Interview with Vocalist Jack Russell By Jesse Striewski (Photo By Mark Weiss/Getty Images)

Jack Russell

You might say Jack Russell has defined what it means to be a down and dirty, hard livin’, 80s rocker; he co-founded Great White (along with guitarist Mark Kendall) more than four decades ago, and since then has experienced nearly ever high and low imaginable that the rock and roll lifestyle has to offer. Yet he still fought his way back on to the scene with his version of the band he helped create so long ago (hence the name Jack Russell’s Great White, while Kendall and co. are still performing as a separate version of Great White with another singer).

Recently Russell just had back surgery, but he’ll still be here to rock central, FL this upcoming Saturday, November 16. I was recently able to briefly speak with Jack via email, and asked him to elaborate on said surgery, to which he said, “After all of these years jumping around on stage, my spine had become very compressed. Basically they drilled two of my vertebrae out to make more room for the spinal cord. I’m getting ready to do my first show back in Orlando this weekend, so I doubt I’ll be doing backflips or cartwheels on stage (laughs)! But the band moves around enough, and I’ll let my voice do the talking. I feel great and I’m singing like I’m 25 again…now I sure hope I don’t suck (laughs)!”

With so much material to choose from, I asked Jack what Orlando fans can expect to hear on Saturday night, which he tells me; “I don’t want to give away the set, but let’s just say it’s not going to be the same one people have heard before. We’ve been changing songs, putting new ones in, taking old ones out. I’m sure people who have been coming to see us for a long time don’t wanna hear the same old songs every night, albeit there are still ones that people will always want to hear, like “Rock Me,” “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” etc…

I was also curious what one of his personal favorite songs to perform after all these years was, and he explained; “There are so many, and I change my mind from month to month, but “Save Your Love” is still probably my favorite song.” Ironically, my next question was actually whether or not he still got chills while performing a song like “Save Your Love,” to which he said; “Speaking of “Save Your Love!” Yes, I still get chills when performing that song, and when I sing it I find myself in a very personal space, not really aware of the audience. It’s more of a spiritual thing if you know what I mean.”

Jack also assures me the band has some new material in the works, as well as an autobiography he’s been working on that I asked him how it was coming along; “It’s coming along great, but when I read some of the chapters, even I can’t believe my life, it reads like a work of fiction (laughs!). But for the most part it’s been one hell of a life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

I was more than grateful that Jack was willing to take the time to speak to me for this interview, and let him know how much I truly appreciated it. Be sure to catch Jack and the guys in Downtown Orlando this Saturday, the 16th!

-J.S.

Chubby Checker at the Volusia County Fairgrounds on 11/12/19 Words By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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I’ve been to a lot, and I do mean A LOT of concerts over the years. But I don’t think I’ve ever been to one as “classic” Chubby Checker, and up until this past Tuesday, November 11, the earliest rock group I had previously seen in concert was The Rolling Stones. Checker’s first major hit, “The Twist,” dates as far back as 1960. So it was only fitting that this would also be my 13-year-old son’s first concert experience as well. 

On this particular evening, Checker treated all those in attendance at the Tommy Lawrence arena at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in DeLand, FL to a night of truly classic rock and roll music. Starting things off with “Good Good Lovin’,” he kept taking everyone in attendance down memory lane with hits like “Twist it Up,” “Dancin’ Party,” “I’m Walkin’,” and “Blueberry Hill” before slowing things down a bit for the bittersweet “Changes.”

He kept the party going with more classics, hitting the crowd with “Pony Time,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Rollin’ with the Flow,” “Peggy Sue,” “Limbo Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes/Rock Around the Clock,” and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine/My Girl,” and “Hello Stranger” before finally knocking the socks off the joint (along with a number a female guests from the audience who joined him on stage at this point) with his most well-known hits “The Twist” and “Let’s Twist Again.” It was a night full of personal firsts and legendary rock music that I will definitely treasure for the rest of my days.

 

Album Review: Tom Keifer – Rise (Cleopatra Records)

Tom Keifer

By: Jesse Striewski

From the moment he first arrived on the scene with Cinderella in the mid-80s, Tom Keifer has defined what it means to be the “cool” rock star front man. Now on his second full-length solo effort (with his new backing band), he’s still kicking just as much ass as he was back in his heyday.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect at first with Rise, but once I was finally able to give it my full attention, I knew Keifer still had “it”. Songs like “Untitled,” “Touching the Divine,” and “The Death of Me” (my personal favorite off the record) are all enough to get crowds moving. Conversely, numbers like “Waiting on the Demons” and the title track are more somber efforts (the latter of which Keifer even seems to be channeling his inner John Lennon on).

I’ve made no secrets over the years regarding how huge of a Cinderella/Tom Keifer fan I am; with this new release, my respect for both has only grown further.

Rating: 4 Stars

Sebastian Bach and Vixen at the Hard Rock Live Orlando on 10/30/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos by Brooke Striewski

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Last year Rewind It Magazine was there to bring you coverage of former Skid Row front man Sebastian Bach’s show at The Plaza Live. This past Wednesday night, October 30, at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Bach seemed to be full of a sense of rejuvenation as he plowed through a set that consisted entirely of his former band’s music, and the crowd ate up every minute. It was no small feat for him to pull off such an epic show, either, considering he was dealing with personal issues, having just learned of his family’s home in California being under evacuation due to wildfires shortly before going on stage.

Newcomers Kobra and the Lotus kicked off the night with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm expected from a lesser-experienced act.  Front woman Kobra Paige was easily the center of attention as she slinked around on stage in a blue jump suit, belting out numbers like “Burn!” and “Let me Love You.” It also didn’t hurt she had immense talent backing her, including the dual guitar work of Jasio Kulakowski and Ronny Gutierrez.

Vixen were up next, and have been on my radar of bands to see for awhile now. Although something did feel like it was missing without former vocalist Janet Gardner and of course founding guitarist Jan Kuehnemund (R.I.P.), former Femme Fatale singer Lorraine Lewis and Jaded guitarist Britt Lightning did more than admirable jobs in their shoes (especially Lightning, whose looks first caught my eye when I saw her play with Jaded back in 2005). The band opened their set with a number from Lewis’ previously mentioned former band, “Waiting on the Big One.” More songs from throughout the band’s career followed, including “Cryin’,” “Runnin’ with the Devil/I Want You to Rock Me” and “You Ought to Know,” before of course ending it with their most recognizable hit, “Edge of a Broken Heart.”

Finally Bach hit the stage, opening his set curiously with a more obscure Skid Row number, “Forever,” before going into the first Skid Row album in it’s entirety as promised. And as soon as the familiar riffs of “Big Guns” kicked into gear, it was clear it was on! The rest of the album’s first side – “Sweet Little Sister,” “Can’t Stand the Heartache,” “Piece of Me,” “18 & Life,” and “Rattlesnake Shake” – relentlessly followed.

Before going to “Side 2,” a turntable was actually wheeled out on stage, and the band even briefly segued into the theme song of “WKRP in Cincinnati” before Bach literally dropped the record’s needle to signify the start of “Youth Gone Wild.” Pandemonium quickly ensued, as that lead to two more of the album’s heavier tracks in the form of “Here I Am” and “Makin’ a Mess.” Things of course slowed down a bit for “I Remember You” before closing the album portion of the set out with “Midnight.”

Of course the band wasn’t quite finished yet, and came back for an encore of tracks from the Slave to the Grind album, including “Slave to the Grind,” “The Threat,” “In a Darkened Room,” “Monkey Business,” and even ending with the once-controversial “Get the Fuck Out.”

It was definitely a treat to hear so many songs that normally would not have been included in his set list, and about the only other thing Bach could’ve possibly done to make the night even more complete would have been invite his former Madam X bandmate and Vixen drummer Roxy Petrucci on the stage to jam “We Reserve the Right to Rock.” Still, I’ve seen Bach live multiple times on his own, and I’ve seen his former band Skid Row play without him as well. I can honestly say that watching Bach perform a full set of Skid Row music, with photos and videos of his former band being displayed the whole time on screens on all sides of the stage, was by far the best night of Skid Row music from start to finish I’ve ever witnessed.

Album Review: Seven Kingdoms – Empty Eyes EP (Self-Released)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Central, FL-based power metal act Seven Kingdoms are back with a brand new, crowd-funded EP of material, and I was instantly surprised by just how well put together Empty Eyes really was.

Five songs in all, there’s really not much to complain about here. The title track kicks things off with promise (there’es even a fun video for it that was shot in Deland, including a scene at Steve’s Downtown Music), but it’s guitar-driven numbers like “The Water Dance,” “Valonquar,” and “Monster” that truly drives things here. The only semi-weak spot comes in the form of a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda” (a song I never cared much for to begin with).

Those not already familiar with the band might have a hard time getting in to this release, but keep in mind the songs found here are really meant to be heard live…which is truly where Seven Kingdoms shines their best.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Howling Giant – The Space Between Worlds (Blues Funeral Recordings)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Progressive rockers Howling Giant finally unleash their debut full-length record after a handful of EP’s over the years. The Space Between Worlds is a nine-track concept album that takes those willing to listen on a trip to another dimension, not unlike a good round of D&D with your best friends.

Along the way there’s tracks that easily take your mind though new gateways, including “Comet Rider,” “Ghosts in the Well,” “Ice Castle,” and “The Orb.” There’s even a fairly entertaining video for the track “Cypermancer and the Doomsday Express” that’s a legitimate fun watch.

While stoner rock typically isn’t my usual go-to, Howling Giant bring a much-needed, fresh element to the genre reminiscent to the likes of The Sword. Worth checking out if you have the time.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: The Menzingers – Hello Exile (Epitaph Records)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Few bands can capture true human emotions as flawlessly as Scranton, PA’s The Menzingers, and it was apparent Hello Exile would be another work of genius upon release of the album’s first single, “Anna,” over the summer.

As if 2017’s After the Party wasn’t already near-perfect enough, the band  has outdone themselves once again on their sixth full-length effort. Tracks like “High School Friend,” “Strangers Forever,” and the country-tinged “I Can’t Stop Drinking” are all brilliant in their own simplistic ways, and listening to them somehow seems strangely familiar, as if they’ve always been there in the background as the soundtracks to our lives.

The Menzingers are one of those rare bands so good they’re in their own league along with The Replacements or The Killers, and I only wished I wrote music as good as them when I was still playing in bands.  It’s truly foolish not to give a group like The Menzingers a chance; we almost don’t deserve an act this amazing.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Enforcer and Warbringer at The Haven Lounge on 10/12/19 – Words by Jesse Striewski/Photos by Brooke Striewski

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I’ve been going to metal and rock shows for nearly a quarter of a century now. In that span of time, I’ve attended as everything from the fan in the crowd, to the musician on stage (and for a brief time, was even the security behind the barricades). For over a decade now, my role at shows has largely been that of a music journalist (and when my wife is unavailable, an occasional photographer) reporting everything I see and hear. But at my age (and with having a bum leg), I tend to experience most shows on the sidelines these days (it makes it a lot easier for jotting down notes, anyhow). But last Saturday, October 12 at The Haven Lounge in Orlando (or is it Winter Park?), I broke my own rules, and exerted myself right in the middle of the action for the first time in I can’t even remember how long.

Perhaps it had something to do with the initial opening act, Orlando’s own Darkness by Design, whose immediate intensity (reminiscent of old school Slayer) caught the attention of the entire room, and demanded one to listen up instantly. Guitarist Marcos Mercado’s massive riffs were a definite highlight, making them a force to be reckoned with on stage.

Destructonomicon were next on the bill. I’ve caught them a time or two over the years, and judging by their performance this past weekend, they haven’t matured all that much since then (go figure, with a name like…Destructonomicon). Although they did initiate a decent response from the audience, their “tough guy” brand of crossover doesn’t quite do much for me these days.

Another local outfit I’ve seen a time or two over the years, Thicket, were up next. I’m not entirely sure how to place them. Part traditional thrash and part progressive metal, their lack of cohesion is somewhat of a strange mixture. Still, there was no denying they had the club amped up and ready for a night of more headbanging by the end of their set.

The band that got me through the door that night, Enforcer, were next to play. I’ve been a fan of theirs since another magazine I freelance for, New Noise, asked me to review their 2015 album, From Beyond. With their ability to skillfully mimic the sounds of such beloved ’80s thrash metal bands such as Megadeth (though without ripping anyone off), I was instantly hooked on these Swedish metalheads from the start, and have sought their entire catalog ever since. Prior to last Saturday’s show I had heard that some of the members would not be present for this tour, but had no idea only lead vocalist/guitarist/overall mastermind Olof Wilkstrand would be present from the band’s core lineup, along with touring musicians that included Skull Fist guitarist Jonny Nesta. Warbringer guitarist Chase Becker also filled in on bass, while Hellwitch drummer Brian Wilson rounded things out behind the drumset.

Still, I knew from the moment they hit the stage with “Destroyer” that this particular night would be different, and found myself making my way to the front of the stage to scream along with every lyric (that I could remember anyway) quickly. More crushing anthems like “Die For the Devil,” Searching For You,” “Undying Evil,” “From Beyond,” “Belles of Hades/Death Rides the Night,” ‘Zenith of the Black Sun,” and “Mesmerized by Fire,” followed with fury.

What came as an even bigger shock (other than how hard they played) was the fact they managed to represent every album of their career, including one of my personal favorites from the Diamonds album, “Live For the Night,” as well as “Scream of the Savage” from their lesser known 2008 debut album, Into the Night. After an epic rendition of “Take Me Out of This Nightmare,” the band came back for two more Diamonds-era tracks, “Katina” and Midnight Vice,” before finally calling it a night.

By the time they finished their set, there was no doubt that my wife/photographer and I were both in need of a reprieve before Warbringer hit the stage, and by the time we got back from grabbing some fresh air, the club was already packed again. I have to admit I don’t know Warbringer’s (who were the headliner on this night) material as well as Enforcer’s, but I did familiarize myself with some of their music beforehand, and recognized some of the tracks in their set such as “Remain Violent,” “Firepower Kills,” and “Severed Reality.” Their music is honestly a bit hit or miss for me, at times on the interesting side, while at other times extremely generic. One thing’s for sure, their intensity might have come close to matching Enforcer’s (who no doubt stole the show that night), but were far less superior in comparison.

And the end of the night, we even had the pleasure of meeting some of the members of Enforcer, including said front man Wikstrand and guitarist Nesta, who embodied the living “rock star” image without tarnishing it one bit.

-J.S.

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Album Review: Steel Panther – Heavy Metal Rules (Steel Panther Records)

Steel Panther

By: Jesse Striewski

What started off once upon a time as a promising parody act has more than worn itself painfully thin by now. Steel Panther have been riding the coat tails of one lame crude joke for over a decade now, and their fifth studio effort finds the guys still trying to stretch the limits of their already-strained imaginations.

Heavy Metal Rules offers little new to their schlock rock brand past tracks with more uber-obscene lyrics and titles that only the most juvenile of minds would find humorous, such as “All I Wanna Do is Fuck (Myself Tonight)” and “Gods of Pussy.” The title track is virtually the only song on the whole album even worth going back for a second listen, and the album’s cover is probably the most enticing thing about the record as a whole.

There’s no denying the musicians in Steel Panther harbor an abundance of talent, but it’s being tragically squandered away by the trash they continue to spew. The joke has more than expired, and about the only thing left for them to do at this point would be to record an actual, straight-forward heavy metal album; they might just gain some new interest (not to mention respect) if they’d just cut the crap for once and, well, grow up already.

Rating: 1/5 Stars

 

Album Review: Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs (earMUSIC)

Alice Cooper

By: Jesse Striewski

On his latest release, shock rock master Alice Cooper complies an ode of sorts of some of his favorite Detroit-based music. There’s even a few guest spots along the way from some of the region’s icons, such as MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer and Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner.

“Detroit City 2020” (a re-working of an older Cooper track) is far from the strongest track to kick off the EP, but things pick up swiftly with the punk-infused “Go Man Go.” More than admirable covers of Bob Seger’s “East Side Story,” the MC5’s “Sister Anne,” and Suzi Quatro’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stand out as definite highlights.

Weak spots include Cooper’s take on “Devil with a Blue Dress On” (although ending it with “Chains of Love” was indeed interesting). In short, Breadcrumbs isn’t much more than a tease, but should at least tide Cooper’s most dedicated fans over until he gets back to the main course.

Rating: 3/5 Stars