Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson - United States Review

Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson
Mascot Records

Take Freddie Nelson (Too Tall Jones) and Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big) - mix and shake them up and out spits one sparkling release titled UNITED STATES. UNITED STATES is a collection of well crafted songs that are spit, polished, and shined to perfection.

When this cd arrived at my doorstep, I looked at the cover and knew right away that this cd was going to be something special. Why you ask? Well...not only because Paul Gilbert shows up, but because Paul shares the spotlight with Freddie Nelson - both of whom cut their teeth in the South West PA and South East Ohio music scenes. I've let this cd sink in for a few weeks now and in the meantime have been reading some early reviews on UNITED STATES. Needless to say, I'm a little disappointed that in nearly every review or interview I've read the one big question is "Who is Freddie Nelson?". I partially blame this on the internet age - there is simply too many bands or musicians out there and it's way too much for any one person to digest. I first came across Freddie and his band Too Tall Jones back in 2001 gracing the stage of the Varsity Club in Youngstown, Ohio. Too Tall Jones released a brilliant cd called BI-POLAR that was chock full of catchy power pop rock songs that's stayed in a pretty good rotation with myself since then. What Too Tall Jones showed me was that Freddie Nelson knew how to write some good power pop rock songs full of hooks and melody - and most importantly his songs have stuck with me for a few years now. That's a recipe for success in my book.

With Freddie's musical influence in mind, in comes Paul Gilbert's stellar guitar playing. (I'm not going to go into details of Paul Gilbert's history because anyone who is a music fan should know him by now. If not, shame on you!) That's a pretty damn good formula for some good songs. Together they can take a song to another level. Maybe another angle to look at it is that you can have a well written song, but if the players aren't up to par the end result would be a song that comes out flat or average and makes the song nothing more than a throw away track. It wouldn't have that "Added X" ingredient. With Gilbert and Nelson you get that "Added X" ingredient which is the icing on the cake.

With it's jackhammer/thumping beat during the verses, the opening track "The Last Rock and Roll Star" is an adrenalin rush that gets the blood pumping. Killer guitar solo on this one as well. "Hideaway" has a swaggering or swaying feel to it. Mid tempo song that is driven home by the vocal delivery. "Waste of Time" - good rock song that sees Freddie Nelson delivering his vocals in the Freddie Mercury zone - a few select higher range lines might have you thinking along the lines of something that The Darkness might have done. Don't confuse this song as a Darkness clone song though - I just wanted to highlight those few lines here and there to give you an idea of the high range of Freddie's voice. "Bad Times Good" is a flat out foot tapping pop song. No bells and whistles here - just a good strait beat. Simple and good. "Paris Hilton Look-Alike" is a melodic song that's full of harmony. Slower tempo, but has that head bobbing beat to it. Kind of a song that I would describe as "in the goove". "Pulsar" is a hard hitting song with some funky guitar work. The funk gets funkier on the intro and breaks on "Girl From Omaha". Stretch a rubber band across your fingers plug into a distortion box and give it a few fast plucks. That's the funky sound I'm trying to describe here. That quickly gives way to a jumping song with a pop flavor to it.

It's pretty tough to break down each individual song and trying to touch on everything in each song. There are a number of elements though that are strong with each song that carries through the whole disc. One is the guitar playing. Great rhythm work and great solos are numerous on here, which makes the music catchy. As I said above, Freddie has a unique style of singing that I like and that's featured throughout the disc as well. I think what I like most about his style is that he doesn't have the same delivery throughout a song. One moment he may be singing a melody line, another moment he might be one step below shouting, and then another part he might have a rapid fire approach - almost like a song is a book and each little segment where he changes it up is a chapter within that book. Bottom line is that's what creates a lot of the hooks on here. They catch your ear and that's the name of the game.

I'm glad I stumbled across Too Tall Jones years ago. That laid a nice foundation in advance of UNITED STATES so I somewhat knew what I was getting before I heard it. I described Too Tall Jones as catchy power pop rock songs and that's what you get with Gilbert & Nelson's UNITED STATES. I get a real heavy influence of Freddie Nelson on UNITED STATES. For sake of comparison...and nothing against Paul Gilbert because his guitar work shines on this disc.....I would say this leans a little more to sounding like a Too Tall Jones disc and little less of any Paul Gilbert's previous band recordings. At any rate, it's pretty damn good and that's the bottom line. There must have been something in the water around the Pittsburgh, PA area when Paul and Freddie grew up because it's pretty obvious they know how to write a good song. Classic rock and late 80's rock fans will eat this up. Modern rock fans might want to give it a test drive as well. I think UNITED STATES may rise above the never ending onslaught of new releases and grow some legs to stand atop the pack as one of the best releases of 2009 - maybe not a number 1, but definately should enter the minds of people when looking back at the best releases of 2009. Definately pick add UNITED STATES to your collection and don't hesitate to dig into both Paul Gilbert's and Freddie Nelson's back catalog.

For more information check out www.mascotrecords.com www.paulgilbert.com and www.freddienelson.com

RATING: 4 out of 5 thumbs up! ...or 8.5 out of 10 starst! ...or 85 percent approval rate! .... Now you know!

You can pick up your copy of UNITED STATES right here at Amazon!

Chuck Myden

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Freddie Nelson and Paul Gilbert release shines light on a hidden gem

Freddie Nelson and Paul Gilbert have a new release out called UNITED STATES, which is being released by Mascot Records. We'll get to a proper review of it in the next few days. However, this release has some roots in my cd collection and not from Paul Gilbert (although he is in there.). .....That root would be the band Too Tall Jones, which was led by Freddie Nelson.

I stumbled upon Too Tall Jones the "old school" way by seeing them open up for L.A. Guns at the Varsity Club in Youngstown, Ohio back in May of 2001. It would be the first of 2 times that year L.A. Guns turned me on to a great new band. The next time L.A. Guns came through Ohio they had another great band open up for them - The Mimsies. Sadly, that band is no longer around and that little firecracker of a singer Casey is no longer involved in music. If you're looking for 2 really good releases, track yourself down a copy of Too Tall Jones' BI-POLAR and The Mimsies' TRASH AND ROCK AND ROLL. It's been 8 years since I've picked up these discs and I STILL play them on a somewhat regular basis. Good stuff!

If you like well written melodic rock, you'll love BI-POLAR. It has a nod to old school 80's rock, yet with a sound that was fresh for the new millenium. It's completey loaded with catchy songs and musical hooks that will snag your ear. What are you waiting for? Start typing away and see if you can find anything on Too Tall Jones. I think you'll like it. I know I do. You can find the cd here or download "You Ain't Nothing" and give it a spin to see if it wets your appetite.

I think I reviewed both of these discs back then. I'll have to dig up my old reviews and see if I have them. If not, maybe this would make for a good "retro" review piece.

Happy Hunting!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Evanscapps The Last Time

Due to the sudden passing of Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist, I thought I would share a review of his Evanscapps cd, which came out a few years ago. It was a project he shared with Bobby Capps of .38 Special.

EvansCapps - THE LAST TIME


I love it when a release comes my way, where literally every song on the release is good. Such is the case from a somewhat unknown band called Evanscapps. With no label support, they created a gem titled THE LAST TIME. To best categorize the sound that Evanscapps produces, imagine the buzz like sound of Alice in Chains with someone like Scott Weiland singing. The end result is a sound consisting of raw, crunchy riffs, heavy rhythms, and singing that has a “take no prisoners” approach.

THE LAST TIME starts off with the blistering “Hell If I Know”. The music comes at you full throttle. Mix in the catchy lyrics and you have a recipe for a song that may land you a speeding ticket.

There are a number of songs on here that have a lot of good heavy grooves. A few of which are “Dead Is Rising”, the swaggering “Follow the Morning Sun” and “Walk” At times, the singer fires off lines fast paced – much in the way of how Kid Rock does it. Especially, on “Walk” and “Mississippi”. “Mississippi” also has a Rage Against the Machine sounding rhythm to it. The guitar hook on “Walk” will grab your attention with the Alice in Chains feel it provokes for those few seconds.

Evanscapps can slow it down a notch or two as well. On these songs, they are still “in your face” – just tuned down a notch. Such is the case with the moody “Innocence” and the atmospheric “Stand or Fall”. On “For Somethin’ or Nothin’”, the tempo is slowed down a bit and hits you with a punch when the verses come around. This song sounds like it could be a big commercial radio hit.

The singer employs the use of a voice box throughout the disc and this is where the Scott Weiland reference comes in. That’s something that Weiland employs frequently and it works well for this singer as well. The style of singing is also mixed up on THE LAST TIME – no two songs sound alike. The lyrical content is perfect for each song with well thought provoking lyrics that really convey the mood of the music. Some slick guitar playing is featured throughout the entire disc. Imagine a chained up/drool-dripping dog that’s just been unleashed and that paints a picture of the guitar frenzy that spews out of the speakers. Crunchy rhythms and leads that are dead on and not overdone are abundant. Mix that with the singing and everything comes out sounding fresh, original, and unique.

So now you’re probably wondering “Who are these guys?” Grab a chair and sit down. Here’s the surprise. At the beginning of the review, I put “somewhat unknown band”. Well, the fact is that they are pretty well known members of their respective “other” bands - .38 Special and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Bobby Capps steps out from behind the keyboards, as a member of .38 Special, to provide the singing duties. Laying down his bass from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ean Evans picks up his guitar and whips his lead guitar playing into a sonic assault on the ears. Both Bobby and Ean are the driving force behind Evanscapps. Combined, they share a common bond of enjoying all styles of music. They are still very dedicated to their respective bands and those bands are their main priority. For the time being, Evanscapps is a side project that provides an avenue for their creative outlets. In this case, showcasing the side of them that loves heavy music. They also enlisted a few other well-known musicians to help out with the project. Todd Harrell (3 Doors Down), Rickey Medlocke (Lynyrd Sknyrd, Blackfoot), and Todde Lawton (Toby Mac) all contributed to the recording of THE LAST TIME.

I’m hearing at least 5 or 6 radio hits on here. If THE LAST TIME gets the exposure of say a Velvet Revolver, look out because this thing will take off. The reason I say Velvet Revolver is because that song for song, THE LAST TIME has a certain freshness to it much like Velvet Revolver – only better. It’s all about the songs and there are 11 great ones on here!

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to www.evanscapps.com and pick yourself up a copy of THE LAST TIME. For those that like regular mail, I’ve listed that information below as well. Trust me – you won’t be disappointed. Now I know a lot of you are probably thinking, “this writer is really sucking up and not critiquing it.” I would think the same thing myself if I was reading this. Just to clarify – I’m not blowing smoke. THE LAST TIME is a refreshing oasis in the middle of a scorched desert of music mediocrity. There really is nothing on here that I didn’t like. When the dust settles from this year’s onslaught of new releases, this one will fall into a few top 10 lists. Great release!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

UFO - The Visitor

The Visitor
SPV Records

One of my anticipated releases so far for 2009 has been the arrival of UFO's new release THE VISITOR. The reason why I always look forward to a new UFO release is the fact that, with each new release, you get a different "flavor"or style of rock and roll....music that may tilt a little lighter or a little heavier...while still rotating around that trademark UFO sound. Sometimes the songs go down well and sometimes they don't. When you look back at a bands career, you find some releases that may have sucked bad as a whole, but you may have gotten one or two good songs out of the release. That style represented, as a whole, on THE VISITOR is a mid-tempo, bluesy (on the heavy side) style of rock.....no really fast, hard rocking songs stand out such as "Lights Out" or more recently "Fighting Man" off of SHARKS. But, on the other side....it's not heavy on the slow songs either. There's no slow emotionless songs that have been placed on here just for the sake of "Let's put a ballad on THE VISITOR and let's see if it sticks." Mid tempo blues based songs are the overall flavor of THE VISITOR. A more in depth track by track review is in order here. Let's take a look....

1. Saving Me - A twangy guitar intro (which reminds me a lot of the tv show My Name Is Earl theme) gives way to a mid tempo rhythm that sways in and out of head bobbing mode. The punch of the guitar chords is the backbone of the verses. Singer Phil Mogg comes in and immediately lays his stamp on the song - drawling out the lyrics showing he's still at the top of his game.

2. On The Waterfront - A swaying blue based based mid tempo song oozing with smokey lyrics that stand out. Guitarist Vinnie Moore noodles out some tasteful melodies and not overplaying it. Paul Raymond's keyboard playing (almost sounds like he's playing a Hammond organ) compliments and rounds out the sound of the rest of the instruments.

3. Hell Driver - Here's an up tempo rawker. Nice heavy guitar driven rhythm and blues barn burner cooked up just right. By barn burner I mean heavy on the power side of things - somewhat in the style of "When Daylight Goes To Town" off of YOU ARE HERE. The hard hitting drum beat serves as the backbone of the song.

4. Stop Breaking Down - Nice melodic song with Vinnie Moore and Phil Mogg leaving their mark all over this mid tempo shuffle.

5. Rock Ready - The twangy guitar intro returns again...this time more up tempo (and the intro still sounds like the My Name Is Earl theme - just like the intro to "Saving Me"...just a little bit faster). Real heavy blues sound on the guitar work...maybe some slide work going on? Not sure...but it sounds like it. After the intro, the song kicks into what I would call a foot stompin' blues based boogie shuffle of a song. Good stuff.

6. Living Proof - A moody swampy bluesy middle of the road song. Absolutely awesome guitar solo. I don't know how I like Phil's vocal delivery on parts of the song....it's almost if he's speaking as if he's telling you a secret...especially on the parts where he is singing/speaking the "Shake..Shake..Shake" lines. However his trademark lyrical style is stamped all over the song - envision his smirking smile wiped all over his face while delivering thought invoking lyrics to please your ears. I think I need to let this song sink in a little deeper.

7. Can't Buy A Thrill - A little slower paced melodic song. Not ballad slow though. Kind of a song to listen to while chilling out. It won't raise the blood pressure, but might get you tapping a finger or two.

8. Forsaken - Don't care for this song. A slow song. Being a guitar fan and a fan of the almighty guitar solo...I like the guitar solo and that's about it unfortunately. Nothing else about the song seems to work for me...a lot of loose ends that don't seem to fit anywhere for my ears.

9. Villians & Thieves - Here we go. A heavy chugging guitar accompanied by classic Phil lyrics and vocals drives the song home. Paul Raymond stamps his keyboard playing on the song as well - however not getting carried away with it. Just enough to throw in a little piano boogie here and there to keep things interesting.

10. Stranger in Town - Nice heavy punching guitar riff work from Vinnie Moore. Mid tempo song packed with power. Nice way to close out the disc.

One thing that really stands out as missing on THE VISITOR is Pete Way's bass playing. He wasn't available for the recording and his simple style of playing is somewhat missed. He's got that "Added X" ingredient and he tends to bring the heavier/punchy/punkier/faster type songs to the UFO table. So his absence is definately felt here and his usual 2 or 3 heavier songs are missing from the UFO formula. That doesn't mean the songs are bad here...just missing that rocking Pete Way imprint.

On the positve side of things...Vinnie Moore's playing is incredible. Vinnie sounds like he was the driving force and the fuel that brought the THE VISITOR to life. His presence is really felt across the board on all the songs. I like the blues and songs rooted in the blues, so I like what he brought to the table on this release. Good stuff! You may have noticed I used the words blues and boogie a number of times. That's because that's the dominant overall feel here. He really nails down some great guitar work all over the release.

I haven't really mentioned Andy Parker's drumming. He pretty much keeps it simple, doesn't do anything flashy or over the top and keeps his playing "in the pocket." His drums sound a little low in the mix to me in some places, but that's the only negative thing that can be said about the drums. I think if they brought the levels up in some places it could have really changed the overall dynamic or feeling of some parts of the songs.

What can be said about Phil Mogg? He's one of my favorite lyricists and vocalists of all time. I love how he throws some lyrics together that sometimes don't make sense, but when taken within the context of the song, they just sound like the words belong there. He doesn't disappoint here. Sometimes leaving you going "Huh?" but at the same time your head keeps bobbing and your foot keeps tapping so who cares what he's talking about? Right? It works and it sounds good. So that's fine with me.

Of the 3 releases since Vinnie Moore boarded the UFO mothership, I would sandwich this one between YOU ARE HERE and THE MONKEY PUZZLE, with THE VISITOR giving YOU ARE HERE a run for it's money. Not one of their best efforts, but on the flip side nowhere near one of their worst either. If you like mid tempo songs...heavy on the blues, you will like this. If you're looking for heavy Michael Schenker speeding guitar rhythms that are going to peel the paint off the walls, then dig into the UFO back catalog.

Fans of melodic, blues based, mid tempo melodic rock will like this. UFO fans will definatley want to add it to your collection. It may take a few listen throughs for it to grow on you. But, I think you will like most of these tracks. Overall, I think THE VISITOR is a pretty solid release. I would rate it somewhere in the neighboorhood of a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10. For a letter grade I would give it a B.

For more information check out www.spv.de You can check out some clips of all the tracks on the UFO page there. Also check out UFO's website at www.ufo-music.info

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

American Dog - All Over the Road Vol. One DVD

Sir-Loin-O-Beef. He's angry. He's mad. He's pissed...and he's a cummin' to guide you through the fine art of quenching your thirst and the bowels of rock and roll debauchery. What has made Sir-Loin-O-Beef's tampon string light up like a firecracker on the 4th of July? Why it's that good old "little band that could" out of Columbus, OH called American Dog. That's who! As always, they've delivered the goods ... lifted their leg and gave us another Golden spray upon our ears and eyes to mark their ever solid territory!

Sir-Loin-O-Beef serves as your host as he guides you through a 2 hour visual journey through the world of American Dog. Rose colored glasses be damned. In his eyes, he doesn't like the Dog and he tries his best to steer you clear of any danger the band might provoke.

So what doesn't he like about the band? It's more like...what is there to NOT like about the band? What you get here is a pretty comprehensive visual history of the band including rare live performances, videos, outtakes, and good times all around. All the hits are here from "Shitkicker", "Drank Too Much" to some more rarely performed songs like "Bullshit Goddammit" and "Be a Man" - the latter performed in the early days of the band at the legendary Alrosa-Villa in Columbus, Ohio. You also get a performance from a television appearance the band did in Paris, France as well as some live songs from across the big pond. Eric Moore of the Godz and Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys stop by for a couple of cameo appearances on the dvd and you also get 3 videos the band has shot - "Workin' Man", "Rock-N-Roll Dog", and "Sometimes You Eat The Pussy". Keep yours eyes open for that last video as things aren't always what they seem. Great video! Meow.

If you want some bang for your buck, grab yourself a cold one and settle in for a 2 hour ride of non stop high octane entertainment from one of the most underrated bands in the world. This is way better than a night out at the movies or buying that new dvd movie that just came out. Well worth your hard earned cash and it goes to support a great band. Even Sir-Loin-O-Beef can't be denied the good times that emit from an American Dog experience. In the end, Sir-Loin-O-Beef is sporting yellow colored glasses and is gleefully dancing in the Golden rain of American Dog!

10 Golden puddles out of 10!

I've said it before and I'll say it again...American Dog is one of my favorite bands out there. Southern Blues Beer soaked Hard Rock at it's finest. If you never heard of the band, I highly recommend any of their cd releases as well as their new dvd ALL OVER THE ROAD VOL. 1. Head on over to www.americandog.us and pick up the new dvd and/or a cd or two and support real (and most importantly) good rock and roll! I promise you will not be disappointed.