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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CD Review: Soen – Tellurian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CD Review: Rog & Pip – Our Revolution

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

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

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

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

Bobby Whitlock's ups and downs with Delaney & Bonnie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bobby Whitlock performing with
his wife, CoCo Carmel.
Nowadays, Whitlock has a family with wife Coco Carmel, the two forming a husband-and-wife musical duo. He said she does everything well, and added that " ... she sees the big picture. She saw the big picture in me before I did." Coming into focus currently is Whitlock's art work, including his jewelry design. Whitlock is currently auctioning a piece called the "Mountain Ring" and preparing to see his works to the public. Information regarding the ring can be found here: http://backstageauctions.blogspot.com/2014/10/auction-for-bobby-whitlocks-mountain.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riot is reborn as Riot V

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for Riot?

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

CD/DVD Review: Whitesnake – Live in '84 – Back to the Bone

CD/DVD Review: Whitesnake – Live in '84 – Back to the Bone
Frontiers Music Srl
All Access Rating: A-

Whitesnake - Live in '84: Back to the Bone
Slide It In had everyone hot and bothered in 1984. The first Whitesnake album to chart in the U.S., it eventually went multi-platinum, oozing sex and sweaty machismo from every pore. Even at the ripe old age of 30, it's still a hit with the ladies, or at least it thinks so.

Not everyone was onboard, however, with Whitesnake's transition from gritty blues-rock drifters to glitzy pop-metal sleaze merchants, Slide It In having almost completed the transformation. Original guitarist Micky Moody wanted no part of it, so David Coverdale hired John Sykes from Thin Lizzy, adding to the myriad personnel changes that had already taken place earlier.

From their armchairs, the critics howled, slagging their increasingly glossy, commercial sound and wagging their fingers over what raunchy, immature little boys they'd become, what with their leering sexual innuendo and double-entendres. David Coverdale paid them little mind. Going out on a world tour in support of Slide It In, with a restructured lineup consisting of Sykes, drummer Cozy Powell and bassist Neil Murray, Coverdale wanted to bring audiences to orgasm, dazzling crowds with explosive melodies as big as their hair, ostentatious stage shows and flashy, vigorous musicianship, as they do on Live in '84 – Back to the Bone.

Revisiting a time when Whitesnake was on the cusp, gathering momentum and setting the stage for an even bigger breakthrough to come, this raucous assortment of live audio and visual recordings from Coverdale's private collection, out via Frontiers Music Srl, documents the rip-roaring, untamed manner with which the foursome plied their trade that year. Starting with a blustery march through "Gambler" – the sound somewhat muffled – and "Guilty of Love" and that song's sparkling guitar harmonies, Live in '84 – Back to the Bone settles into an arresting "Love Ain't No Stranger" before kicking up a fuss with a rowdy, stomping "Slow An' Easy" and the rough-and-tumble, red-hot funk of "Ready An' Willing."

A searing guitar solo from Sykes, whose playing here is edgy and wild, and Powell's powerhouse drumming exhibition bracket a haunting reading of "Soldier of Fortune," and the mid-tempo blues of "Crying in the Rain" is executed with a flair for the dramatic. Throw in a rollicking medley of "Gambler," "Guilty of Love," "Love Ain't No Stranger" and "Ready An' Willing" that represents Jon Lord's final performance with Whitesnake – plus a DVD of these performances with extras such as the "Slide it In Slide Show" and snippets of demos from Coverdale gathered in a music bed for your listening pleasure – and this release, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Slide It In, becomes a reminder of how ambitious and riotous this incarnation of Whitesnake was, the sonic clarity of this release capturing the raw energy of the band while, at the same time, exposing all its flaws and imperfections and building up the lusty enthusiasm of its crowds.
– Peter Lindblad

CD/DVD Review: Dennis DeYoung – Dennis DeYoung ... and the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles

CD/DVD Review: Dennis DeYoung – Dennis DeYoung ... and the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles
Frontiers Music Srl
All Access Rating: B+

Dennis DeYoung - Dennis DeYoung and
the Music of Styx: Live in Los Angeles 2014
As responsible as anybody for the massive success Styx enjoyed in the 1970s on into the '80s, Dennis DeYoung deserves joint custody of the band's catalog. His turn to have the kids, so to speak, came earlier this year.

Faithfully revisiting a laundry list of Styx classics – with a few solo favorites sprinkled in – at Los Angeles' El Rey Theater in March 2014, DeYoung and his six-piece backing band rolled through a nostalgic set captured live for AXS-TV in high-definition sound and video.

Effervescent and celebratory, and buoyed by an enthusiastic audience fervently voicing its appreciation at every turn, this captivating performance is now available as two CD/DVD set titled Dennis DeYoung ... And the Music of Styx Live in Los Angeles, from Frontiers Music Srl.

Still possessing the commanding vocals for which he's known, DeYoung brings heightened drama and theatricality to transcendent versions of "Foolin' Yourself," "Mr. Roboto," "Come Sail Away" – the crowd, in full throat, singing along with every word – and the always-urgent "Too Much Time on My Hands," and if DeYoung's band played with more economy, rockers like "Renegade" and "Blue Collar Man" might pack a harder punch, but that doesn't mean these takes aren't satisfying. Too often here, though, they're guilty of gilding the lilly and overplaying, as they do on a version of "Grand Illusion" that's too ornate, something Tommy Shaw and James "JY" Young would never let happen.

When it comes to ballads like "Don't Let It End" and "Desert Moon," however, DeYoung and company make them glow, tugging at heartstrings while giving them a lush treatment. And spellbinding renditions of "Suite Madame Blue" and "Crystal Ball" retain much of the witch-y magic of the originals in DeYoung's hands, meanwhile, and "Lorelei" has a gleeful bounce in its step.

A target for critics who've always laughed at their pomposity and taken pot shots at their ham-handed social commentary, Styx never paid much attention to its detractors. And if we're all being honest here, they deserve kudos for constructing memorable pop-rock anthems and championing the underdog, for examining in great depth the death of the American Dream and approaching bigger questions with a sincerity and honest concern for humanity that will forever resonate with fans.

On this night, DeYoung, ever the showman, casually interacts with them as if they were old friends, joking and reveling in Styx's unabashed bombast and wearing his romantic heart on his sleeve while singing a swooning break-up song like "Babe" with youthful conviction. Amid a sea of colorful lights and a cosmic backdrop seemingly designed by artsy aliens, DeYoung does more than just make peace with his past, savoring instead the impact, the emotions and the history of a band maligned by some, but still adored by millions more.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium

CD Review: Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: A-

Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium 2014
A raging, all-consuming swarm of roaring metallic noise has descended upon the world, and its name is Pandemonium, a fitting title for the latest dose of anger-inducing, teeth-gnashing vitriol from the brothers Cavalera, Max and Igor.

Abandoning melody just as the disillusioned and hopeless might turn away from God, Cavalera Conspiracy delivers their most visceral record to date, combining the heavy brutality of Brazilian death/thrash metal kingpins Sepultura – founded in part by Max and Igor – with the hammering industrial violence of latter-day Ministry.

Every track is a delirious aural madhouse, beginning with the bludgeoning, buzzing hive of activity "Babylonian Pandemonium" and rushing headlong into the pounding "I, Barbarian," with its odd, fun-house guitar effects. Air raid sirens, barking dogs and snippets of speeches contribute to the disorienting sonic melee, flooded with Max's gutteral bellow and blunt lyrical imagery, drums relentlessly pummeling away, down-tuned breakdowns and searing, psycho guitars going off in unusual directions, as if following some insane muse.

Any red meat tossed in the vicinity of the ravenous "Bonzai Kamikazee" would immediately be devoured whole, its pawing, clawed riffs lunging at enemies real or imagined. Charging just as hard, the thundering "Cramunhao" simply overwhelms the senses, growing increasingly powerful and dense. And even when Cavalera Conspiracy is in danger of going completely off the rails – the unhinged insanity of "Scum" and "Apex Predator" being two instances – they are forever grounded in mauling, disciplined grooves that leave discernible trails so nobody gets lost, although it is next to impossible to keep up with the runaway speed of "Insurrection" and the swift, strong currents of energy that carry "Not Losing The Edge." Not to mention the fact that they stuff the record with a bevy of interesting auditory elements, rewarding repeated listens with new textures and discoveries.

One of the most intense and ferocious records to date from the Cavalera brothers, Pandemonium makes Soulfly seem an unnecessary distraction for Max. This is one Conspiracy theory that demands more investigation.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band – Black Power Flower

CD Review: Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band – Black Power Flower
Napalm Records
All Access Rating: B+

Brant Bjork And The Low Desert
Punk Band - Black Power Flower 2014
Coated in psychedelic fuzz and deep-fried to a crisp in a bubbling vat of distortion, Black Power Flower doesn't go too far off the desert-rock reservation formerly inhabited by Kyuss.

Once the drummer for the pioneering stoner-metal outfit, whose legend seems to grow by the day, Brant Bjork – now a permanent fixture in Vista Chino with his old Kyuss running mate, John Garcia – takes on multi-instrumentalist duties with a new project that bears his name, Brant Bjork And The Low Desert Punk Band.

Now out on Napalm Records, Black Power Flower is a gritty, psychotropic stew of heavy, intoxicating riffs, mind-altering effects, dirty blues and ominous undercurrents. Gathering momentum in the aftermath of a doom-laden intro that recalls early Black Sabbath, the heady opener "Controllers Destroyed" becomes engorged with voluminous guitars, rumbling bass and bashed drums. Thick and rugged, "We Don't Serve Their Kind" goes from a slow burn to a steady, thundering stampede, while "Stokely Up Now" sounds more clear headed and lively, its guitars coming into sharper focus with repeated listens.

The rest of Black Power Flower is a smoky, fetid room littered with seeds and stems, junk food wrappers, pizza boxes and filthy bongs, its denizens, such as "Buddha Time (Everything Fine)" and "Soldier of Love," buzzed and slipping into comfortable comas, where tracks seem indistinguishable from one another. That's not such a terrible thing. Every track here is easy to like, throbbing with underlying tension and brimming with menacing, strong grooves that only seem lazy to the uninitiated, solid riffs with a little bit of bite to them and rhythms that move with a muscular grace. And just to show he's not a one-trick pony, Bjork tries his hand at buttery '70s funk with "That's Fact Jack" and bumps and grinds through the smoldering, sexed-up blues of "Hustler's Blues," both attempts satisfyingly seductive, earthy and organic, if not terribly original. Black Power Flower plants a seed. Now watch Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band grow.
– Peter Lindblad

Megadeth Auctions Decades of Tour Memorabilia

The historical online auction event will feature 100s of pieces of Megadeth tour memorabilia, including 20 tour and studio guitars belonging to Dave Mustaine

Houston, TX - November 4th, 2014 - Backstage Auctions presents a one of kind, rock to the core, online auction event featuring decades of Megadeth tour memorabilia. "It simply doesn’t get any Megadeth – The Countdown To Extinction Auction,” is a not to miss opportunity for fans and collectors around the world to own an authentic piece of memorabilia from one of most highly successful and significant heavy metal bands in music history.

The event, aptly titled “Megadeth – The Countdown To Extinction Auction,” is a not to miss opportunity for fans and collectors around the world to own an authentic piece of memorabilia from one of most highly successful and significant heavy metal bands in music history.

The auction will feature flight and wardrobe cases, amps, cabinets, gear, guitars, picks and strings, apparel, set lists, lyrics, tour programs, ephemera, signed items and a whole lot more.
Vic Rattlehead's Combat Boots
There is a wide range of collectibles featured in the auction that will appeal to not only collectors but also to fans around the world who want to own a piece of Megadeth history. There is even a pair of tour used Vic Rattlehead combat boots, for hardcore fans it doesn't get any more unique than owning those boots.

Definitely a big highlight of the auction are the guitars, they are simply amazing – each one having its own history and story to tell. "The selection of guitars in this auction is what Dave Mustaine and Megadeth fans could have only hoped for and dreamed of," comments van Gool. "Dave has been very generous with the instruments that he has decided to make available to the fans and collectors. He wants to make sure that his personal items end up with his fans, who will treasure them as he has."  In addition to two breathtaking double-neck 12 & 6-string V guitars, there is a host of highly recognizable signature model guitars, including the 'Angel of Deth,'  'Fear' and 'Gears of War,' as well as the
Angel of Deth I Guitar
equally infamous black and silver V guitars. And to add even more prestige to these weapons of mass destruction, some of the guitars are truly the first ever build models.

Equally impressive are the original stage back drops from Megadeth tours dating back to the 90s, tons of guitar strings – packed with not only the guitar pick but also the date and location of the show is noted on each package, Big 4 t-shirts from various countries and custom made Megadeth road cases – complete with the Megadeth stamp, custom plaque and most have been personally signed by Mustaine.

The online auction starts December 1st and will run through December 7th. A special VIP All Access Preview of the entire auction catalog will be available online beginning Saturday, November 22nd and is open to fans and collectors worldwide. "This auction has no boundaries – everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of where they live. Our only recommendation is to register early, bid hard, bid to win and have fun," says van Gool.

For more information and to register for a VIP All Access Pass for The Countdown To Extinction Megadeth Auction event follow the links:

Auction Page: Auction Details and Information

Auction RegistrationVIP All Access Pass

BACKSTAGE AUCTIONS is a boutique online auction house specializing in authentic rock memorabilia and exclusively representing legendary musicians and entertainment professionals directly. Every auction event is unique, reflecting the artist's legacy and chronicles their legendary career. Backstage Auctions has represented dozens of notable and very talented musicians, producers and managers in the music industry.

MEGADETH has created metal masterpieces for nearly three decades, selling more than 38 million albums worldwide, earning 11 Grammy® nominations and scoring five consecutive platinum albums including 1992’s two-million-selling Countdown to Extinction.

The band continued to break new ground and earn new accolades with their 2013 release, Super Collider, reaching No. 6 on The Billboard 200 and No. 3 on the Top Hard Rock Albums and Top Rock Albums charts.

On November 11, 2014, Universal Enterprises (UMe) will issue the first five platinum-selling Capitol Records MEGADETH albums on limited edition picture disc vinyl for the first time in the U.S. Titles include 1986’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, 1988’s So Far, So Good…So What! and 1990’s Rust In Peace, as well as 1992’s Countdown To Extinction and 1994’s Youthanasia, both making their debut on picture disc. Each album is pressed on heavyweight vinyl and will feature the remastered mixes by Dave Mustaine with the original album track listings. 

Bobby Whitlock on his 'sacred art,' his Stax education and Delaney and Bonnie

Legendary musician talks about his formative years as a musician
By Peter Lindblad

Bobby Whitlock learned to play the Hammond organ
from Booker T. at Stax Records
(In the second part of our look at the art and career of Bobby Whitlock, we review his early days at Stax Records and his move to Delaney and Bonnie. Part 3 will discuss the downfall of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends and his participation in George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and the creation of Derek and the Dominos)

To Bobby Whitlock, art is art. It doesn't matter if he's making music or doing something else – like making jewelry, his more recent pursuit – the creative process is the same.

"There's no difference in designing a piece of jewelry, writing songs, carving a piece of wood or anything ... painting pictures, no, it's all the same and really ... as a songwriter, I'm just the vessel or the instrument," explained Whitlock, a founding member of Derek and the Dominos. "And the same holds true in jewelry design, wood, root art ... any of the stuff that I do, and it's that way for any artist. They're the tool, the instrument."

Whitlock's humility is sincere. Having played with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends at the height of their popularity, and then performing keyboards on George Harrison's legendary All Things Must Pass album, before teaming with Eric Clapton in the short-lived super group Derek and the Dominoes, Whitlock has every reason in the world to boast.

Bobby Whitlock with his
second solo album 'Raw Velvet'
He's had an incredible career in music, including helping out on records by Dr. John, the Rolling Stones, Clapton and John Lennon, playing with Booker T. & The MGs and Sam & Dave, and issuing a series of well-received solo albums. While with Derek and the Dominos, Whitlock wrote classics such as "Anyday" and "Tell The Truth." More recently, Whitlock has been performing with his wife, CoCo Carmel, also a supremely talented musician.

At home, however, he's just Bobby, quietly creating art out of whatever's available, including the cedar stumps and logs he's collected over the years from a river area near his home in Austin, Texas. To him, what he does is "sacred art." It's natural and organic, like his root art, and it has very little to do with the modern world.

Bobby Whitlock's "The Mountain Ring"
Hearing that term, "sacred art," for the first time, Whitlock didn't know what it meant. He does now, and it means the world to him. It's a good description for his jewelry creations, one of which is the "Mountain Ring," currently up for auction. Here's all the information (http://www.filedropper.com/bw-mountain-ring-epk Download Bobby Whitlock's Official Press Kit Today and bid via email to WhitlockMountain@Gmail.com) for the public sale of the "Mountain Ring." For auction rules, see http://backstageauctions.blogspot.com/2014/10/auction-for-bobby-whitlocks-mountain.html

"It comes from sacred place," said Whitlock. "I didn't sit around with a computer and an imaging machine come up with it. Nobody did. It's not involved. As a matter of fact, I cut out some people in my experience who wanted me to do that. They wanted me to start using computerized imagery, and I'm like, 'No, no, no man ... hell no. That's like using a rhyme book (laughs)." In his Southern drawl, Whitlock added, "That ain't happening man."

His mentors at Stax Records certainly would not approve of that sort of thing either. As a teen growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid-to-late 1960s, Whitlock spent a lot of time hanging around Stax artists, including Sam & Dave, Booker T. and the MGs, the Staples Singers and Albert King. It was where he received a priceless education in soul music, having learned to play the Hammond organ watching Booker T. Eventually, Whitlock became the first white artist signed to Stax's Hip label, doing rock 'n' roll and R&B.

"What I brought with me from that time was simplicity," said Whitlock. King's guitar playing "emobodied" that, Whitlock added. So did Steve Cropper and his playing, as Whitlock cited Cropper's solo on "Green Onions" as a prime example.

"He may not be Eric Clapton in the fluid department, but there ain't but one Eric Clapton," said Whitlock. "For Eric, it's all in the wrist. Well, you've gotta have that wrist (laughs)."

A lot of people wish they could play like Clapton, including Whitlock, himself a guitarist. "But then it wouldn't be special if everybody played like him," Whitlock said.

There were plenty of special artists at Stax, including the songwriting team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter.

"I met them when they were a songwriting team at Stax," said Whitlock. "So I watched them work. I watched songs come into expression in one room and taken into the studio room, the artists' auditorium – Stax was an old movie theater ... taking it to the auditorium and recording it on a four-track machine upstairs."

Observing Cropper work his magic in the studio and the control booth, expertly and skillfully taking a recording from a 2-track to cutting acetates and incorporating fades, Whitlock was exposed to a kind of artistry that others never witnessed.

Bobby Whitlock played
keyboards on two 1969
Delaney and Bonnie albums
Raised on gospel and Southern music, Whitlock said, "I have a real colorful background," one that offers him incredible inspiration. "And my inspiration is from everything around me," he added, "and I don't know anything about things that I don't know."

So the subjects of Whitlock's songs, as well as those of his art, come straight from his own experiences.

"It's all brand new," said Whitlock. "Every moment is a learning experience."

And he's tried to soak it all in, as he said, "I sure am enjoying the ride." Part of his secret, he says, is "surrounding myself with people who are better at doing what they do than I am at what I do."

Some of those people were Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn and Don Nix, who were all set to produce a Whitlock solo album for the Stax subsidiary Hip, when Whitlock left to join the husband-and-wife team of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett in a soul revue project they were putting together. Whitlock played keyboards and sang vocals on two 1969 Delaney and Bonnie albums, Home and Accept No Substitute.

In the beginning, Whitlock compared the situation to a family. "We were all really close," and he says that "carried on until 'D&A' got involved." And by D&A, Whitlock means "drugs and alcohol." Whitlock said everyone could relate to one another and "nobody told anyone what to do." Whitlock said it was similar to "birds flying." That situation wouldn't last, though.