Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Album Review: The Rolling Stones - Blue and Lonesome

The Rolling Stones have returned to their roots of 1962 and it is a fantastic and unexpected blessing for fans of the band. The Stones began as the best blues rock band ever formed and Blue and Lonesome reminds all the faithful why they were the best blues rock band ever formed. Sure, it’s a covers album, and most readers of The Guru know how I feel about covers albums, but this is THE ROLLING STONES. And on top of that it’s The Rolling Stones doing what they do best---playing the blues. Every song on Blue and Lonesome is a masterpiece; a treat for the ears. Covering the greats of yesteryear like Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Willie Dixon (just to name a few), The Rolling Stones pay tribute to some of their heroes and influences on an astounding record.

I will admit my bias here. The Rolling Stones are one of my favorite bands (number 4 on the all-time list), but that only means I am more critical of a new release from the group, not less. Each song on Blue and Lonesome is a short, sweet, sharp blast to the solar plexus; a reminder of how great music can be if celebrated correctly. There’s also plenty of harmonica to go around. Mick Jagger dusted off his harp skills and served a memorandum to how great a harmonica player he is. Keith and Ron’s guitar riffs hang in the air, each guitarist playing off the other in fabulous fashion. Charlie Watts and Daryl Jones keep the rhythm section tight on the drums and bass respectively. It all adds up to one of the best records ever released in the Rolling Stones long and storied career. My one lingering thought is what would this album sound like if Brian Jones were still alive and in the band? Could he have improved on the near perfection of Blue and Lonesome?

After a few spins of Blue and Lonesome you are bound to dust off your copies of early Rolling Stones records and give them a whirl as well. This record would fit into the early 62/63 era Stones with the best of them. However, the real treat, is that we get this record in 2016, close to 50 years after the Stones changed their style from the greatest blues rock band ever formed to a famous pop/rock band that took over the world. Blue and Lonesome is a return to the blues done right; loose, easy, and fun. It’s that quick and easy style that makes the record so grand. Originally intended to be warmup sessions for the next album of original material, Blue and Lonesome should have The Rolling Stones rethinking that idea. More records like this would be welcomed and well received. And while I liked A Bigger Bang, I LOVE Blue and Lonesome.

My lone complaint, and it’s a minor one, is that Keith does not have lead vocals on any songs throughout the record. This is the first Stones album without a lead vocal by Keith since Their Satanic Majesties Request in 1967. To some, they may be a welcome treat, but I’ve always liked Keith sung songs for the contrast they provide.

Overall, the Rolling Stones have provided us with an early Christmas present. I can’t think of a better gift to be had this holiday season. If Blue and Lonesome doesn’t please your musical palate, you may have to ask yourself if you are truly a Rolling Stones fan.

Ryo’s Rating: 9 (out of 10)

Track Listing
Just Your Fool
Commit a Crime
Blue and Lonesome
All Your Love
I Gotta Go
Everybody Knows About My Good Thing
Ride ‘em on Down
Hate to See You Go
Hoo Doo Blues
Little Rain
Just Like I Treat You
I Can’t Quit You Baby

Monday, December 5, 2016

Concert Review: O.A.R. and Phillip Phillips - July 12, 2014

I have been an O.A.R. fan for quite a while. I’ve seen them in concert a number of times. I love their music and always pick up their latest releases as soon as they are available. I am also a big fan of Phillip Phillips, whom my wife turned me on to. I love his music as well and listen to his two albums a lot. So, when the opportunity to see Phillip Phillips open for O.A.R. at PNC Bank Arts Center arrived, I was over the moon. I had never seen Phillip Phillips perform live and I knew how grand an O.A.R. show was. Heading to the venue, I kept thinking how this could be the show of my summer.

Our seats weren’t terrible. We were in the 400 section of the amphitheater, which isn’t bad. If you have an actual seat at the Arts Center, the sight lines and acoustics are decent no matter where you sit. As we settled into our seats, I noticed that a lot of fans were there to see Phillip Phillips. Some didn’t even know who O.A.R. were. That surprised and disappointed me. I’ve always felt that O.A.R. was an exceptional band that hasn’t gotten the attention they deserve. Phillip Phillips is well known from his American Idol days, so he has a lot more recognition behind him, which might be why people were there just for him.

Phillips came out first and opened with “Where We Came From” which put a big smile on my face. It’s a great song and a good choice for an opener. There’s no denying that Philips draws a huge influence from Dave Matthews Band and that was extremely evident in his stage show. Long, drawn out jams, stage movements, and the way he worked the crowd were all taken right from the DMB playbook. To me, that was a very good thing, as I love DMB. To others, like my wife, it wasn’t as much of a treat. It all depends on your musical tastes.

“Gone, Gone, Gone” was performed two songs later and I, along with the majority of the crowd, went nuts. I absolutely love that song. I find it to be one of his finest songs recorded to date. Hearing it live was a real treat to the ears. Phillips is a young, hungry performer winning audiences over one show at a time. On that warm summer night in New Jersey he had the audience up and rocking three songs into his set.

Phillips was touring behind his recently released second album, Behind The Light. As great as his debut record was, his sophomore effort was even better. Behind The Light improved upon all the greatness of this performer and cemented him as a brilliant recording artist. After two albums and one concert performance, I considered myself a huge fan of Phillip Phillips.

Phillips performed a good mix of songs from both of his releases and even included a cover of Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” It was a well done rendition enjoyed by all the fans in attendance. Other notable performances included “Lead On,” “Raging Fire” and show closer “Home.” The last song was particularly amazing as Phillips was really able to work the crowd for a sing along and put his all into the live performance. By the end of the song, the entire Arts Center was on their feet singing back to Phillips. His three mile smile showed just how happy he was to be playing live music.

When his set finished, I was stunned, amazed, and sweating. I knew that I would have to see him perform again and as often as I could. Sadly, I have not had the opportunity to see Phillips live since that night, but I am keeping my eyes open for tour dates.

O.A.R. was supporting a new album, The Rockville LP, which contained some of their finest work in years. This would be my first opportunity to hear the new songs live. I was anxious and excited. Unfortunately, this was not the same sentiment amongst some of the other fans in attendance. After Phillip Phillips finished his set, people were leaving the Arts Center. What was going on? I even overheard one woman state “Wait, there’s another band coming on? Why?” That shocked me. Was Phillips that good, or was O.A.R. that unknown? Either way, it was disappointing to watch people leave before O.A.R. took the stage. Ultimately, it was their loss, but it also started to show that O.A.R. did not have the staying power I thought. In 2015 they would perform to a half empty Arts Center and in 2016 they didn’t perform the Arts Center at all.

Being the professionals they are, O.A.R. came out and tore up the stage from the opening number, “One Shot.” The band always mixes up their sets from one night to the next, so the audience never knows what to expect. On this evening we were treated to some exceptional classics, brilliant new music, and a couple of grand covers. “Love and Memories,” and “Dareh Meyod” followed the opening number and I just knew it was going to be a rewarding evening.

The first new song followed, “Two Hands Up,” and it was magnificent. It was every bit as good live as I had hoped it would be. The band was tighter than ever and the new songs resonated. It was obvious that O.A.R. enjoyed playing them and those that stayed were well versed in the new material (myself included). There were plenty of sing-alongs on the new material, which made me smile.

A rarely performed gem was pulled out on that evening. The band played “The Fallout” which caused me to scream with jubilance. “The Fallout” is one of my favorite O.A.R. songs and to see it live covered my body with chills of excitement. The live version was breathtaking and one of my favorite moments at an O.A.R. concert.

The always played “That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker” was performed to the delight of the crowd. I personally think that it’s time to hang this song up for a while, or move it to a different spot in the setlist, but 99% of O.A.R. fans would probably disagree with me. The night ended on two covers: “No Woman, No Cry” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” And while I am not a fan of ending your concert on a cover song, O.A.R. seems to do it well. This night was no exception. Everyone came out for the last song, including Phillip Phillips and to see both bands on stage for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Marc Roberge and Phillip Phillips trading verses was a moment in my concert history that will stay with me for a long, long time. It was a terrific ending to a terrific summer night of magnificent music and it made me yearn for the opportunity when I could see either of those bands again.

Phillip Phillips Setlist
Where We Came From
Unpack Your Heart
Gone, Gone, Gone
Man On The Moon
Get Up Get Down
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Lead On
Raging Fire
Fool For You

O.A.R. Setlist
One Shot
Love And Memories
Dareh Meyod
Two Hands Up
Shattered (Turn The Car Around)
Wonderful Day
The Fallout
Favorite Song
City On Down
We’ll Pick Up Where We Left Off
Nasim Joon
Hey Girl
That Was A Crazy Game Of Poker
No Woman No Cry
While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Thursday, December 1, 2016

M3 Rock Festival Is Back For 2017

The lineup has been announced! The M3 Rock Festival in Columbia Maryland is returning once again in 2017. Overall, theses acts appear to be decent ones, however there are a couple of question marks. I know I will be attending and I know I will have a good time, but ultimately the 2017 lineup of 80s metal bands is far from perfect. Let’s break it all down.

What’s Good

Vain and Junkyard are exceptional additions to the festival. Both played at the Hair Nation festival in September, and while I did not attend, I heard great things. I am so glad that I will finally have an opportunity to see both of these bands live. As a metal head in high school, I loved both of these bands, even though they were lesser known. I played both of their debut albums over and over again for most of my junior year and was crazy for both bands. Seeing them live for the first time is going to have me grinning. Granted, they will probably play a 30 minute set, but that’s okay. Some is better than none.

The return of Rhinobucket is a real treat. I saw them once at the 2015 M3 Festival and while their set was short (30 minutes was all they got) it was amazing. The AC/DC sound alike band is exceptional and their live performance was rock and roll solid. In 2017 they will be going on stage a little later, so they may get to perform for a slightly longer period of time.

Dangerous Toys will perform on Friday night and they are probably the band I am most excited to see. I’ve never seen them live and this epitomizes what M3 is all about. Bringing those bands that you may have missed back in the day. Thanks to M3 over the years, I’ve witnessed several bands in action that I would not have otherwise seen. And in April, I will be able to cross Dangerous Toys off of my list. When they break into “Scared” I just know I am going to scream like a school girl with a crush. I won’t be able to help myself. I’ve always wanted to see this band and now I finally will.

What’s Not So Good

Loverboy does not fit this bill at all. What the hell was M3 thinking? They are putting Loverboy on right before KIX on Friday night and I am scratching my head. Loverboy? Really? I went back and listened to some of their songs after the announcement and was filled with confusion. Loverboy isn’t a terrible band, but they aren’t an M3 band. What’s next? REO Speedwagon?

The Saturday headliner selection isn’t great either. Look, I know there are a lot of RATT fans out there and a lot of people who love Stephen Pearcy, but let’s face it, his best years are behind him. Last year his solo performance was atrocious and I don’t think he will do any better with RATT. The music will be too distorted and Pearcy won’t be able to hit any of the notes. I will be straining to figure out each song before they get to the chorus because it will just sound horrendous. I hope they prove me wrong, but I doubt they will. Some bands need to just hang it up and RATT is one of them.

What I’d Rather See

Poison would definitely be a better headliner than RATT. I know Bret Michaels is out doing the solo thing, but couldn’t they find a way to get the band together for one night? Poison is much better than this incarnation of RATT and they have a proven track record as an exceptional live band. They could probably go out on their own tour and sell out amphitheaters during the summer.

It would also be nice to see Steel Panther return. They have a new album coming out in 2017. They are an amazing live band that packs wherever they play. They are a perfect fit for a glam metal festival. Inviting Steel Panther to return to M3 in 2017 is a no-brainer. So why didn’t M3 do it?

Replace Loverboy with Steel Panther and put Poison on in place of RATT and you have the makings for the best M3 festival yet. Again, I will enjoy the show, but it could have been so much better with a couple of small tweaks.

What’s New

This year, M3 has also added a Sunday Southern Rock show. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels Band, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Black Stone Cherry, and Blackfoot will all be performing on Sunday. While I won’t be attending that day of the show, it was interesting to see them add the third day this year. I am curious to see how well tickets sell for day 3.

Tickets for 2-day and 3-day passes go on sale Friday, December 9th at 10AM through ticketfly.com. Get some!

Monday, November 14, 2016

New Music Monday Featuring Vellocet

It’s been a while since I did a New Music Monday feature, but after listening to the latest single from Vellocet, I knew I had to post this up!

Vellocet is a great indie band just starting to hit their stride. This single, “Better Days” is fantastic and finds me hopeful for more great things from the band in the near future.

Enjoy the video! Enjoy the song! Enjoy Vellocet!

For more information on this band, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Vellocetmusic/