Sunday, December 31, 2017's Top 10 Albums Of 2017

Another year, another batch of studio releases from veteran rockers still pumping it out. Well, at least, most of them as two of the entries on our Top 10 list are no longer with us. Nevertheless, as long as the music keeps coming, we'll keep listening. And with that, here's 10 albums that stood out and shined in 2017.



Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper’s Paranormal, his 27th studio album, sees the man who originated “shock rock” collaborating with producer and songwriter Bob Ezrin, U2 drummer Larry Mullen, Jr., Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and members of the original Allice Cooper band — bassist Dennis Dunaway, drummer Neal Smith, and guitarist Michael Bruce. In addition to 12 new tunes, the last six tracks are live versions of Cooper classics performed with his touring band.
The album’s title track features Glover’s simple bass lines chunking through the verses, while Gibbons applies a country-flavored strut on “Fallen In Love.” Mullen plays harder and more aggressively than he usually does throughout. “Private Public Breakdown” represents a flair of sardonic wordsmithing Cooper does better than anyone. Ezrin, who helmed the production reins for Cooper’s biggest albums of the 70s, knows how to deliver the music with just enough style, panache and collaboration to make everyone feel right at home.
“Genuine American Girl” and “You and All Of Your Friends” reunites Cooper with Dunaway, Smith and Bruce. The former is a straight-ahead rocker about a brazen and tough, while the latter is a warning that the Alice Cooper is coming to take over your world — just like they did way back in the early 70s. The album’s final six songs are from a May 6, 2016 show in Columbus, Ohio. Cooper and his current crackerjack band run through near-perfect renditions of timeless classics like “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “Only Women Bleed. As a package, Paranormal is heavy, fun, even quite dark at times. The bottom line is Alice Cooper and company — and what a company it is — sound like they’re having a ball.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.      



Black Country Communion

When Black Country Communion came out with their self-titled debut in 2010, it was just the blast of fresh blood rock and roll needed. You had vocalist and bassist Glenn Hughes in the middle of a creative resurgence; vocalist and guitarist Joe Bonamassa exploding ear drums on the blues circuit; drummer Jason Bonham, neglected of any further Led Zeppelin shows, firing on all pistons; and keyboardist Derek Sherinian, having played with Dream Theater and Alice Cooper, ready to be part of something bigger and better. The supergroup recorded three albums, toured the States and Europe, and were primed to put real music back into perspective. Scheduling conflicts with other pursuits created enough tension for the group to call it a day in 2012. And for all intents and purposes, it was assumed that was the last we’d hear from the English-American quartet. But then they announced Black Country Communion IV. One spin through, and you’ll be convinced the five-year break might have been exactly what they needed to make the best album of their catalog.
The desire to regroup was initiated by Bonamassa. The guitarist’s solo career has been on fire since 2002, but apparently he decided he wanted to rechannel Jimmy Page with Hughes, Bonham and Sherinian once again. So they all agreed to record a fourth Black Country Communion. To make it official, producer Kevin Shirley, who originally brought the four musicians together and manned the knobs for the first three records, was invited to give IV its sonic wings. Whereas the previous records took flight, IV soars into the stratosphere. The songs have a more cohesive feel, Bonamassa’s to-die-for riffs are edgier and tenaciously defined, Sherinian’s keys are brought up in the mix, Hughes sings like a force of nature, and Bonham pounds through the mightiest performance of his career. The minute “Collide,” the album’s opener, shifts into gear, you know you’re in for the ride of your life. The driving crunch of Bonamassa’s chords and leads gives way to Hughes’ immortal pipes, Sherinian’s shifty Mellotron and Bonham’s exquisite drum work. The hammer comes down and the tone is set.
Hard rockin’ tracks like “Sway” and “Love Remains” are carved out of Zeppelin-like licks played with swift, unabashed urgency. “Awake” takes it even further as Bonamassa punches the turn-arounds, Hughes and Bonham push the rhythm, and Sherinian lets his fingers dance along in syncopation. This album provides far more air time for the keyboardist, who adds sly dashes of stylish piano to the more subtle “Wunderlust” and “When The Morning Comes.” Although IV is a showcase for Hughes and his massive, untainted voice, Bonamassa takes the microphone for “The Last Song For My Resting Place,” a rather rustic, almost folksy tune that sounds at once completely out of place and totally appropriate. This is classic Black Country Communion — hard and heavy for the most part, light and airy in places, transcendent and utterly brilliant all over. At press time, plans to promote and play IV live are limited and dictated by each player’s schedule. If and when they come anywhere near your town, my advice is to find a way to witness one of the most exciting rock and roll bands of the 21st century.


Deep Purple

How do you follow up your best album in three decades? If you’re Deep Purple, you enlist the same producer (Bob Ezrin), pray the muse is still on board, and stay the course. Four years after Now What?! showed the world Deep Purple still had the roar, riffs and raunch to piece together a cohesive rock record, comes inFinite, the band's 20th and quite possibly final studio album. As they embark on their “Long Goodbye Tour,” one can only speculate that if this is, in fact, Purple’s final lap, they apparently want to go out with a bang. Rising to the occasion, cast in all its glory and gumption, inFinite strives to leave a savory taste in everyone’s membrane, right to the very last drop.
If you pick up the CD/DVD version of inFinite, the 90-minute ‘From Here To Infinite’ documentary offers some remarkable insight into how the album was made — from writing and molding the songs, to recording in Nashville and Toronto. It’s a revealing examination of the process, Ezrin’s role in tying it all together, and the exceptional musicianship of Deep Purple. The chemistry is the foundation of Purple, and to see and hear it breathe and exhale from one song to the next is why the album, as bassist Roger Glover notes, is the best format for this band to summon their magic.
There’s a bit of whimsy and humor on tracks like the pedestrian “Hip Boots” and the more than slippery “One Night In Vegas.” Perhaps this helps balance the material for the heavier, proggier numbers blooming with drama, flair and sheer heroics. It’s easy enough to wrap yourself around the melody of “Time for Bedlam,” thrill at Don Airey’s keys on “All I Got Is You,” and raise your fist to drummer Ian Paice’s Zeppelinesque muscle on “Get Me Outta Here.” The scattered majesty of “The Surprising” pulls you in from the heat before “Johnnie’s Band” lightens the mood with a loose rock and roll tale of survival.
You’ll notice, at this point, that at the core of the band’s perilous sonic assault are Airey and guitarist Steve Morse — each punctuating the music with an indelible stamp all their own, while staying ever so mindful of the imprint of their predecessors. Nowhere do the elements coalescence so beautifully as they do on the album’s most ambitious tome, “Birds Of Prey.” Built on a monumental riff from Glover, singer Ian Gillan delivers a fervent, controlled vocal, Paice sets a definitive tempo, and Morse’s guitar sings over the home stretch with all the breadth, grandeur and passion of Carsuso. You really have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off after this one. Then a cover of the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” comes tumbling across as an afterthought — and an unnecessary one at that.
Nevertheless, if this is the last big sendoff, inFinite stands as testament of Deep Purple’s immense power and prestige. If you listen to the record’s drive and intensity, your first impression is that this doesn’t sound like a band ready to retire. It sounds more like they’ve caught their second wind and could carry on for another 10 years. You hear it all the time about groups calling it a day, only to make a comeback the very next year. The Scorpions announced their retirement in 2010 and they’re still going strong. Countless others see no end in sight. With extensive touring plans ahead and momentum in the works, Deep Purple’s long goodbye could very well be inFinite.
~ Shawn Perry

Southern Blood

Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman’s entire 50-year career was built on grit. Whether he was aching musically or physically, he always sang and played through the pain he felt. The result yielded a musical fighter, one whose distinctive vocal roar soldiered on despite everything from band member losses, to breakups, to addictions, to health scares. At the same time, the singer always flirted with the notion of “the end,” going all the way back to “Dreams” in 1969. Finality, of course, was a core theme of the Allman Brothers Band even though the band didn’t officially end it all until 2014. And then, tragically, Allman’s time came on May 27, 2017, at age 69. Fortunately, we have his eighth solo album to revel in and honor this legend. A collection of covers and down-home favorites, Southern Blood is not the work of a sick man fighting for every note. Rather it’s a peaceful album — one where Allman sings with a new kind of tenderness inspired by the icons he strives to emulate.
While some tracks, like the bookend opener and closer “My Only True Friend” and “Song for Adam” are somber in their approach; others are simply sweet. “Once I Was,” for example, is a tribute to a longtime influence and folk troubadour Tim Buckley. Here, the typically grizzled Allman turns his drawl into a croon, leaving his rasp behind for good. The result is nothing but powerful. Having recently read Alan Light's tell-all, oral history of the ABB “One Way Out” (chockfull of Allman's ailments and demons), it's refreshing to hear this icon sound fresh and energized. Clarity is the defining element of this album as Allman eases back and simply enjoys himself. The blues standard “I Love the Life I Live” is a swamp boogie, while a take on Johnny Jenkins’ “Blind Bats and Swamp Rats,” and “Love Like Kerosene” are down-home good musical eating. “Willin’” is a wistful take on the Little Feat classic but a strong one nonetheless.
Time will tell if more music from the Allman vaults (solo or ABB) will reach the surface. If Southern Blood proves to be Gregg Allman's musical farewell, he's headed to the angels with ease as he leaves behind something truly heartfelt and memorable for those who love him (fans included). It's evident after listening to this work, he has put every drop of his southern blood into making this a success. My hope is it will be.

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie

Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie is the first-ever full album collaboration from Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. Surely the two have worked on lots of music together, but this marks the first time for an exclusive duet from these two giants of hit making.
After coming back into the Fleetwood Mac fold in 2014 for a concert tour, McVie took tentative steps worked to write and record with Buckingham. The stalwart rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie came in to add to some of the music the duo was working on. All along the intent was to have Stevie Nicks join in this process to create a new Fleetwood Mac album, but she headed off on her own tour. McVie and Buckingham decided to carry on without Nicks, and this album is the result.
What we get, whether you consider it good or bad, is lots of Buckingham. To be sure, the man is a great songwriter, consummate guitar player, wonderful producer, and a unique singer. His heavy hand is felt throughout the album’s 10 songs (he is either co-writer or sole writer of six songs). “Sleeping Around The Corner,” a tune that appears as a bonus track on Buckingham’s 2011 solo album Seeds We Sow, suffers from the overuse of drum programming, with lots of kinetic guitar picking and more of that signature Buckingham breathy vocal than McVie’s warmer tones. I couldn’t help but feel that for a good percentage of this record, it’s more like a Linsey Buckingham solo album that Christine McVie just happens to be guesting on.
“Red Sun,” with McVie’s vocal upfront and Buckingham’s guitar placed effectively but not overrunning the production, is one of the true collaborations, while “Too Far Gone,” the heaviest song on the record, sees lots of Buckingham’s guitar under a McVie vocal. This mélange brings us back to Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk days. “Game of Pretend” could have been a gorgeous, McVie piano ballad, but it doesn’t truly spark. “Carnival Begin” is probably the best song on the album with McVie singing lead and Buckingham breaking out with a wailing lead at the end that actually fits in well. If you’re wondering what a new Fleetwood Mac album with the classic hit lineup might sound like, it’s hard to say if Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie is it. Until then, if ever, it might be all we have.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

The Visitor

Neil Young + Promise Of The Real

When a polarizing figure like Donald Trump becomes president, you can almost guarantee an equally polarizing figure like Neil Young is going to weigh in. He had a go at George W. Bush in 2006 with Living With War, so there was no way Trump was going get a free pass. The Visitor, Young’s 39th studio album and second with Promise Of The Real, certainly doesn’t hold back in greasing the wheels and going after the culprits of America’s current political divide, left or right, right or wrong. For a rich Canadian like Neil Young, you may wonder what he stands to gain marching into the eye of stormy political hurricane. Then again, you have to grasp the notion that artists like Young thrive in chaotic storms like this.
Musically, The Visitor bounces from the rugged and raw (“Already Great,” “Children of Destiny,” “When Bad Got Good”) to the achingly refined (somewhat), (“Stand Tall,” “Carnival”) to the savory sublime (“Almost Always,” “Change of Heart,” “Forever”). You could say this is a Neil Young album that covers more ground than usual, where heavy guitars are embedded alongside the strings and acoustics. That might have a lot to do with Promise Of The Real, featuring Lukas and Michah Nelson along with Corey McCormick, Anthony Logerfo and Tato Melgar. This is a band that offers more sonic breadth and room to roam than the ragged, yet consistently lovable Crazy Horse.
The real meat of the record, however, is in the lyrics. Young challenges Trump’s mantra of making ‘America Great Again’ with “Already Great,” prefacing that “I’m Canadian by the way,” before declaring an undying love for all things America, and bluntly lighting the fuse with “No wall…No ban…No fascist USA.” You could almost say it’s more of an appeal to America than an attack on Trump. However, things get decidedly more pointed on “When Bad Got Good,” when Young chants “No belief in the Liar in Chief…Lock him up…He lies, you lie.” Neil Young knows how to jab when he feels the need.
Fortunately, it’s not all so black and white as the singer barks “the daring young lady…In the greatest show on earth” during the atmospheric “Carnival,” and muses “Earth is like a church without the preacher…The people have to pray for themselves.” Young has always been able to turn a phrase in his own, quirk way — be it profound or poetic. No matter who’s running the show, Young’s heart seems to revolve around the human condition and the planet that keeps us living and breathing. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the side of the fence he’s on, but you can’t deny the man who thought even Richard Nixon has got soul his aim isn’t true and that he still believes in hope, “trying to fit in pieces of dreams”…even he will forever be viewed as an alien, an outsider, a man with no say in what is happening, and always The Visitor.

Carry Fire

Robert Plant

Robert Plant’s 11th solo album, Carry Fire, begins with a heavy percussion and acoustic guitar swirl of a tune whose title was certainly lifted from the singer’s past: “May Queen.” Using the Sensational Space Shifters once again as his backing band, Plant is mining a number of different styles — folk, Celtic, Indian and West African on the album. His soft delivery is well-suited to the varied sounds presented across these 11 tunes.
The heavy guitar swipes on “New World” rock, though Plant is still whispering so the tune never gets all that rockin’ — though it does sport a catchy “oh oh” chorus and a lyric of some substance about the immigrant experience (Plant comments on post-Brexit, Trump and many other modern concerns). It would be a great kick-off single if those are even considered anymore. With a piano backing, we get a heartfelt vocal on a “A Way With Words,” while on the title track. the band lets loose with a wild brew of Middle Eastern tonalities featuring a sizzling lead on the acoustic oud, followed by a violin that comes to prominence — as it does often across Carry Fire.
At times one might imagine they are back in the midst of the softer moments of Led Zeppelin III, but the Sensational Space Shifters dig deeper veins than even Jimmy Page did in his most prolific days. In a nod to current U.S. policies, “Carving Up the World Again … A Wall Not a Fence” presents some nasty electric guitar work that puts us in hillbilly rock territory over what sounds like a machine-set percussion. This might be Plant’s strongest vocal on the record.
Metallic “blurps” under distorted guitar sound like Nine Inch Nails soundscapes on “Bluebirds Over The Mountain.” Plant duets with Chrissie Hynde on this Ersel Hickey cover, but frankly other than the beat, Plant’s distinctive moans, and a fiddle attack, I’m not sure the mix of the two voices is all that memorable. Much has been made about how Plant has been the hold-out for a possible Led Zeppelin reunion, but he sounds quite comfortable right where he is — serving up a smorgasbord of exotic flavors and twists with the Sensational Space Shifters on Carry Fire.
~ Ralph Greco. Jr.

Is This The Life We Really Want?

Roger Waters

It only seems logical that Roger Waters would want someone like Nigel Godrich to produce his 2017 release Is This The Life We Really Want?. The Pink Floyd lyricist and bassist hasn’t released a solo album since 1992, and he needed some fresh blood to make this new record sizzle and pop — not a sad attempt at relevance. Given the good ears and nuanced sensibilities of Godrich, who has made a name for himself working with Radiohead, a band often associated, in one way or another, with Pink Floyd, the possibilities seemed endless. It may take a few spins to get at what Waters is trying to say, but gradually it all begins to sink in and make sense. Well, as much sense as you can take away in the vitriol and often ominous tones that encompass the record.
It’s almost too easy to think Waters' fifth solo album is yet another attempt to capture the lingering ache that resounded so powerfully on The Wall. After playing that album live in its entirety for three years, something clearly rubbed off — hard-boiled cynicism, distrust of politicians, uncertainty at every turn. Sonically, Is This The Life We Really Want? draws more than a few Floydian flavorings for inspiration — staticky radio and TV talking heads, late-night phone conversations, bombs, blasts, machinery, pan effects. In between are 12 songs, plaintive, responsive, driven by ebullient piano work, tight drumming, layers of keys, heavy orchestration, stretches of guitar.
“Déjà vu” is a moody, dramatic piece that eventually unfolds into a smoldering hotbed of Waters’ commentary on everything from religion to politics and whatever else falls in between the two. “The Last Refugee” offers up as much heavy guitar as you're going to get, whereas “Picture That” balances on a simple, sharp riff, so as to put the focus on Waters’ insolent lines — “Picture a leader with no fucking brains…” The synths, cast very much in a Floydian mode, only make the song more engaging, especially as the tempo comes to a crawl and a spacey, stormy ambiance swallows it to a close.
The title track opens with a Donald Trump sound byte, so you can only imagine where it goes from there. The steady flow held down by Waters’ impressive bass runs only makes the grim and pain-evoking lyrics that have it out for ants and the current president of the United States less choleric. It all falls into a woeful barrage of broadcast announcements, before “Bird In A Gale” explodes over the airwaves like a leftover from Animals. At long last, things lighten up somewhat on “The Most Beautiful Girl,” then the mood shifts for the more pointed “Smell The Roses,” which seems like a natural fit on the setlist of Waters’ 2017 Us + Them tour.
The album’s most solemn number, “Wait For Her,” was inspired by an English translation by an unknown author of "Lesson from the Kama Sutra (Wait for Her)" by Mahmoud Darwish. For all the madness that comprises much of the material, this serves as a reprieve. Songs like this make you wish Waters would make more music. Before it all comes to a crashing finale, “Part Of Me Died” piles on hard-bitten lyrics, supported by an able-bodied band, and it all works out in the end. Is This The Life We Really Want? is truly everything you really want in a Roger Waters album — profound themes, brimming with cultural references, stark imagery, special effects and aural trickery. If nothing else, it goes to show that Roger Waters has, at 73, yet to mellow, rest on his laurels or squander his golden years. He’d rather make noise, crank his views, and prop up his mortal remains.


Ronnie Montrose

When I interviewed Ronnie Montrose in 2011, one comment he made resonated to my core: “I realized that early on that your muse is very important to follow.” Even in my darkest hour, following my muse has kept me on track. That’s how it worked with Montrose. He could have easily rested on his laurels from the acclaim for his band's self-titled debut. And to a degree, he did as his sets in recent years overflowed with material from the album. “These 40-year-old songs that I penned when I was in my 20s are still loved by people,” he said when I asked him why he continues to play “Bad Motor Scooter, “Rock The Nation,” and “Rock Candy.”
Yet there was so much more to Ronnie Montrose. Four albums with his second band Gamma whet his appetite to expand on the hard rock idiom. Numerous solo records, most prominently 1978’s Open Fire, provided an outlet for experimentation. And now we have 10x10 to show the world that push to explore sonic landscapes was something Ronnie Montrose pursued to the very end.
Styx bassist Ricky Phillips and KISS drummer Eric Singer, who began the project with Montrose in the early 00s, are behind the long-awaited release of 10x10. It was built on a simple concept: Record 10 songs with 10 different singers. Conflicting schedules and commitments presented challenges to finishing the record, and so it sat uncompleted after Montrose’s untimely passing in 2012. Undeterred, Phillips and Singer decided, with the blessing of Montrose's widow Leighsa, to pick up the reigns and put it to bed. Altogether, 10x10 serves as a fitting epilogue to Montrose’s storied journey and features an array of friends and followers to lend a hand.
In addition to the vocals, the songs needed lead guitar, something Montrose apparently never got around to recording. Which isn’t to say he isn’t playing the guitar; he provided the “main guitar” on every track. Like everything he’s done before, that distinctive Montrose tone drives the whole record. Still, most of the songs got an extra kick with a guest soloist. Y & T’s Dave Meniketti takes the album’s first solo on the opening “Heavy Traffic,” which features Mr. Big’s Eric Martin wrapping his high-energy pipes around Montrose’s biting riff.
For “Love Is An Art,” Montrose told Edgar Winter, “I just want it to be real,” and, once you hear it, you realize Winter got the message. This slow, roving blues number has Winter caterwauling the lyrics during the verses, booming out the chorus, then trading licks on the sax with Rick Derringer’s guitar. Sammy Hagar goes deep on “Color Blind,” another blues-based tome that gets a lift from Montrose's drawling chords and Steve Lukather’s spine-tingling solo. Glenn Hughes, with a little help from Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, delivers the goods on “Still Singin’ With The Band,” and Tommy Shaw efficiently covers both the vocals and guitar solo on “Strong Enough.”
Things heat up when Grand Funk Railroad founder Mark Farner takes on “Any Minute.” Montrose’s framework allows the once mighty shirtless wonder to belt it out and strut through a sizzling lead. The same can be said about “The Kingdom’s Come Undone,” which has Phillips singing, playing bass, guitar, and keyboards, pushed ahead by Singer’s incessant drumming, Montrose’s inimitable shredding, and Joe Bonamassa’s stinging solos. Former Foreigner Bruce Turgon offers up an impressive vocal on “One Good Reason,” but the song is really a showcase for Montrose’s steady rhythm and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford leads. Gamma singer Davey Pattison and guitarist Marc Bonilla make the most of “Head On Straight,” another track with an insatiable Montrose chord progression that must have had the other players salivating at the chance to be part of it.
10x10 winds down with “I’m Not Lying,” which features keyboardist and singer Gregg Rolie, a founding member of both Santana and Journey, on cruise control, his smooth voice traversing around Montrose’s sleight-of-hand guitar work, inspired by Robin Trower and suspended by Foreigner’s Thom Gimbel and his soulful sax. It would be difficult to spin through this collection without recognizing Montrose’s genius at bringing out the best in other musicians, even when he isn’t there. It’s no wonder 10x10 is the ultimate testament to Ronnie Montrose’s legacy as a man who continuously followed his muse.
~ Shawn Perry

The Night Siren

Steve Hackett

The Night Siren, the 25th solo album from former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, is a thing of sublime beauty. Featuring a global cast of musicians, the album features 11 songs that run the gambit between full-on workouts, to catchy run-throughs, to guitar featurettes, to heartfelt love songs and commentary on timely world events.
“Behind the Smoke” is a Middle-Eastern flavored tomb, addressing the subject of refugees with Hackett’s low vocal on top of the heavy strings and expert sitar and electric guitar entries. “Martian Sea” has Hackett playing more sitar and singing with Amanda Lehmann on a track that sounds, dare I say it, almost like a Monkees song!
The centerpiece “In The Skeleton Gallery” delivers a “Kashmir”-like plod. The harmony vocals, Gulli Briem’s heavy snare, strings and gated, single-note Les Paul licks that take the listener back to Hackett’s turns in Genesis. Rob Townsend takes a horn solo mid-way through, and Hackett riffs and wails with full vibrato-bar madness that plays off the horn, making the jam positively nutty.
We’re left with “The Gift,” which reveals that Hackett hasn’t lost his expressive touch one bit. The string keys layering provide the perfect backing to those high passionate notes flying into the stratosphere. As a whole, The Night Siren finds Steve Hackett at the top of his game.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

U2, Guns N' Roses Top Pollstar's Top 20 Worldwide Tours Of 2017

According to Pollstar, which covers the worldwide concert industry, U2 had the biggest tour for 2017, grossing $316 million with its “Joshua Tree Tour” and selling a total 2.71 million tickets.

Behind U2 was Guns N’ Roses with $292.5 million grossed and 2.68 million tickets sold.

Coldplay came in third with $238 million grossed, and Bruno Mars is the first solo artist on the touring chart, with $200.1 million total gross on the year, placing fourth on the list.

The rest of the list mostly comprises artists that fit into the “Pop/Rock,” although other established performers like Garth Brooks (No. 10) and Celine Dion (No. 11 slot) also made the cut.

Pollstar's research placed Bruce Springsteen at at the No. 14 position. To date, the singer's Broadway show has grossed $87. 8 million at the small Walter Kerr Theatre with a 945-capacity, which is much smaller than the arenas and stadiums he normally fills. The high gross can be attributed to the $1,500 average ticket price.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Ringo Starr To Be Knighted In New Year’s Honors

Ringo Starr, who drummed his way into the hearts and minds of fans all over the world when he was with the Beatles, will be knighted in the New Year’s Honors.

Starr will return to Buckingham Palace for a knighthood — 52 years after getting his MBE.

Bandmate Sir Paul McCartney urged the Queen: “Look, love it’s about time.”

McCartney was knighted in 1997 but Starr, 77, had given up all hope before a letter arrived from the Palace a few weeks ago.

A close family friend said: “It came as a bolt from the blue,. Ringo was totally knocked sideways but is chuffed to bits. Sadly, two of the Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison, are no longer here to be honored in a similar way. But giving Ringo a knighthood will go some way towards recognizing the enormous contribution The Beatles made to popular music.”

Ringo Starr, who is said to be worth £300 million, was born and raised in a two-up, two-down terraced house in Madryn Street, Liverpool, to a docker dad and bakery worker mum. His parents divorced when he was three and his childhood was dogged by illness. He missed so much schooling that by 15, he could barely read or write. But he had an aptitude for woodwork, mechanics and music.

His dream came true when his stepfather bought him a drum kit for Christmas 1957, and he promised to be “the best drummer ever.” By the time the Beatles were formed, Starr was already on the tour circuit with the successful band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. The Fab Four’s manager Brian Epstein poached him to replace Pete Best as drummer in 1962 and it completed the magic formula that catapulted the group to international fame.

Pop historians believe the drummer’s comedy and acting talents were as important as his musicianship, providing the key ingredient of humor and stability that kept the group together.

While most of the songwriting was the genius of Lennon and McCartney, Starr had more than his fair share of input. He is credited with inventing the phrase “A Hard Day’s Night,” which became a hit single, album and film.

After the Beatles broke up in 1970, Starr released several successful singles including “It Don’t Come Easy,” “You’re Sixteen,” “Back off Boogaloo” and “Photograph.” He also made a new career in TV and film and was loved by a generation of kids for narrating cartoon “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.”

These days, Starr divides his time between Switzerland and California.

He said recently that Britain should get on with Brexit, calling it a “Great move.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Brian May Comments On Freddie Mercury Movie

Queen guitarist Brian May has broken his silence on the controversy surrounding the new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. The film's initial director Bryan Singer was relieved of his duties with the project but has since claimed that 20th Century Fox fired him wrongfully after he needed time off to tend to an ailing parent.

"We're finally seeing it coming to fruition, although I can't say too much about it," May said in a recent interview. "Eight years we've been working on getting it off the ground. Roger (Taylor) and I -- to some extent against our will -- have hung in there for all this time. But finally we've arrived at a place where we have the right director and the right script and we feel good about it.

"We're very conscious that we get one shot, and if we don't do it, someone else will do it badly. We will do it without avoiding anything - any aspect of Freddie. But we will try to keep it all in balance. I think if we get it right it will crystallize the way the world understands Freddie."

Friday, December 22, 2017 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Stocking Stuffers You Need

Once again, as the year comes to a close, it's time to assess some of the releases we've received that would make great gifts for your loved ones, related ones or your one and only. We picked through the pile and came up with a diversified selection we believe tinkles the eyes and ears of even the most discriminating music lover. Here's 10 titles to think about....

The Fox Box

Allman Brothers Band

With The Allman Brothers Band calling it day in 2014, and Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks put to rest in 2017, all that's left of the fabled kings of Southern rock are the memories. So, once you're done burning the grooves of At The Fillmore, where do you turn to next? For lovers of ABB's live shows, The Fox Box, an eight-CD set comprising a sold-out three-night run in 2004 at Atlanta's Fox Theatre, does a more than adequate job filling the void.
At the time of these three shows, the Allmans were on a creative roll, having released what turned out to be their final studio album, Hittin' The Note, the year before. Founding members Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe were joined by the guitar tag tram of Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, along with percussionist Marc Quinones. To make these hometown shows extra special, a number of guests sat in with the band, including guitarist Jack Pearson, a former band member from 1997-99, Derek's bandmate and wife Susan Tedeschi, guitarist Vaylor Trucks (Butch's son) and keyboardist Rob Baracco (Phil Lesh, The Dead, and Dead & Company).
Of the 53 songs performed over September 24, 25 and 26, "Dreams" is the only song repeated, and each features a different guitar solo by Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Jack Pearson. Highlights include a monumental, blistering "Mountain Jam" from the first night, with a reprise toward the end of the show featuring Pearson; covers of the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," with Susan Tedeschi on the second night; and a harrowing run at "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" with Rob Baracco during the third and final show. There really are no duds on The Fox Box, and anyone who is blessed enough to receive one as a gift should get down on their knees and thank the heavens above.

Simple Dreams

Linda Ronstadt

Over the course of her 40-year singing career, Linda Ronstadt's albums landed on the charts dozens of times, but 1977's Simple Dreams took the number one spot for five consecutive weeks and became her must successful record, surpassing her previous hit album, Heart Like A Wheel. The record included RIAA platinum-certified single "Blue Bayou," a country rock interpretation of a Roy Orbison song; "It's So Easy," which was originally covered by Buddy Holly; and Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." And then it got nominated for all these Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female for "Blue Bayou," and won its art director, Kosh, a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover.
Simple Dreams has received a new coat of paint in celebration of its 40th Anniversary, featuring a newly remastered version, plus live songs taken from a 1980 concert performance. Who could forget Ronstadt's stab at the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice." She and Dolly Parton also covered "I Never Will Marry," a Top 10 hit on the Country charts. In addition to the remastering, the Expanded Edition has live recordings of "It's So Easy," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," and "Blue Bayou" from an HBO concert. It certainly ranks as a favorite of manager Peter Asher, who says in the liner notes that Ronstadt's voice "affects me like no one else's." For anyone curious about the singer and her rocking past, Simple Dreams is the record to own.


A New Career In A New Town

David Bowie

The box set series featuring David Bowie's albums began before the singer passed away in 2016 with Five Years (1969-1973), released in 2015. It was followed by Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976), which dropped nine months after Bowie died. Released a year later, the third installment, A New Career in a New Town (1977-1982), collects albums from the Thin White Duke's most eclectic period, including The Berlin Trilogy. In addition to remastered versions of Low"Heroes"Stage,Lodger, and Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), The 11-CD box, 13-piece vinyl set features bonus tracks, a 128-page book and Re:Call 3, a compilation of singles, non-album singles and b-sides, and soundtracks songs.
At this point in his career, Bowie had already tackled folk, glam rock, and dance music, so with Low, he veered toward a more electronic and avant-garde approach, while his image softened and became more cosmopolitan. "Heroes", with its catchy title track featuring Robert Fripp's rigid guitar line, was another album inspired by German bands like Kraftwerk and Neu!. The included "Heroes" EP boasts four variations of the song — the German album version, the German single version, the French album version and the French single version. Two editions of the live Stagealbum — the original and a 2017 take with additional songs — capture the singer at three different U.S. shows in 1978. There's also two editions of Lodger, the second of which is a new mix by Tony Visconti that received Bowie's blessing before he died. You'll never hear a better spin of "DJ."
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) is Bowie's first entry for the 1980s with a little more commercial sheen. Re:Call 3 may get the most air time with an extended version of "Beauty And The Beast," plus single versions of "Fashion," "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)" and "Under Pressure" with Queen. "A stirring 1979 stab at "Space Oddity" makes up for the rambling "Alabama Song." The five numbers from Bowie's Bertolt Brecht’s Baal EP find the singer gripped by dramatic classics to challenge his anamorphic palette of styles. The disc closes with the famous holiday medley of "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" that Bowie performed with Bing Crosby in 1977. Crosby died five weeks after the song was recorded.


Songs From The Wood:
The Country Set

Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull's Songs From The Wood, their 10th studio album, was a rural, folksy affair that showed off the band's progressive interplay. With a theme revolving around folklore and countryside, it's regarded by many as Tull's last truly masterful record — although there are strong arguments on behalf of Heavy HorsesStormwatch and Crest of A Knave. No matter which way you go, the 40th anniversary of Songs From The Wood warranted new Steven Wilson mixes, plus extra tracks, video and other goodies for a triple CD, double DVD box dubbed The Country Set.
Musically, Songs From The Wood is, "with kitchen prose, gutter rhymes and divers," doused in strings, keys and woodwinds — and it still rocks. The title track, with its infectious chorus, "Cup Of Wonder" and "Hunter Girl," all bloom rich and wild with Ian Anderson's flute work and Martin Barre's guitar angling for position. it's all flavoring for David Palmer and John Evan's bedrock of keyboard orchestration. Drummer Barriemore Barlow and bassist John Glascock, of course, keep the whole train running on time. When he isn't singing as well as he ever would or playing the flute, Anderson strums his acoustic or, as he does so well on "The Whistler," toots on a tin whistle.
Extras like the previously unreleased "Old Aces Die Hard," an epic in itself, and "Working John, Working Joe" could have turned the original Songs From The Woodinto a double album, but were left off and stored in the vault for safekeeping. Unedited masters of "Songs From The Wood" and "Fire At Midnight" fluff up the instrumentation, while "Magic Bells" makes for a jazzier "Ring Out Solstice Bells" — perfect for the season. Two more CDs comprise live material from 1977, mixed by Jakko Jakszyk. Live video from the same year, plus high-definition and surround mixes of the original album complete a package that follows in the footsteps of previous Tull classics getting the grand and enhanced Steven Wilson Mix treatment.
Songs From The Wood: The Country Set is topped off with an 80-page booklet that goes deep into the album's inspiration, making and legacy, including track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson. The pages are adorned with rare and unseen photographs, and the odd vintage advertisement. Songs From The Wood is the culmination of a rock, prog and folk-rock mix that signifies a unique sound and identity associated with Jethro Tull. Always a fan-favorite, it remains one of their most popular albums. For any Tull fan on your list, this speaks volumes about the care and love you would have to have for one lucky recipient.


Leftoverture Live & Beyond


I had the privilege of seeing Kansas twice in 2017. Celebrating yet another rock and roll 40th anniversary, the band's break-out album Leftoverture was played from top to bottom following selections from other key albums, including their latest The Prelude Implicit. From what I can tell, Leftoverture Live & Beyond is a document of the 2017 tour that found the band with a new outlook and a ripe history to share. For their first live album since 2009, Leftoverture Live & Beyond features 19 songs selected from 12 shows recorded during the 2017 Leftoverture 40th Anniversary Tour.
The first disc offers up hits like "Point Of Know Return" and "Dust In The Wind," with deeper tracks like "Icarus II" and "Journey From Mariabronn" and three songs — "Rhythm In The Spirti," "The Voyage Of Eight Eighteen," and "Section 60" — from The Prelude Implicit. The second CD contains all of Leftoverture performed in its entirety. Singer Ronnie Pratt is more than capable of singing the classic Kansas songs with all the nuances and passion of Steve Walsh.. The singer and the other new recruits — keyboardist Dave Manion and guitarist Aak Rizvi — suitably fill the roles of Walsh and guitarist Kerry Livgren by revisiting the whole album with reverence and clarity.
Leftoverture Live & Beyond is produced by Jeff Glixman, whose vision has guided the bulk of the Kansas catalog. By the sound and look of it, the band — rounded out by original drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams, with longtime bassist Billy Greer and in-then-out-but-now-back-for the long-run violinist David Ragsdale — is just getting down to business. Another album, backed by plenty of touring, looks likely as they continue to remind everyone to "carry on." Grab one of these for the Wheathead in your family, and your fate is sealed.


Chasing Trane:
The John Coltrane Documentary

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane was not a vintage rocker by any means, yet his impact on the rock and roll community cannot be underestimated. Just ask the Doors or Carlos Santana — both of whom have repeatedly praised Coltrane as a major influence. For those who don’t understand and want to expand their horizons, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary may be the answer. Written and directed by John Scheinfeld, the film details the musician’s rise through the circuit, playing with Miles Davis, losing the gig because of drug use, and making a comeback after regaining his sobriety, imprinting his style, and embarking on a spiritual quest.
While the movie includes rare photos and rare film footage (family home movies, studio sessions), much of Coltrane's story is told by musicians he knew and worked with (Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Reggie Workman), as well as musicians he influenced (Common, The Doors' John Densmore, Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Kamasi Washington), his children (Antonia, Ravi, Oran and Michelle), and admirers (President Bill Clinton and Dr. Cornel West). Even though the film has no interviews or words spoken by Coltrane himself, his reflections and writings are brought to life by actor Denzel Washington.
The film’s DVD and Blu-ray include a booklet with an essay by Scheinfeld, along with photos from the movie. The soundtrack's booklet also includes photos from the movie, plus an essay by esteemed jazz journalist Ashley Kahn, another talking head in the film. While there have been other attempts to capture the essence of John Coltrane and his music in various film treatments, Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary provides a credible account of how the man transcended his circumstances and left an indelible mark that still resonates in the hearts and minds of young and old fans around the world.


The Concert In Hyde Park

Paul Simon

After Simon & Garfunkel split in the early 70s, Paul Simon went on to a successful solo career that carries on to this day. So, it was no surprise when he drew thousands of fans to his concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 15, 2012. There, Simon played an all-encompassing, three-hour set that included his biggest solo hits (“Kodachrome,” “Mother And Child Reunion,” “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”), as well as two Simon & Garfunkel classics. Several special guests also joined Simon, including reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, guitarist Jerry Douglas, and the musicians and singers featured on the multi-platinum, award-winning Graceland album. Best of all, it was all captured on video and audio for the eventual release of The Concert In Hyde Park.
For the final show of the three-day 2012 Hard Rock Calling Festival (Soundgarden headlined the first show and Bruce Springsteen topped the lineup at the second one), Simon went all out with an outstanding band of A-list players and two dozen songs spanning his entire career. Opening with “Kodachrome,” Simon glows with confidence as he leads the ensemble through a songbook rich in harmony and musicality. As a sing of Simon’s band unparalleled musicianship, we occasionally see drummer Jim Oblon on guitar and guitarist Mark Stewart on harmonica and saxophone. Jimmy Cliff comes out to perform his songs “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers To Cross,” before Simon joins in for powerful renditions of Cliff’s “Vietnam” and his own “Mother And Child Reunion.”
All it takes is that famous drum shuffle to get the audience excited about “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” And there’s discounting the flowing acoustics on “hearts And Bones.” Yet the major highlight of the whole show comes when Simon welcomes Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekela and other musicians who appeared on the Graceland album for a run through of nine songs from the album. Judging by the response, it’s obvious the crowd was eating up each and every note. Simon tackles “The Sound of Silence” on his own, and is then joined by Jerry Douglas, providing some tasty slide, and the rest of his band for “The Boxer.” It only makes sense the show ends with “Still Crazy After All These Years” because it doesn’t appear Paul Simon isn’t about to rest on his laurels as he continues to write, record and perform. By extension, The Concert In Hyde Park certainly puts the man’s career into proper perspective.


Official Bootleg: Live In Chicago,
June 28th, 2017

King Crimson

King Crimson pump out live records almost as expeditiously as the Grateful Dead, and with the band back on the circuit and touring relentlessly, it’s no surprise, they’ve released four live albums since 2015. For 2017, Official Bootleg: Live In Chicago, June 28th, 2017, captures a show featuring an eight-piece configuration of Crimson covering a good portion of material from the 1970s, along with key tracks from the 60s, 80s, 00s, plus David Bowie’s “Heroes,” which originally included Crimson’s leader Robert Fripp originally on lead guitar.
The three-disc Radical Action To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind with its seven-man lineup has many of those 70s pearls like “Picture Of A City” and “The Letters.” Live In Chicago digs deeper by adding “Cirkus” and “Lizard” (referred to as “The Lizard Suite”) from 1970’s Lizard, “Islands” from 1971’s Islands, and “Fallen Angel” from 1974’s Red. You’d think without Adrian Belew on board and Jakko Jaksyk’s voice more suited for the older songs, the set would veer away from anything Belew sang, but guess again. The troupe actually take on “Indiscipline” with Jaksyk completely changing the melody line and cadence. The song is virtually unrecognizable until you pick up on the chord progression, a splattering of incandescent drumming, and key lines like “I repeat myself when under stress.”
With so much at stake, and each show a monumental task, the set’s booklet goes to great lengths to explain the process of selecting a show for live release. After Fripp goes through the various incarnations of the band “in the form of a roughly scribed love letter,” the group’s manager David Singleton writes specifically how the Chicago show made the cut. Apparently, a performance from Vienna was being mixed for release until Fripp mentioned that “Chicago was exceptional.” For now, the Vienna show, which was from 2016, is on the back-burner, while Live In Chicago goes for broke with the “current eight-headed beast.” One spin through, and you’ll see why.


Here's Little Richard
(Deluxe Edition)

Little Richard

At 85, Richard Penniman aka Little Richard is one of the last founding fathers of rock and roll still alive. While rumors abound that Little Richard is too old and frail to perform, he insists he still sings and stays active. Regardless, with his legacy secured and his influence undeniable, what better way to recognize the man’s genius than to revisit his debut album 60 years after its release. Here’s Little Richard was his most successful record, and the songs it spawned — “Long Tall Sally,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Tutti Frutti,” "Ready Teddy," “Slippin' and Slidin'” and many others — are the foundation of rock and roll. A deluxe version from Craft Recordings features a remaster of the original album and a second disc of demos, alternate takes and previously unreleased material from the original sessions.
With seven hits in the R&B Top 10, and two in the Pop Top 10, Here's Little Richardis a definitive document of early rock in its most primal and rawest form. Along with the album’s 12 tracks, 22 more reveal the inner workings of each song in their formative stages or alternate states, including an early take of "Tutti Frutti," demos of "Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Miss Ann," and alternate takes of "Rip It Up" and "Reddy Teddy." Music journalist Chris Morris writes in the reissue’s liner notes that the alternate versions “reveal the blossoming of an unprecedented and wholly original talent whose first recordings broke down the categorical doors between R&B and pop.”
For Little Richard, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1993 Grammy Awards, and added to the NAACP Image Awards' Hall of Fame in 2002, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2015, a quirky, effeminate image and issues with drugs and alcohol never seemed to overshadow his impact as one of the rock’s first icons. Here's Little Richard is a sober reminder of the singer’s rightful place in history.


Christmas With Elvis And
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Elvis Presley

The holidays wouldn’t be the same without the King, so this season RCA Records and Legacy Recordings decided to spice things up with Christmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, uniting some of Elvis Presley’s holiday classics with orchestral accompaniment recorded at Abbey Road studios in London. These new arrangements have been added to songs from Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957) and Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas (1971).
Following in the footsteps 2015’s If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and 2016’s The Wonder Of You: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic OrchestraChristmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra comes in two configurations: a 13-track version and a deluxe version with four bonus tracks. Coming 60 years after Elvis' Christmas Album, the disc finds holiday classics like “White Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Silver Bells” and “Silent Night” delivered with style and grandeur.
To hear “Blue Christmas” with the harmonies and an orchestral underlining simply redefines the ownership Presley took of the song when he first recorded it in 1957. “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me),” written for Elvis’ Christmas Album, are equally engaging. And if you’re not moved by “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” then you might as well move to another universe. At the end of the day, I think we can all agree that everyone’s holiday needs a shot of Elvis to make it go down that much smoother.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jimmy Page Hints At 'Surprises' For Led Zeppelin's 50th Anniversary

Photo by Ron Lyon

Next year marks the 50th Anniversary of the formation of Led Zeppelin and fans hoping the group will commemorate the momentous occasion are in luck.

In an interview with the Academy of Achievement (see below), the band's guitarist Jimmy Page stated, “There’ll be Led Zeppelin product coming out, for sure, that people haven’t heard,” before adding that, "next year will be the 50th year, so there’s all manner of surprises coming out.”

The group that also included singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones and late drummer John Bonham has released sporadic new material since their 1980 break-up, including a complete remastering of the band’s nine studio albums. They've also reunited for a handful of performances, including at Live Aid in 1985 and the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert in 2007, but it is not yet known what they have planned to celebrate their half century anniversary.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh Announces 78th Birthday Shows

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh will celebrate his birthday with a multi-night run at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, in March with special guests.

Lesh, who will celebrate his 78th birthday on March 15, will kick off the Capitol Theatre run on March 14 with a co-headlining bill featuring Steve Winwood and his band. Lesh will be joined by The Terrapin Family Band for all three nights, which will feature to-be-announced special guests on March 15 and 16.

Tickets for the run go on sale this Friday, December 22, at noon ET.

For ticketing information, go to:
March 14 -
March 15 -
March 16 -

Monday, December 18, 2017

'Reinventing Pink Floyd' Book Coming In February 2018

In celebration of the 45th anniversary of The Dark Side of the Moon, Bill Kopp explores ingenuity with which Pink Floyd rebranded themselves following the 1968 departure of Syd Barrett in his book Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon. Not only did the band survive Barrett's departure, but it went on to release landmark albums that continue to influence generations of musicians and fans.

Reinventing Pink Floyd follows the path taken by the remaining band members to establish a musical identity, develop a songwriting style, and create a new template for the manner in which albums are made and even enjoyed by listeners. As veteran music journalist Bill Kopp illustrates, that path was filled with failed experiments, creative blind alleys, one-off musical excursions, abortive collaborations, a general restlessness and—most importantly—a dedicated search for a distinctive musical personality.

The book guides readers through the works of 1968 through 1973, highlighting key innovations and musical breakthroughs of lasting influence. Kopp places Pink Floyd into their historical, cultural, and musical contexts while celebrating the test of fire that took the band from the brink of demise to enduring superstardom.

Archival interviews and reviews as well as many new and exclusive interviews with Peter Jenner, Ron Geesin, Steve Howe, Jerry Shirley, Davy O'List, Willie Wilson, Robyn Hitchcock and many others fill the pages of Reinventing Pink Floyd, available February 15 from independent bookstores and Amazon.

More information: