us or our environment.

These tracks sound so intricate. Is that important to the band, to make something complex and yet record an album that flows and is accessible? And is that especially true of this album, as opposed to Cognitive?
JE: The complex parts of the album never come from a decision that we should do a complex part. But the small change in a part that makes it complex might give it a tension that resolves in a release when a more straightforward part follows. In the same way that dissonant chords make you hold your breath until [their] released. Still, this is not a "theory" that we follow, rather a pattern that can be read out of the result.

Talk about the concept for the video for "Tabula Rosa" and how it relates to the lyrics of the song. Why did it make sense to release that as the first single?
JE: It was very hard for us to choose one favorite of the album, so we decided to let people around us have a say. The concept of the video is addressing the fact that people feel they cannot affect their lives.
Martin Lopez: The fact that we're not in charge of our own future, and that humanity and solidarity are very rare these days. That's the key concept of the video, to somehow show the anger towards injustice that the majority of us share.

How has the songwriting and recording process evolved for the band from Cognitive to Tellurian? Did the process remain the same for both?
JE: Both are the same. But for this album we had more time to work on the music. We spent a lot of time going through details, something we didn't do with Cognitive.
ML: We also gained some experience while recording Cognitive and that helped us save time and avoid error while recording Tellurian.

How is it different from other bands you've been in? What do you enjoy most about this experience, as opposed to your experiences in other groups?
ML: There isn't any pressure from the outside, and there isn't any economical expectations behind Soen. We do the music that we love without any outside factors affecting our mindset and all our decisions are made based on how they'll affect us as a band and as individuals, and that can be hard when you're part of a band that has a greater following and that many people economically depend on. Also, we maintain a very relaxed and positive relationship within the band and that makes everything a lot smoother.

Were there things you tried on this album that you didn't on Cognitive?
ML: Not really. The main difference is that we eliminated every part we considered filler and put a lot of effort on being more direct and "close" to the listener.
JE: Basically, we have refined the sound from Cognitive.

Soen - Tellurian 2014
The album art is amazing. Tell me about the artist and what your reaction was when you first saw this work? In what ways did it relate to themes you explored on this record?
JE: Jose Luis Galvan designed it. He's an amazing Mexican artist.

The band's musicianship is something that really stands out with Soen, and yet, there is a real emphasis on song and melody. Have there been times in the studio where you had to rein yourselves in because you thought you were going overboard showing off your chops at the expense of the song?
JE: No, we always try to look at the song as a whole. Sure, we've cut away a few complicated parts that didn't make it to the album when we wrote the songs, but it was never an issue about it was too ... complicated, "show offy," hard to play. The only interesting parameter is if it has a purpose in the song.
ML: Our music is about balance. Song comes first, musicianship second, but both are every important and need to illuminate each other.

"Kuraman" is probably my favorite track on Tellurian. Talk about how that song was conceived. It reminds me of System of a Down a little, with really heavy, complex parts and big melodic choruses and that violent drumming in the middle.
ML: I pretty much wrote the whole song as a bass line, and we added vocals at a very early stage so we had quite a good song before even adding guitars and drums. So it was all about choosing wisely while adding drums and guitars so that the vocals and bass would still carry the song.

I wanted to get your thoughts on some other tracks on Tellurian, starting with "Koniskas."
ML: "Koniskas" started as a ballad and while going through it with Joel, we noticed that we should make it heavier, add drums and distortion but still try to keep the warmth of the song.

"The Other Fall" has some really interesting rhythms, as do a lot of the tracks on the record. How did that song come together, especially with regard to the drums?
ML: Drums came first, then bass and then we noticed we could build a song around that theme, so we picked up the guitar and keyboard and wrote some harmonies as a platform for Joel to sing on. We wanted the song to be really heavy and proggy in a violent way.

What do you feel is the heaviest song on the album? I might argue that it's "Pluton."
ML: The heaviest emotionally, at least for me, is "The Words" and the heaviest musically may be "Pluton" or "The Other's Fall."

There are a lot of passages to wander through as a listener on this album. It's almost like a series of tunnels or a maze. Do you think of albums in that sense?
JE: Not in general. Most albums give some kind of abstract feeling. I guess this kind of music consisting of many different parts that take many turns have a tendency to give more of a maze-like feeling, rather than an open landscape with rainbows ...
ML: I'm glad you feel this way because we wanted the album to have some kind of adventurous aura over it.

What would be the greatest compliment you could ever get regarding this record?
ML: Don't really need compliments ... just coming to a show and sharing a moment with the band is more than enough.

CD Review: Riot V – Unleash The Fire

CD Review: Riot V – Unleash The Fire
All Access Rating: A-

Riot V - Unleash The Fire 2014
There is life after Mark Reale for the rest of Riot. When Reale, the band's driving force, died in 2012, it appeared that was it for the scrappy hard-rock underdogs, Riot having written its final chapter with 2001's critically acclaimed reunion album Immortal Soul.

Urged by Reale himself, as well as his estate, to carry on in his absence, the remaining members have reconvened as Riot V, picking the pieces to roar back to life with the Steamhammer/SPV effort Unleash The Fire. With bassist Don Van Stavern handling much of the songwriting and guitarist Mike Flyntz assisting in the album's creation, Riot V – also featuring Todd Michael Hall belting out vocals, plus drummer Frank Gilchriest and shredder Nick Lee on guitar – has risen from the ashes, molding and shaping a record that's more than just a throwback to Riot's glorious past.

Unleash The Fire has everything a fan of Riot could want, from its electrically charged riffs to its soaring melodies, gripping hooks and distinctively sculpted dual-guitar leads. Intense and gripping, the gnarled "Kill To Survive," a pounding title track and the striking "Bring the Hammer Down" are surprisingly visceral, somehow managing to recapture the raw excitement of Riot's best work. And yet they pale in comparison to the thrilling barrage of riffs that make the action-packed "Return of the Outlaw" an absolute corker of a track.

A touching and emotional ballad that, without resorting to cliched sentimentality, honors Riot V's fallen leader, "Immortal" offers a testament to Reale's enduring artistry, his dedication to his craft and his stubborn refusal to give up on Riot, even when it seemed all was lost. There's little time for mourning, however, as the dazzling hooks and streaming guitars of "Land of the Rising Sun" light up the darkness, betraying the stylized pop-metal sensibilities of the song's creators.

Unleash The Fire is classic Riot, but because it harkens back to the days of Thundersteel and carries the flag for traditional metal, Riot V could be accused of simply retracing their steps. Such criticism is unwarranted. There is a freshness and vitality to this material that's undeniable, and they deliver it with passion and superb execution, the well-coordinated guitar attacks, in particular, mapped out with an ear for melody and a thirst for power. There is plenty of fire left in Riot V's belly.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Obituary – Inked In Blood

CD Review: Obituary – Inked In Blood
Relapse Records
All Access Rating: A-

Obituary - Inked In Blood 2014
The history of Obituary is a bloody one, and the body count is only going to go up with their Relapse Records release Inked In Blood, the pioneering death-metal maulers' latest aural massacre.

Just as the merciless Floridians' name is carved into a headless and legless torso on Inked In Blood's shockingly gruesome cover, so, too, does Obituary – on album No. 9 now – carefully cut menacing, growling riffs out of raging guitars, and they do it with more brawn, more bleak feel and malevolent tone than almost anybody else.

The dark, surging title track is the product of a diseased mind churning with violent thoughts, as heavy, deeply entrenched grooves are slowly and deliberately plowed into the desolate acres of blackened sonic earth titled "Deny You," "Pain Inside" and "Within a Dying Breed," as if Obituary is at the helm of some murderous tractor. More aggressive and fierce are "Visions In My Head," a swirling tempest of sound, and "Violence" and "Minds of the World," two incurable cases of rabid, rampaging madness that ought to be locked up for public safety. Even more ferocious, "Paralyzed With Fear" simply overwhelms the senses.

Not quite sludgy, but certainly methodical, with pummeling double-kick drum fury and tortured vocals, Inked In Blood has a grip as strong as the jaws of a pit bull, even if the tracks tend to blur together due to a lack of songwriting diversity and imagination. Still, when Obituary increases the speed or toys with tempo changes, the slight shifts are seamlessly executed and always interesting, and executed with brutally efficient.

No need to write that Obituary just yet. They're alive, and this lineup of John (vocals) and Donald (drums) Tardy, guitarists Trevor Peres and Kenny Andrews, and bassist Terry Butler is practically frothing at the mouth to show you just how powerful they are.
 – Peter Lindblad

Live Review: Mastodon, Gojira, Kvelertak in Madison

Live Review: Mastodon, Gojira, Kvelertak
By Peter Lindblad

Mastodon's Brann Dailor, Brett Hinds,
Bill Kelliher and Troy Sanders (Photo by
Travis Shinn)
A lot is expected of Mastodon. Such is their burden, and they don't really seem to mind carrying it.

From the moment Remission dropped from the sky in 2002 and crashed into earth like a devastating asteroid, the legend of Mastodon has only grown larger. Their enormous, surging riffs and enthralling progressive passages – so intricately designed and so hypnotic to behold – made believers out of metal fans and the cult of Mastodon continued to grow.

Nobody does concept albums anymore, and yet Mastodon, typically oblivious to the whims of a fickle music industry, unleashed in 2004 the titanic Leviathan to critical acclaim. For God's sake, it was a record centered around the tale of "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, and even though it was a story about a maniacal obsession for killing a damn big whale, it's not really the most "metal" thing in the world to meditate on dusty old literary sacred cows. Just who were these people? They are the four horsemen that make up Mastodon, that's who. And they'll do anything they damn well please, because they know you have to have those riffs. You have to have Brent Hinds' otherworldly guitar solos and Brann Dailor's seemingly impossible drumming gymnastics. Without them, the world would be a cold, empty place, indeed.

Whether taking astral voyages through Crack The Skye, crafting what may well be the greatest metal epic of the new millennium in the thunderous Blood Mountain or making a video with so much ass-tastic twerking that it made what Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus did look positively Mormon by comparison, Mastodon has always gone its own way, confident in asserting that what they've done is just and right and if you don't like it, there's the door.

Well, some longtime supporters in recent years have looked at that same door and wondered if the party's winding down and whether it might be time to leave. With The Hunter and its follow-up, this year's Once More 'Round The Sun, Mastodon's sound has evolved into something warmer and more colorful, and heaven forbid, more pop. And then came that twerking video, the one for "The Motherlode." That, apparently, crossed some sort of line.

And so, with doubt creeping in and cracks starting to appear in Mastodon fandom, what did these loud and heavy minstrels do? They decided to go on tour in support of Once More 'Round The Sun – which boasts some of their best songwriting by the way; don't let the naysayers' nitpicking make you believe otherwise – with two of the hungriest, most ambitious young bands around in French technical death metal giants Gojira and the ball of black metal and punk fury known as Kvelertak. Got a load of Gojira in this video:

All three invaded The Orpheum in Madison, Wis., on Thursday, and what a spectacular triple bill it was. The monstrous wall of pummeling sound – not to mention their inhuman precision and wrecking-ball swing – Gojira constructed must have caused all kinds of seismic activity in the area, its music infinitely more violent live than on record. By all rights, it's hard to believe the capitol building is still standing. All this coming on the heels of the barely harnessed raw intensity of Kvelertak, a jail break of three guitars, sturdy, roaring riffs and punk energy. Here's what they bring to the table:

Not just anyone could follow that. Again, though, this is Mastodon. Perhaps they felt a need to be pushed on this tour, to have some competition that would give them all they wanted and then some. And with the Duplantier brothers of Gojira in Madison – evidently the birthplace of their mother or she grew up there or something – they were highly motivated to shock and awe, having informed the audience how special this performance was to them.

And it was important to Mastodon and its followers, too, if only to show, once and for all, that they deserved to headline, that they're still as heavy as ever and can still leave audiences spellbound with dreamy, cosmic transmissions, while at the same time delivering non-stop action and landing big hooks right on the chin. There was no "Curl of the Burl," but there was a dazzling version of "The Motherlode," followed by a spacey and powerful "Oblivion." Throw out the set lists. It's not important what songs were played. It's how they played them.

They played them with swagger. They were playful, and they were mighty, their last six or so songs a blur of thick, psychedelic, swirling sound that was as punishing and action-packed as it was melodic and beautiful. It was fast and slow, trippy and as focused as the lasers shooting overhead on occasion, an acid-induced nightmare of a tapestry behind them matching the wild and wooly atmosphere. There was Troy Sanders, throwing down massive bass lines and banging not just his head but his whole body. There were Hinds and Bill Kelliher, cycling through captivating dual-guitar explorations as if tunneling to the center of the earth or hurtling through space to fight alien monsters. And then there are the vocals, Mastodon's unique arrangement of three singers who haven't always been great live. Even if Hinds was a bit muted, they rarely, if ever, veered off track.

And Mastodon performed as if they had nothing to prove to anyone. They knew what they were capable of, and they simply let it rip, throwing caution to the wind, but they were never careless.

Searching for the motherlode of current metal treasures? Look no further than this tour. It's not to be missed.

CD Review: Allen/Lande – The Great Divide

CD Review: Allen/Lande – The Great Divide
Frontiers Music srl
All Access Rating: B+

Allen/Lande - The Great Divide 2014
The name on the marquee says Allen/Lande, but what about Timo Tolkki? How about making some room for the former Stratovarius songwriter, guitarist and producer, too?

For The Great Divide, their fourth album together, Russell Allen and Jorn Lande – two of the most powerful metal vocalists in captivity – relied on Tolkki's musical vision to shepherd this project to its logical conclusion, after having worked with the likes of Primal Fear's Magnus Karlsson and Pink Cream 69's Dennis Ward on earlier efforts.

In his capable hands, Tolkki, who assumed the songwriting and production responsibilities, has shaped The Great Divide into an album of dramatic, high-flying power metal delivered with urgency and a sharp focus, where the choruses are generous, the hooks are screwed in tight, the guitar solos from Tolkki are transcendent and the melodies are heavenly and memorable. Tolkki, by the way, also handles bass and keyboards on The Great Divide.

Electricity races through "Down From the Mountain," as riffs strike like a series of dangerous lightning bolts, and "Solid Ground," with its silvery, expansive synthesizers, is purposeful and determined. In the end, however, it's the heavy, surging dynamics of an epic "Lady in Winter," where Allen seems possessed by the spirit of Ronnie James Dio, and "The Hymn to the Fallen" – Lande's rasp recalling David Coverdale at the height of Whitesnake's popularity – that win the day, even as heady pop-metal rush of "Reaching For the Stars" simply takes your breath away.

While some of the arrangements are less than imaginative – "Come Dream With Me" being a prime example – The Great Divide is a well-orchestrated and powerfully uplifting record, with just a hint of mystery, some beautifully designed intros and a variety of vocal stylings. Here, the leather-lunged Allen, singer for the progressive-metal behemoths Symphony X, and the expressive Lande, front man for German power-metal heroes Masterplan, test their impressive range, willing it to great heights, although at times, they lay it on a bit thick – Allen's overly dramatic reading of the title track, in particular, needing to be reined in considerably, as do the vocals in "BitterSweet," a lifeless, uninspired power ballad that cannot be resuscitated.

There is greatness in The Great Divide, even if it's not quite a masterpiece.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Various Artists – Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends – Celebrating Jon Lord

CD Review: Various Artists: Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends – Celebrating Jon Lord
earMusic and Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Various Artists: Jon Lord, Deep Purple
& Friends - Celebrating Jon Lord
It had to take place at the Royal Albert Hall, didn't it?

After all, that was where Jon Lord and Deep Purple, in 1969, famously performed the revolutionary "Concerto for Group and Orchestra," a groundbreaking work that joined the forces of rock and classical music in a surprisingly natural and organic marriage that showed the two forms are not exactly oil and water.

Just weeks prior to his death in 2012, Lord finished his remake of the composition, a labor love for Lord and an all-consuming passion that, some years earlier, made leaving Deep Purple once and for all a little easier well, that and the fact that he'd had enough of touring.

No other setting then would do then for this extraordinary tribute to an uncommon man in Lord, as this 2014 version of the much-ballyhooed Sunflower Jam rounded up a veritable "who's who" of rock royalty for a gala all-star jam, backed by a full orchestra conducted by Paul Mann.

Cleaved into two halves, the concert, captured on a new release entitled Jon Lord, Deep Purple & Friends – Celebrating Jon Lord, offers a resounding and joyous examination of his remarkable career, in between jokes, stories and heartfelt expressions of love for the man. Two hours were reserved for a stylish, beautiful and wonderfully arranged renditions of Lord's classical music explorations, given new life by Mann and the Orion Orchestra, that comprises Jon Lord – The Composer and features three pieces from Sarabande, including a guest turn from keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman on the title track.

And then there's the Jon Lord – The Rock Legend set, where friends, colleagues and admirers remember Lord's extraordinary contributions to popular music, starting with Paul Weller and his bouncy, sweaty, horn-swaddled revivals of R&B rousers "Things Get Better" and – with a little help from Micky Moody – "I Take What I Want," recalling Lord's time in the early '60s with The Artwoods.

Glenn Hughes comes aboard for a soulful, smoky reading of "You Keep on Moving" that simply smolders with dark sensuality, following an especially poignant version of "Soldier of Fortune," with Steve Balsamo, Sandi Thom and Moody lending vocals. Perhaps predictably, a full-throttle, fiery "Burn" sets the venerable house ablaze, as Bruce Dickinson, Ian Paice and Don Airey join Hughes and Moody let it all hang out while roaring through the Deep Purple Mark III chestnut like a freight train.

Speaking of Purple, the current incarnation of the band – Airey, Paice, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover and Steve Morse – closes things out with 45 minutes of spectacular virtuoso jams, Airey in particular relishing the opportunity to grab "Lazy" by the throat and heat that Hammond organ up until it glows red. And for a finale, Dickinson, Wakeman, Moody, Phil Campbell and Bernie Marsden return to the stage with Purple to bring the house down with an invigorating take on "Hush." Somewhere, Lord is still smiling.
– Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: Yes – Songs From Tsongas: The 35th Anniversary Concert

DVD Review: Yes – Songs From Tsongas: The 35th Anniversary Concert
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Yes - Songs From Tsongas:
The 35th Anniversary Concert
It does the heart good to see Jon Anderson and the rest of Yes so happy together, especially in light of the bitter divorce to come in 2008.

Four years earlier, there were no signs of bad blood between the two sides when the cosmic progressive-rock voyageurs' classic lineup traveled through the past at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts, and closed out their 35th anniversary reunion tour.

Adding to the slew of Yes live releases over the years, an effervescent and exhilarating special edition two-disc DVD set containing an expertly filmed version of that blissful virtuoso performance, as well as a separate 70 minutes of live footage from a rainy night of Yes playing at the Estival in Lugano, Switzerland, is out now, released by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The two stagings couldn't have been more different, the spartan set-up at Lugano a sharp contrast to the vivid, trippy spectacle of colored lights and alien, amorphous scenery – dreamed up by the one and only Roger Dean – that surrounded Yes at Tsongas, a joyous occasion highlighted by Anderson unabashedly running out into the crowd to belt out a stirring rendition of "Rhythm of Love" that's a veritable flood of silvery synthesizers, harmonized vocals, bubbling bass and sonic exuberance bursting forth.

Shooting the band from a variety of angles and smoothly pulling in tight for unobtrusive close-ups, the camera work is well-organized and clever, capturing the chameleon-like complexity and power of Yes as a whole and allowing individuals to shine on their own. Rick Wakeman's piano practically dances during his solo turn on "The Meeting," and Steve Howe deftly works out "Second Initial," his chance to go it alone, as Howe jumps between country, folk and rock genres like a world-class gymnast throughout, with Anderson's ageless vocal panache, Alan White's drumming is on point and Chris Squire's bass rambles on with precision and grace.

And Yes does justice to its legacy of innovative musicianship and compositional intrigue, gracefully navigating all the enigmatic time changes, unfolding drama, expansiveness and shifting melodic pathways of favorites such as "Your Move/All Good People," "Going for the One," "Starship Trooper," "And You And I" and a stunning version of "South Side of the Sky" – among others – with skillful finesse, a magical imagination and warm emotion.

Making the Tsongas performance even more special is a seven-song acoustic segment, where the quintet gathers in a close sitting, joking and smiling as they dive into winsome, charming readings of "Long Distance Runaround," "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "Time Is Time" and "Wondrous Stories" with the easy nature of old friends in the throes of strong drink and nostalgia. Even the shuffling blues treatment they give to "Roundabout" steps lively, and when a laughing Anderson proclaims he can't remember the words to "This Is Time," the gentle ribbing he gets from his comrades is delivered with good humor.

Out in the wet streets of Lugano, Yes runs through a condensed version of the Tsongas set, their energetic treatments of "Long Distance Runaround," "Roundabout," "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and a rollicking "Going For the One" ringing out in the rain. Shot in a more basic fashion, the show, nonetheless, is just as transcendent as Tsongas, if a bit shorter in duration. For Yes fans, it doesn't get much better than this.
– Peter Lindblad

Story time with Randy Bachman Part II

BTO, Guess Who hitmaker talks more about his life in music
By Peter Lindblad
Randy Bachman - Every Song
Tells a Story 2014

Randy Bachman has taken care of some unfinished business with "Every Song Tells A Story."

Fans of his who'd seen the legendary songwriter and guitarist on tour talking at length about his career and the creation of some of his most iconic songs while performing live – similar to the "Storyteller" series of VH1's past – were clamoring for such a release.

Out as a CD/DVD package, via the Independent Label Services Group, "Every Song Tells a Story" documents a wonderfully intimate and often humorous night of Bachman holding court and playing songs like "American Woman," "No Sugar Tonight," "These Eyes," "Let It Ride" and "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," among others, at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in his hometown of Winnipeg.

In Part 2 of our interview with Bachman, he talks more in-depth about his time with Bachman-Turner Overdrive, while also talking about 1969, a big year for The Guess Who.

1969 was such a monumental year for The Guess Who, with the success of “These Eyes” and the albums Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat and “Laughing” and “Undun.” Why was that year such a creative high for you, and when did it seem like this year was going to be huge for the band? And what are your favorite memories of recording those records?
RB: Well, as songwriters, and I was writing full-tilt with Burton Cummings and later, writing on my own and then writing with [Fred] Turner and BTO, you write a song every day or at the end of the week, you’ve written maybe 10 songs or 10 fragments, and if you’re lucky, if you have a 10 percenter, where one out of 10 songs is good – so if you’re doing an album, you’ve got to write a hundred songs to get 10 or 12 good ones and you do do that, and you go back later and take some of those ideas and you develop them again, because they’re ideas about a girl or a car or wanting to fly or wanting to drive your car … things like that. But when you get into this groove where the record label is suddenly promoting you and not the other band that you hate, which might be the New York Dolls or Rush or somebody else on your label at the time (laughs), and with RCA with The Guess Who, it was the Jefferson Airplane … “they’re promoting them, why aren’t they promoting us?” – that kind of thing. And suddenly, it’s your turn, and they’re promoting your stuff, and that means all their PR guys, their record guys, who went into the radio stations were saying, “Here’s our priority. It’s the Guess Who.” Or, “Here’s our priority. It’s Bachman-Turner Overdrive. This is our priority single.” Which means they’re pushing that, and then radio gets it, and then radio suddenly tunes in and goes, “Yeah, this is really good. The phones are lighting up when we’re playing BTO or the Guess Who. So let’s play more of them in drive time because everyone’s listening in the morning driving to work and it makes us feel good.” 

And then suddenly the record sales start, and they all start to call you for more music. And you’re writing music all the time. You could say, “You want more? You want more? We’ve got more.” You give them more songs, and they put out more songs, and radio plays more songs, and you get into this groove that’s wonderful, and if it could last one or two or three years, that’s great. And then you burn out, and they go on to their next band, and that’s the music business. That’s like falling in love – two or three years of a lot of happening stuff, and then a couple of years of indifference, and then you either fall in love again or you take or break or the seven-year itch comes and you change partners, you know what I mean? It’s a cycle of life, and it breaks hearts, and bands break up, people break up, you love each other, you like each other, and then the same things that made you fall in love make you fall out of love or whatever. The friction that creates the music is the friction that explodes you up. It’s the same with Jagger and Richards and Aerosmith and every other band. The frictions are great. You make great music, and then you end up hating each other, and that’s the way the world rolls.

One of those lucky accidents you talked about was Charlie Fach essentially saving what would become BTO. How confident were you that this band was going to make it?
RB: Well, out of the blue, when I had Brave Belt, I had two albums with Brave Belt and Brave Belt III was dropped by Reprise Records. Neil Young got me a deal with Jon Ossman (Young's bassist) of Reprise. And they said they couldn’t put out Brave Belt III. I sent that out to 26 labels that passed on it all. Charlies Fach came and called me and said, “I gotta give you a chance. Change your name. We don’t want Brave Belt on there. Put the name Bachman in there.” And I said, “Well, it’s me and a couple of brothers and Fred Turner.” And he said, “Fine, call yourself Bachman Turner. It’s better than Brave Belt. Nobody knows what Brave Belt is. I want your name in there because you wrote all the hits for The Guess Who.” So we’re called Bachman Turner for a couple of months, and we show up and people think it’s Brewer & Shipley or Seals and Crofts – two guys on a mandolin singing, “Diamond Girl.” And we’re there blowing plates off the table. We’re booked in coffeehouses. We’re blowing the coffee off the table. And so we needed a better name and we find a truckers’ magazine called “Overdrive.” 

And we called Charlie Fach and say, “How about Bachman-Turner Overdrive?” He says, “Wow! Great name for an album, but it’s too long for a band.” I said, “Well, how about BTO?” Because Chicago then was CTA, Chicago Transit Authority. We’re calling Crosby, Stills and Nash, CS&N. I said, “So we’ll have the initials. We’ll have the long name, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and we’ll have a short name, BTO,” and he said, “Perfect.” We put out our first album. It said, “BTO” in the middle and Bachman-Turner Overdrive around this big overdrive gear, and bang! We’ve got a worldwide recognized trademark and symbol. It all happened by organic accident, it just evolved. And there we were, BTO. So I trusted Charlie Fach and his instinct. He liked the name. He gave me a break. He was the only guy out of 26 labels who gave me a break, and we’re supposed to put out one album every 18 months, and the first 18 months, we had three albums on the charts, a No. 1 single and a No. 1 album. And he was totally right. That was a big moment. He was right. He urged me to put “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” on the album. It was a throwaway track. He made me put it on the album. He said, “I discovered ‘Maggie May’ for Rod Stewart, and ‘Hey Baby’ for Bruce Channel, and I discovered ‘Tennessee Waltz” for Patti Page.’ He went that far back. And he said, “I’m discovering this for you. This is going to be a career song for you. Put it on the album.” That was the first BTO album that had the ninth song. They all had eight songs – four a side. We took the five short songs and put them on one side, had the ninth song on, it became No. 1 in 22 countries. It was a million-selling single. He knew what he was talking about.

Not Fragile turns 40 this year. Was there a point in the recording where you felt you had something special on your hands?
RB:  Well, we knew we were on a roll because previous albums were on the charts and “Let it Ride” and “Takin’ Care of Business” had done very well on the chart. We had no idea the reject song, “Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” would go to No. 1, but Charlies Fach felt we had really good momentum with radio and the fans, and that this album was going to do well. Fred Turner wrote the title song, “Not Fragile,” in kind of a pun response to the Yes album called Fragile, with the world breaking apart. Ours was a box full of gears saying, “We’re not fragile.” He wrote this heavy-riff song and in there are another couple of great songs, “Sledgehammer” and “Rollin’ Down the Highway,” and out of it comes this magical reject of a song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” that becomes a million-selling hit single, and boom! It becomes a quintuple platinum album at the time. It sold five or six million copies.

In 1974, Tim Bachman left the band, and you had a daunting tour schedule. Somehow you were able to record Not Fragile. How were you able to work through all that to get Not Fragile done?
RB: I have no idea – sheer guts and determination, and Plan B is to stick to Plan A. We’re doing an album … and I didn’t care if we did the album with the three of us. We were quite competent. We were a trio many times, because guys kept leaving Brave Belt and BTO, until we got my brother Tim. When he left, it was no big deal. We went back to … we were ready to cut the album, but Bruce Allen, who was our manager, said, “Why don’t you try Blair Thornton? He’s a good guitar player. You’ll be like the Allman Brothers. You’ll have two lead guitars. You can trade off.” So we gave Blair a shot and it worked. He was great for many albums, and he would play different solo structures with me, so you could tell his solos and it gave our songs a bit of variety. I do it the first solo, you do it the second and we play harmony together and it kind of was a chance for us to stretch out and spread out a little bit.

Watching the DVD, you seem like a born storyteller. Has it always been that for you?
RB: No. I found it very odd to hear my voice speaking, but I got my own radio show by accident and now it’s in its ninth year. It’s called “Randy’s Vinyl Tap,” and it’s on CBC Radio and Sirius satellite and I have about 12 million listeners every week, so I’ve gotten used to telling stories. And it’s really easy telling the stories behind my own songs. I’ve told them for years to every DJ I met at every radio station, who’d say, “How did you write ‘American Woman’? How did you write ‘Undun’? How did you write this?’ I told the stories one at a time, so to be able to put them together and to be able to do it in my hometown where I’m basically looking at the front row and it’s all my cousins and guys I went to school with, and I’m telling these stories ... to me, I didn’t see the cameras. That’s the trick when you’re an actor. You look right at the camera and the trick is to not see it. So I didn’t see the cameras there. All I could see were my friends and relatives. I could see and feel love from the audience and maybe that showed in my face, because I haven’t seen the DVD. I have no idea.

CD Review: Revocation – Deathless

CD Review: Revocation – Deathless
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: A

Revocation - Deathless 2014
Deathless is the album that's going to move Revocation to the top of the class as far as technical death metal is concerned.

New to the Metal Blade Records family, this being their first release for the label and fifth overall, Revocation – having toured with fellow death merchants Whitechapel and DevilDriver – has a lot of living yet to do, their dizzying chops, maniacal energy and frenzied diversity driving such crazed balls of thrash fury as "A Debt Owed to the Grave," "The Fix," and "Scorched Earth Policy."

And yet, this is a disciplined unit, moving together in lock-step, switching directions on a dime, adrenaline coursing through their riffs. Somehow they don't lose the plot in the twitchy, jazz-like complexity of a constantly sparking "United in Helotry," and when they decide to lay it on thick, as they do on the brutally heavy "Madness Opus," they make crushing bones an art form, even as wreaths of melody escape the carnage.

Surging, careening dynamics, fearsome vocals, horrifying lyrics and hammering, high-velocity drums make Deathless a gripping, visceral listen, guitarist/vocalist Dave Davidson leading this team of death-metal demolition experts through its paces and teaming with Dan Gargiulo on brief spells of beautifully intertwined twin-guitar leads that pay homage to Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.

Deathless is non-stop action, every song the aural equivalent of a sliced artery shooting forth well-sculpted sounds like geysers of blood and Revocation scrambling to save itself before it bleeds out. Even the building drama of "Apex" eventually explodes through speakers, as does the simmering, menacing "Witch Trials." This is volatile stuff, but Revocation, like other technical metal freaks Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah, does not handle it with care. It shakes it up like a snow globe and lets the chips fall where they may.
– Peter Lindblad

Auction for Bobby Whitlock's 'Mountain Ring' begins

Sale began Oct. 11, ends Nov. 29 for jewelry created by former Derek and the Dominos member

Bobby Whitlock designed the
'Mountain Ring'
The Bobby Whitlock Mountain Ring auction is now underway. This exquisite piece of fine jewelry is being auctioned by Whitlock, the ring’s designer and owner. Whitlock was a founding member of Derek and the Dominos and played keyboards on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album.

The sale began Saturday, Oct. 11, and will run until its closing on Saturday, Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. Bids are to be submitted by e-mail to:

Auction rules:

A minimum bid of $15,000 has been established. Bids submitted under the minimum amount will be immediately disqualified. Any amount over the minimum will be accepted, recorded and the amount will be posted (amount only, bidders’ ID will not be posted). The highest bid received by the closing date and time will be declared the winner. In the instance of two like amounts, the one received at the earliest time will be the one accepted.

In order to place a bid, the bidder must be over 18 years old with a valid Pay Pal account and must include a legal name, legal address, working telephone number and valid e-mail address. By placing a bid, the bidder is agreeing to abide by all the requirements of this sale and has the means necessary to complete the purchase within 48 hours of the sale’s end. If the payment is not received within the grace period, the winner will forfeit and the ring will be awarded to the under bidder.

Payment will be in full and will only be accepted using a valid Pay Pal account. All sales are final.

 Shipping: The buyer agrees to pay for all costs shipping and insurance for either domestic or international mailings. The ring will be shipped within two business days after the payment has been received. A tracking number will be provided for all shipments within the continental United States.

Story time with Randy Bachman Part I

BTO, Guess Who main man shares tales from the past, talks up his new live DVD
By Peter Lindblad

Randy Bachman - Every Song
Tells a Story 2014
Randy Bachman just keeps rolling down the highway, carrying a truckload of enduring songs from his days with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as well as his solo work.

Along the way, his career in music spanning 50-some years, Bachman has seen it all and lived to tell about it. Which is exactly what he does on a new live CD/DVD package called "Every Song Tells a Story" that's similar to the "Storytellers" series made popular by VH1 in the mid-1990s. It was recorded in April 2013 at Pantages Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, Bachman's home town.

In his own understated and lighthearted manner, Bachman candidly shares the compelling stories behind some of his biggest hits, as a video montage offers a seamless visual history of his life and times. Journeying through the social and political unrest of the '60s in America, Bachman talks of Winnipeg's musical groundswell, his struggles to get BTO off the ground and forming a partnership with Burton Cummings, all while performing the classics that made him one of Canada's most revered and successful songwriters.

His legacy includes No. 1 hits in a number of countries, 120 gold and platinum album and singles awards and record sales topping 40 million. And in recent years, Bachman has become a radio personality, his award-winning radio program "Vinyl Tap" allowing him to impart a wealth of knowledge about rock 'n' roll and connect to fans who want to know more about this legendary figure. In this two-part interview, Bachman talks in-depth about his new live "storyteller" release and his own path to greatness.

What prompted you to do this kind of performance? I understand Ray Davies of The Kinks played in this.
Randy Bachman: Well, I’m a fan of Ray Davies, as most people are. 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 play, 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. But they said, “Could you come and play for these people? But they’re having dinner. We would 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.” So I let that go by and then somebody said, “Will you do that storytelling thing again? Will you do it again?” So it became “Every Song Tells a Story,” 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. 

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. So I’m kind of thrilled that … 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. So I’m doing phoners all the time, and 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.

The tide is turning, right?
RB:  It’s like when you have a hit record. You go, “What did we do that made this a hit record? We’ve got to do it again, but we don’t know what we did. Everybody likes this song, so …” So everybody liking this DVD is really an honor to me and a thrill, and a way of people I guess acknowledging and recognizing that I’ve made a difference in their lives with my music.

I know Winnipeg was ideal for this, and the Pantages Playhouse Theatre was really a great location. 
RB: Well, that was our dream to play there back in the old rock ‘n’ roll days. I mean, I went to that theatre to see the "Dick Clark Caravans." I saw Johnny and The Hurricanes there. I saw The Champs. I saw the Bill Black Combo. I saw everybody there … Dick and Dee Dee, Lonnie Mack. Everybody would play the Winnipeg Playhouse. It’s now renamed the Pantages, but we knew it as the Playhouse. So when you came to Winnipeg, you either played there or the big arena, which is a big hockey arena, which is a big, booming barn. This is a theatre, where you sat down and really got to the see the band and hear the music. So for me to go back there – and it’s all been refurbished and it’s all really quite beautiful – it was really wonderful to go there. They say you can’t go home again, but I went home and it was really, really great. It was wonderful. I went home and celebrated the songs from both bands that I’d written there, and I knew the audience. I must have known everybody in the audience. They were all related to me. I either went to school with them or grew up with them or played in bands with them. I really felt like I was at home in a reunion, so I was very comfortable that whole evening and I really felt warmth and love from the audience, and I guess it shows in the DVD because people are saying it’s really a magical moment that we captured there.

Do you have a favorite moment from that show?
RB: 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, 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 and brought the pizza and played piano on it … that whole thing is … no writer in Hollywood could have written a better story, but it happened and I tell the story and it’s pretty amazing.

That is a great one, and it’s a longer story and it takes a while to spool out …
RB: I picked that one and that’s kind of appropriate for that night, right? And I tell people it’s a long story, because actually it starts when I went on the “Louie, Louie” tour with “Shakin’ All Over.” (mistakenly credited to The Guess Who's in the U.S. release of the single) That’s when it starts, that’s when I wrote that song. That’s when I met Stanley Greenberg, who was the blind engineer, Florence Greenberg’s son, the engineer at Scepter's studio. So it goes back to the beginning of the show and pulls it right up to the present, so it’s a little bit longer, but the threads pull the people in, because they want to know what happened in between.

You talked of Winnipeg in the ‘60s being like Liverpool. What made it such a vibrant musical community and how were you able to carve out your own place in it?
RB: Well, a lot of things made it vibrant. Winnipeg is about 450 miles away from anywhere else. It’s far to Minneapolis – 450 miles. Regina – 400 and something miles. There’s nothing near it. It’s the dead center of North America, the center of Canada and the center of nowhere. There’s nothing else near it, so consequently, when you’re there, you’re there. So the ethnicity of your parents, if they were from England or Germany, or Scotland, their parties, their bar mitzvahs, their church gatherings, their weddings – all that ethnic music is there. And then the stuff we heard late at night on the radio – because Winnipeg is the top of the Great Plains – so late at night I was able to listen to my little AM radio as Neil Young was listening, too, on the other side of town, and Burton Cummings listening to WLS in Chicago, WNOE in New Orleans, “Cousin Brucie” in New York, “Wolfman” Jack … on a good night I’d get “Wolfman” Jack from some station in Mexico or something, and hear this music that we’d never heard before. It was so exciting. It was called rock ‘n’ roll, and rock ‘n’ roll was starting. We were like 14, 15, or 16, hearing this music for the first time, it was really, really amazing. 

And so when we started a band, the drinking age in Winnipeg was 21, so everyone from 21 on down came to your dance. High school dances didn’t have high school kids. All the older kids came who had graduated came back to their old high school. Being at a high school dance, you had 500 to 800 kids dancing in the gym, and they had already seen it on the rock ‘n’ roll movies, the Allen Freed movies – “Rock Around the Clock” – and they had seen it every week on “American Bandstand.” Everybody knew how to dance and there were 150 bands in this little town of 300,000 people playing every church, every community center … community centers were a building in the middle nowhere, where they’d flood the field in the winter and we’d play hockey on it. And then in the summer they’d put lines on it and we’d play baseball or soccer on it. We had these community centers, and women would play bingo there, and if you had a wedding, the wedding reception would be there. You’d go from the church to the community center, so we had all these high school gyms and community centers, and ethnic halls, like the Jewish Hall or the Polish Hall, where these people went for their weddings and stuff. And we also had friends and relatives in England who would send us this incredible music from England of Cliff Richard and The Shadows and the Telstars, and The Beatles and then all the Beatles clones, Gerry and the Pacemakers and everybody else. 

And we had this great music there, and we’d just all try to outdo each other, even though it was a community but we shared things because if someone got the first bass in town, and Jim Kell had the first electric bass in town and the amplifier, we’d loan it to Neil Young. If we weren’t playing a gig and Neil Young had a gig, he’d call and say, “Are you guys using your amp and bass next week?” And we’d say, “No, you can use it.” So we would take it to the gig and watch him play with The Squires, and then he’d come and see us play the next weekend. It was kind of a “helping each other out” kind of thing, because he’d play his end of town, and we’d play our end of town, and then we’d talk to each school or promoter and say, “Why don’t you book Neil Young and the Squires on our end of town?” And then he would talk to his places and say, “Why don’t you book The Guess Who in my end of town?” And we would trade community centers or halls and get to play other schools. And you’d make like $20 a night, and each guy in the band would get $4 or $5, and that was a big deal – better than delivering newspapers, which was how we earned our money to buy our guitars. We all had a paper route, do you know what I mean? Or mowed lawns … that was it.   

Some of the funniest and most poignant moments had to do with your first trips to America. It was a country at war. What were your initial impressions of the country and how did they change as your career advanced?
RB: Well, there were two things going on at the time. We would play a concert, and a race riot would break out. We’d be in Chicago or we’d be in Minneapolis, and you were told by the promoter, if black and whites start fighting, do not stop playing that song. Play that song forever, because a lot of the people won’t know there’s a fight. There’ll be dancing. They’re hearing the music. The minute you stop and hear a scuffle, they’re going to go and it’s going to turn into a mass riot. So if it’s two or three guys having a fight or four or five guys in the corner, we’ll try to get the bouncers in, we’ll call the police. Don’t stop playing. But that is frightening when you’re playing, and you’re looking down and guys are fighting with knives in front of the stage and they’re black and white guys. I’m onstage backing a black band. I’m with the Guess Who. We’re backing The Shirelles or The Crystals or The Ronettes. We’re thrilled to be backing these black artists, because to us, they were superstars. And here they are fighting in the audience – it was amazing. 

And then some of the towns we went to, we would be the only guys between 18 and 30. Women would come to our dance and touch us like we were aliens. There was no guys in some of these places; they were all drafted. I’m talking about ’67, ’68 – there were no guys. The war was going full-tilt; they were drafting everybody. Then the riots were starting. The students were starting to protest the draft and the war, like, “Why are we at war? Why are we losing our youth to the war in a jungle somewhere, for what purpose? We don’t understand this.” And the whole thing was in turmoil, and here we were on tour, Canadians at the time. They tried to draft us. We came back to Canada and wrote “American Woman” on the spot. “Stay away from me/let me be/we don’t want your war machine.” That was the whole idea behind that. “American Woman” was the Statue of Liberty; that’s what that stood for. It wasn’t the woman on the street. And I tell that story on the DVD. It was like us almost being drafted and coming back to Canada and turning in our green cards. And that night onstage, I broke a string, I wrote the riff, Burton Cummings sang the line, “American woman/stay away from me” … bam, we wrote it, and it was a No. 1 hit.

Yeah, that was an amazing story from the DVD, and it kind of brings me into my next question. You describe your career as a “series of accidents” that you followed wherever they led. Was there a time when you felt most scared that the break you were looking for wouldn’t come, whether that was with The Guess Who or BTO?
RB: Well, the whole thing is, the whole music business, and from my thinking, you have a dream to be like Elvis. You have to have a dream to be like John Lennon. You have a dream to be like Clapton. You have somebody to look to. You have a dream if you’re a kid to be like David Beckham or Michael Jordan, or somebody like that. You have a dream to be like Robert Dinero if you’re an actor or somebody, or Nicholas Cage or somebody like that. So everybody laughs at you saying, “You’ll never be another Dinero. You’ll never be another Clapton.” And then suddenly, they’re paying money to see you act or play or shoot a hoop or play guitar, and then suddenly, they’re buying your record, and suddenly, they’re saying, “You’re the new Eric Clapton.” And so there’s this change if you keep at it. You have Plan A and if you stick to Plan A and Plan B is to stick to Plan A, which is you plan to chase your dream no matter what and climb every mountain that’s in your way and crawl through every gutter that’s in your way and keep chasing your dream and keep doing it, and suddenly you achieve and you become something. And your whole life becomes that. And in a way you’re a spectator and can look back at it and go, “Wow! We broke up 22 times, but the 23rd time we got back together, that’s when it happened,” because if we’d broken up, it never would have happened. 

And you learn to keep going, and then I also learned back when I was writing a song or seeing something or feeling something happening onstage to just let it happen. It’s almost like a psychic. You feel this thing coming to you, this revelation or this story or this fact about someone, you open up and let it come and suddenly you sit there, and you’ve written this amazing song in like five minutes and you write it down. And you go and play it for someone, and you say, “Listen to this,” and they go, “Did you write that? That’s amazing.” And all you can say is, “Yes, yeah. I think I wrote that. I think I wrote it,” because it’s in you and you don’t know where it comes from, and you don’t know if you’ve heard it before. If you play it for someone, they’ll say, “Oh, we’ve heard that. It’s on the new Beatles record, right?” And you go, “Really?” And they go, “Yeah. That’s Side 2, Cut 3.” And you go, “Oh, yeah. That’s a Beatles song. It was on my mind,” but if nobody recognizes it, you claim it as your own and as years go by, you have accolades for having written these songs and that’s what it is, because there’s nothing new. It’s so hard to get something new, and when something comes, I’m quite surprised that I’ve written something new out of all the things I know that are begged and borrowed and stolen. You know what I mean? And if you can shape something new and call it your own, it is in fact a miracle, and on this “Every Song Tells a Story” DVD, I’m celebrating about 50 miracles that nobody called me on. Nobody said, “Well, you stole that song.” They’re saying, “That’s a great song. You wrote it by yourself,” and so I’m excited to have that out there and I frankly tell the stories where the songs came from and what inspired them and all that.

Bobby Whitlock: Lord of the Rings

Guitarist/keyboardist for Derek & the Dominos, George Harrison puts 'Mountain Ring' up for auction 
By Peter Lindblad

Bobby Whitlock with wife CoCo Carmel
Black diamonds, it seems, are Bobby Whitlock's best friend these days, at least as far as his jewelry art is concerned.

Practically raised at Stax Records, the Memphis native played alongside soul legends Booker T. & the MGs and Sam & Dave, before joining Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, contributing keyboards to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album and forming Derek and The Dominos with Eric Clapton. But, Whitlock has other artistic interests outside of music.

Much of his attention these days is centered on his ability to create stunning jewelry, including an incredible new piece called the "Mountain Ring," which is being auctioned off right now. The auction began on Saturday, Oct. 11, and will conclude Nov. 29 at 11:59 p.m. Bids are to be submitted by e-mail to:

For auction rules, go to

"You know, it’s not so much the selling of it, as it is making my art available," said Whitlock. "This is the first interview I’ve ever done that has to do with my art, other than my musical art. And it’s really all one and the same. Art is art, just like love is love."

Bobby Whitlock's 'Mountain Ring'
As a teenager, growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Whitlock would go through stones and picture making "those big rings, those big, chunky things, and I always like that they symbolized something. I never knew that it’d be something, an art form, that I would express myself at any point."

That is until his wife CoCo Carmel came along.

"My wife and I, have been together 14 years, and the first thing I did was have something made for her, just ‘cause I wanted something unique and it was an earring," explained Whitlock. "And I had this idea that I’d make it for her, and I don’t know … it just seemed like I had a knack for it. And that piece won an award."

Other pieces followed, as Whitlock designed one ring and then another, without ever thinking he'd sell them. He enjoys the entire process, from finding the right stone through the casting of the wax. It was a trip overseas, however, that gave him the idea for the Mountain Ring.

"When CoCo and I went back and forth to Geneva, Switzerland, to perform for 5,000 Japanese people at a symposium they were having, I was really taken by the grandeur of the mountains and the cliffs," said Whitlock. "After going there three times, ‘cause we stayed each time quite a while, you get to know the place, and even when we were shopping ... when I came back and started  fooling around, I came up with the idea of the mountain range, but I didn’t know exactly how it was going to be, because it’s hard to make a mountain range. You don’t just put a stone on top of it (laughs)."

A trip to Geneva, Switzerland, inspired
Bobby Whitlock to create the
"Mountain Ring"
For the piece, Whitlock chose his old favorite, black diamonds, " ... which no one uses on the other end of the spectrum, and they’re beautiful," added Whitlock, who goes through a process of creating the design and drawing it out, then picking the stones, carving the wax, and then casting the gold through the lost wax process.

Making the Mountain Ring even more special, Whitlock used the very last bit of "rose gold" in his possession that was made by a friend, Danny Abbott, who used to render copper into 24-karat gold by "putting a little piece of penny into it," related Whitlock. "He’s no longer around ... and he was an alchemist and an incredible jeweler. That was his thing. He was frustrated because he wanted to be a rock star, you know. Everybody wants to be a rock star, but his gift … now he could play guitar, but his real true gift was incredible art."

That little touch helps make the "Mountain Ring" special. Some of it he used for CoCo's jewelry.

According to Whitlock, a number of people had a hand in making the "Mountain Ring."

"Charles Kirkpatrick owns the Midas manufacturing here in Austin, and there were different artists casting in that, and among them was a girl named Rima," said Whitlock. "She was one of the artists who was designing. And there were several other people … actually, in the making of the Mountain Ring;there were seven people involved in the piling of the wax, and that was one that worked and then we did another one where another artist got involved, and so I just started out with like a rough draft of just something I do, and the next thing you know I presented it to – in this case for the Mountain Ring – to Rima and we bounced around some different ideas and she said, 'Well, how about this, you know? It’s pretty incredible. She’s off doing her own thing here in Austin as well, so it’s never really the same person, except my stone setter Aaron. He’s a big guy, about 6-foot-3, a big man, and it always seemed interesting, setting a stone … that’s most important part of the whole thing, because the whole thing is built around the stone."

The 'Mountain Ring' has an
ounce of gold and an
ounce of black diamonds
As for Kirkpatrick, Whitlock said, "His thing is, he loves stones. He’s a stone man, and it was six months in finding the star sapphire that’s in the Mountain Ring. It was six months of going through stones and him going to different gem dealers and stuff to find the right stone. So the piece is built around the stone. So if the stone breaks or something compromises the stone, the piece is gone, because you’re not going to get another stone that’s just exactly that size. And everything changes, you know."

At his wife's suggestion, Whitlock is finally letting the public see his work, and he added that reaction so far to the Mountain Ring has been incredible.

"There’s over an ounce of gold in the thing, and over a karat of black diamonds – over a karat and a half or so of black diamonds, I can’t remember what the number is," said Whitlock. "It’s either 48 or 49 diamonds all throughout, and it’s absolutely a beautiful piece. I’m real proud of it. And I never thought about letting anybody see it in a public way, just people near me or in my circle … I don’t know, but it’s okay. We started now. We started Bobby Whitlock Jewelry, and it’s funny how it’s opening the door for something. Everything I do is a one-off anyway, and I may do some commissioned things down the line. What I’m going to do is just turn this “Mountain Ring” into something else, you know, for someone else, and just make that available … I don’t know, it’s just opening the door for maybe a jewelry store. There’s always a song in everything, my life is a song and just like that, the doors open for something like a jewelry store."

We'll have more with Bobby Whitlock in the coming days and weeks as he talked to us about his time in Derek and the Dominos, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends and, of course, his work on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.

CD Review: Gary Moore – Live at Bush Hall 2007

CD Review: Gary Moore – Live at Bush Hall 2007
Eagle Records
All Access Rating: B+

Gary Moore - Live at Bush Hall 2007 2014
Peter Green would have loved seeing Gary Moore on this May evening in 2007. Moore was Green's favorite pupil, soaking in all the blues-guitar knowledge he could from the Fleetwood Mac founder and '60s British blues boom architect.

Performing to 400 people in the cozy environs of Bush Hall, all of whom won tickets to the show from Planet Rock Radio, which originally broadcast it, Moore sweated out a rough-and-tumble set that fervently testified to his mastery of the blues. Live at Bush Hall 2007 is the first-ever audio release of that show, and the sound is exquisite, nicely capturing the intimacy of the setting.

Drawing liberally from Close As You Get, the album he'd released just prior to this outing, Moore led a quartet that included his old Thin Lizzy mate, drummer Brian Downey, through smoky supplications like "Trouble At Home," soulful readings of Phil Lynott's "Don't Believe A Word" and "Still Got the Blues" – two deeper cuts from a catalog begging for greater appreciation – and lowdown, junkyard growlers "Hard Times" and a particularly unruly "If The Devil Made Whiskey."

An ebullient cover of Sonny Boy Williams' "Eyesight to the Blind" allows Moore to display his feel for authentic interpretation, something that's even more apparent in the stunning, bare-bones reading of Son House's "Sundown" – Moore's deft slide guitar work, seemingly dug straight from the fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta, on this version is nothing short of brilliant – that brings the curtain down. And when he turns rowdy, as he does on gloriously rambunctious and raw versions of "Walking By Myself" and Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days," Moore doesn't hold anything back.

Throughout Live at Bush Hall 2007, Moore wrings every ounce of emotion out of his instrument when he bends strings to his will and holds sustains as if he's choking a mortal enemy to death, his elegantly wild leads so expressive, so tightly woven and so vibrant, as evidenced by Moore's 4:34 solo "Gary's Blues 1." If only some of the slower songs weren't so dawdling, a minor quibble by the way, Live at Bush Hall 2007 would be absolutely essential. As it is, it's works as a boon companion to Moore's studio legacy.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Rigor Mortis – Slaves to the Grave

CD Review: Rigor Mortis – Slaves to the Grave
Rigor Mortis Records
All Access Rating: A-

Rigor Mortis - Slaves to the Grave 2014
No Mike Scaccia means no more Rigor Mortis. The thrash/speed metal tyrants have apparently refused to soldier on without him.

Felled by a heart attack onstage at a homecoming show for Rigor Mortis in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2012, the guitarist was the maggot-filled heart and worm-eaten soul of a band that laid waste to the late 1980s extreme metal underground.

Without their breakneck tempos, frenzied beats, insanely furious riffage, and putrid, R-rated lyrical content inspired by horror and gore films, and a fascination with serial killers, there would be no Toxic Holocaust, no Goatwhore even. Who'd want to live in a world like that?

Only days before Scaccia, also known for his work with industrial-metal giants Ministry, as well as a slew of other Al Jourgensen-related projects, shuffled off this mortal coil, however, he finished his guitar parts for what would become his and the band's swan song, Slaves to the Grave, a record – their first in the 23 years since the punk/metal manifesto Rigor Mortis Vs. The Earth ... – the reunited Rigor Mortis was working on prior to his untimely demise.

No record labels wanted to touch it. Needing assistance with funding to release it themselves, Rigor Mortis raised money through an IndieGoGo campaign, and with a little help from some friends in the industry, this burning slab of fierce, raging death metal is finally seeing the light of day. And what a fiery, no-holds-barred send-off it is, "Flesh for Flies" taking the prize for "biggest wall of buzzing guitar noise ever conceived" by these remorseless attack dogs.

Resting only briefly for an unexpectedly melodic and tasteful intro to "Rain of Ruin," before trashing the place with a barrage of scabrous drums, bombing guitars and war-torn imagery, the original lineup of Scaccia, bassist Casey Orr, barking vocalist Bruce Corbitt and drummer Harden Harrison brutally stomps all over a gruesome "Ancient Horror" and tears through the blistering "Poltergeist" and an equally venomous "Fragrance of Corpse" like a cyclone.

And while the staggering hyper speed with which they play still makes jaws drop to the floor, as it does in "Curse of the Draugr," Rigor Mortis has other tricks up their tattered, blood-spattered sleeves, with Scaccia letting nervous six-string manipulation skitter like frightened, amphetamine-fed spiders or unpacking the unusual, repetitive muted stutter and quickened chug of the instant-classic "Blood Bath" and its whiplash change of pace. This may well be Scaccia's finest hour, and in turn, the rest of Rigor Mortis have fully realized their disturbingly warped vision of humanity and sonic brutality.
– Peter Lindblad