Album Review: Ugly Kid Joe – Rad Wings of Destiny (Metalville/UKJ Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to finally reviewing the latest album from everyone’s favorite snotty rockers Ugly Kid Joe (back in the ’90s, I was totally that kid blasting their music in their bedroom), but nearly three months after its release, I finally sat down to give it an honest try.

I was more than glad I did when album opener “That Ain’t Livin'” first kicked into gear and I got that same vibe I did upon first hearing “It’s A Lie” kickoff 1996’s Motel California album, and I instantly knew we were off to a good start. From then on out listeners are given plenty of various musical styles for one to choose from in typical UKJ fashion.

From funk (“Up in the City”), punk (“Failure”), to even a touch of country (“Drinkin’ and Drivin'”), there’s no shortage of genres to be found here. Meanwhile, tracks like “Everything’s Changing,” “Kill the Pain,” and “Long Road” display the band’s more sensitive side, while a cover of The Kinks’ “Lola” shows the band can still pull off a decent cover a la “Cats in the Cradle.”

Aside from the occasional filler track (“Not Like the Other”), Rad Winds of Destiny (a take on the Judas Priest album Sad Wings of Destiny, for those of you wondering) is Ugly Kid Joe the way they’re meant to be; throw this in your CD player like it’s 1992 all over again and enjoy.

Rating: 3.5/Stars

Series Review: That ’90s Show Season 1 (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

Since it first dropped earlier this month, fans of the original That ’70s Show have been divided by its latest sequel series, That ’90s Show. But having even been a fan of the brief (and since forgotten) That ’80s Show in 2002, I’ve got to say, it’s not as bad as I had anticipated.

The show centers around veterans of the series Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and Red (Kurtwod Smith), once again opening their home to the local teens of the neighborhood when their granddaughter Leia (Callie Haverda) decides to stay with them for the summer. As the daughter of Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon), newcommer Haverda takes on the role of the main awkward teen of the bunch perfectly, with most storylines following the trials of”fitting in” among her new peers.

Mace Coronel takes the place of the comedic relief as the newest Kelso, Jay, son of Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) and Jackie Buckhart (Mila Kunis), who also make guest appearances. The remainder of the young cast come off with mixed results, with the character of Ozzie (played by Reyn Doi) possibly the most obnoxious new character to hit a screen since Jar Jar Binks.

But still, it’s the nostalgic aspect that keeps things afloat here. Sure, the theme song this time around is butchered, and the lack of relatable jokes or certain, other “original” cast members is disappointing. But seeing the likes of Wilmer Valderrama and Tommy Chong return as Fez and Leo, respectively, among the other returning cast members, is enough to tune in at least once around in my book.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Retrospective: 40 Years Since America first hired ‘The A-Team’ By: Jesse Striewski

THE A-TEAM — Pictured: (clockwise from left) Dirk Benedict as Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck #2, Dwight Schultz as Capt. H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, Mr. T as Sgt. Bosco “B.A.” Baracus, George Peppard as Col. John “Hannibal” Smith — Photo by: Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank

I’m far from what one would call much of a “big car guy,” but as a kid in the ’80s, it was all about the vehicles portrayed in pop culture on the small screen. On Saturday mornings, you had shows like Transformers and M.A.S.K. that each had a heavy focus on their automobiles, while the evenings were dominated by the likes of The Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, and of course, The A-Team.

Originally premiering on NBC on January 23, 1983 and created by Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo, The A-Team followed a “crack commando unit” of highly trained “special forces” Vietnam-era soldiers wanted by the military for crimes they did not commit. After they relocate to the urban jungles of Los Angeles, CA, they become “soldiers of fortune,” available for hire to help those ho need them.

The show starred George Peppard as the leader of the group, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (whose line “I love it when a plan comes together” quickly became a catch phrase), Dirk Benedict as ladies/con man Lieutenant Templeton “Faceman” Peck, and Dwight Schultz as the unhinged (yet lovable) comic relief, Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock. And of course, the show was best known for spawning the career of Mr. T as the lean, mean Sergeant “B.A.” Baracus (B.A. standing for “Bad Attitude,” naturally). Mr. T had of course already made waves the previous year as Rocky Balboa’s latest foe Clubber Lang in Rocky III, but the series helped launch him into superstardom.

Although it was often criticized for its cartoon-ish violence and lack of bloodshed despite the use of numerous explosives and/or heavy artillery/machine guns, The A-Team was an instant commercial and pop culture success, with everything from action figures, to Hot Wheels toys finding their way into the hands of the kids of the era such as myself (to this day I still have an A-Team Hot Wheel, and in my early twenties I even owned a ’94 GMC Vandura personally, a later model of the same van actually used in the show). If basing the series strictly on merchandise alone, The A-Team was no doubt a goldmine.

Band of brothers; the author (far right w/ cat) in 2004 with his Random Tragedies bandmates at the time (from left, Caleb Page and Jason “Kurt” Potter), doing their best A-Team on the back of a 1994 GMC Vandura, similar to the one used in the show.

During its run it also attempted to incorporate two separate female reporters as leads in the first two seasons – first Melinda Culea, followed by Marla Heasley – though neither would last very long. By its fifth and final season, a fifth member of the team named Frankie Santana (Eddie Velez) was also added to the group, as well as Robert Vaughn portraying the new “boss.” Several notable pop culture figures from the ’80s also guested over the course of its five-year run, including Hulk Hogan, Rick James, Boy George, and even Wheel of Fortune hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Former Rewind It Magazine interviewee Monte Markham also once appeared on a 1984 episode of the show.

But of course, all good things must come to an end. I was just six years old when the show aired its last episode on March 8, 1987, yet I can still vaguely remember its importance at the time, if for no other reason thanks to my dad and older brother. Of course Hollywood would eventually try to give it the movie treatment in 2010, but as in most cases, it lacked the same magic as the original. Yet the heart of the show still lives on with each and every rerun and “I pity the fool” Mr. T reference uttered to this day.

A couple of A-Team collectibles from the author’s personal collection.

Interview with Lockhart Frontman Devon Kerr By Jesse Striewski

The moment Lockhart first passed by my radar, I knew there was just something unique about this trio of newcommers from Canada. Formed in recent times by frontman/mastermind Devon Kerr (formerly of Axxion and Midnight Malice), he quickly enlisted Cauldron’s Jason Decay to handle bass duties, who in turn brought on board Annihilator drummer Fabio Alessandrini, effectively making the project a “supergroup” in it’s own right. So it was far from a difficult decision to reach out to the band with some questions on my mind, and I was thrilled to swiftly hear back from Kerr himself, who provided me with answers to many of said questions.

Regarding the band’s origins, he explained; “The name Lockhart was an idea that came to me in 2014. I was fooling around with love songs, and wrote “No Chance in Heaven” way back then. I thought it was a half funny name for a love rock band. Eventually when it came time to name the band we stuck with it. But, hey maybe it’s after Lockhart, Texas… bands like Boston, Chicago, Toronto, London, and Europe name themselves after places (Laughs)!”

As far as putting together the missing pieces, he informed me; “Jason and I have been really close friends for over ten years; we’ve lived, worked, and played music together during that same amount of time. We both share a love for AOR, or essentially heavy music with huge hooks. Fabio was Jay’s friend and number one draft pick for drummer, and I wrote the music before asking anyone to play on the recordings. I play the synth, all guitars, and handle all vocals. The full length will feature Jason on backup vocals, and some guest guitarists, I hope. If we ever do live stuff we’ll have to get a guitar player, since my core role is synth and vocals.”

Kerr continued; “I wrote the songs, and it was a no-brainer to ask Jason to put his bass spin on things. I also knew he would have the perfect drummer for the project through his extended friend group…he suggested Fabio, and I’m glad he did! He’s perfect for the group, and gels with us flawlessly. Again, although I wrote the songs, I wanted both Jason and Fabio to make their parts their own, so they do deserve some real credit here!”

He elaborated further; “The songs turned out great because of (the two of) them. I’m trying to work a little bit closer with the other guys for the album when it comes to writing. Now that we’re solidified with the two other members, we can begin to incorporate the other guys’ songwriting creativity all while keeping the Lockhart sound you know so far.”

I wanted to know a little more about what lead Kerr to play the music he does, and he explained; “Guitar came first at maybe 11, or 12. I started playing piano at around 14, and got into actual sound design and the ins and outs of synthesizers in my mid-twenties. Self taught for the most part – I took music all through high school so that helped.” 

He continued even further; “First started playing guitar to bands like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, and whatever classic rock bands were on shirts in the local “rock t-shirt store” when I was first starting out. It developed more into metal, and then dove pretty deep into the ’80s underground (Icon, Tyran’ Pace, Gotham City). When I was about 23, I discovered that to me, AOR music got me pumped up the most. Foreigner, Survivor, Europe, Night Ranger, Van Zant, Alien, Old Michael Bolton, Chicago, Cher, Heart, Anything Desmond Child wrote and SO much more…if it had great synth, I was sold! You can’t go finding ’80s rock synth guys on every street corner, so I took on that role. I am a better guitarist, but I prefer keyboards.” 

And whether we see Lockhart on the road any time in the near future, Kerr informed me; “There are unfortunately no touring plans at the moment simply because of the responsibilities of being a grown up…hopefully one day we can make it happen again. And while there’s no touring plans yet, it certainly is something I hope we can one day pull off.”

Michael Winslow and His Band of Armed Forces at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait on 1/10/23 Words and Photos By Shawn McKee

Michael Winslow is best known for making a wide range of sound effects with his voice, a talent that led him to star in all seven Police Academy movies (and each of its two television series it spawned) from 1984 to 1994 as Sgt Larvell Jones, often delivering the biggest laughs. For better or worse, the series became a part of American culture during the ’80s heyday of National Lampoon, Mel Brooks, Porky’s, and the subsequent ‘slob’ genre. These comedies were simple, juvenile, and crude. But most importantly, they were fun.

This formula, derided by critics, was a big hit with audiences. The inevitable saturation of the genre made it hard to know where and when lightning would strike. Police Academy struck big and became a low-brow comedy success story. Growing up, I enjoyed the series’ stooge-like, raunchy antics. Winslow had an undeniable comic presence. And his brief part as a nameless radar operator in Spaceballs (1987) is one of the film’s many highlights, where he did all the sound effects himself.

And to be referenced in an episode of The Simpsons some years later is no small feat either. The seventh season Christmas-themed episode “Marge Be Not Proud” (1995) saw Bart struggling to regain Marge’s trust after he stole a video game, which led to one of Homer’s best rants; Homer: “STEALING! How could you? We live in a society of laws. Why do you think I took in all those Police Academy movies? FOR FUN? Well, I didn’t hear anybody laughing. DID YOU? Except at that guy who made sound effects [makes noises and starts giggling]. Where was I? Oh yeah, stay outta my booze!”

Winslow has performed live shows for decades. He’s also an accomplished beatboxer. I witnessed this firsthand at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, where Winslow delivered a two-hour set of comedy and music to troops abroad. In doing so, he made us all feel at home. I recently arrived in Kuwait as part of a nine-month Army deployment. Arifjan is a big base with lots of military personnel. Armed Forces Entertainment is a morale-based organization that sponsors and coordinates entertainment for service members.

I saw posters of Winslow’s upcoming performance and knew I had to go. Billed as ‘Michael Winslow and His Band of Armed Forces,’ the show was one of eight appearances at deployed locations throughout January. From what I saw, Winslow did not disappoint.

Josh Firestone, stand-up comic and former Army Ranger, had the thankless job of warming up the stone-cold sober crowd on a Tuesday night. He delivered several funny bits about military/post-military life, parenting, and other humorous topics. The initially subdued audience made me wonder how many were even familiar with Michael Winslow. Seeing someone I had admired from childhood was exciting. Maybe like me, they didn’t know what to expect.

Winslow then took the stage to hearty applause. Microphone in hand, he stood behind a dizzying array of electronics. This included a laptop, mixing board, vocal effects pedal, and cables running everywhere. His natural speaking voice was instantly recognizable. Drummer Bryan Lash provided some extra kick to the one-man show. The rest of the band, Winslow explained, couldn’t afford the airfare. It might have been a joke or an excuse to provide all the sounds of the instruments himself.

He belted out multiple genres of music with comedy bits in between. A few awkward pauses followed some technical difficulties, but Winslow effortlessly pushed on with energy, talent, and passion. Plus, the man can sing. Winslow joked about an ongoing bingo event next door by imitating the jittering ball sounds and the announcers blaring voice over the microphone. He then gave us all the sounds you’d expect from a supermarket check-out line. His Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker impressions, among others, were spot on. There seemed no sound or voice he couldn’t imitate. Most of the show, however, was dedicated to music.

Utilizing vocal loops and effects, Winslow provided the tempo, bass line, guitar, and synthesizers for several familiar songs. He belted out Bob Marley, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Prince, the Beverly Hills Cop theme, George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone,” country, bluegrass, jazz, and some freestyle jams. His energetic, multilayered performance was a sight to see.

“This is what I do,” Winslow repeatedly said. “I make noises.”

He encouraged us to make our own around the base. “But remember, if you get in trouble, my name is Kevin Hart.” Winslow must have been exhausted by the show’s end, but it didn’t show. He stuck around to get pictures with every service member who wanted one. I thanked him for coming, and he told me, “Remember, you can make noises too.”It was a bit of inspiration from the self-proclaimed “man of ten-thousand sound effects.” Strangely enough, I heard he lives in Winter Springs, Florida like me. If true, that makes us neighbors on the other side of the world.

I’m always grateful when performers/celebrities come out to see us. I’ll never forget meeting Robin Williams during my 2004 Afghanistan deployment. Like Williams, Winslow was gracious and kind. I hope he enjoyed performing for us as much as we enjoyed having him.

Series Review: Willow Season 1 (Disney +)

By: Jesse Striewski

Since its premier last November, Willow, the sequel series to the 1988 Ron Howard film of the same name, has received mixed reviews to say the least. But if swords and sorcery are your type of thing, there’s plenty of adventure to be had here, if you can get past the silly-ness at least.

Warwick Davis returns as the titular character Willow, the not-so-great sorcerer who leads a rescue mission to find the kidnapped Prince Airk (Dempsey Bryk) along with his sister Kit (Ruby Cruz), her soon-to-be knight lover Jade (Erin Kellyman), and Arik’s love interest Elora Danan (Ellie Bamber), who just so happens to be the same baby Willow protected all those years before with Madmartigan (Val Kilmer) and the future Empress of Tir Asleen. Another prince (Tony Revolori), and a boorish treasure hunter named Boorman (Amar Chadha-Patel) are also along for the ride.

Joanne Whalley and some other familiar faces also reprise their roles from the original film, and one of the better episodes features Christian Slater as Allagash, a former companion of both Madmartigan and Boorman’s. And while Kilmer only appears via archival footage, his son Jack does some voiceover work here as well.

But if only the writers could have kept things straight forward instead of trying to stay “hip” or “witty,” this new series could have been a complete smash. Unfortunately they choose to veer into the absurd far too often, with everything from the dialogue, to questionable choices with the music, making it hard to take things too seriously. The final episode alludes to possible future chapters; hopefully by season two they’ve actually learned from their mistakes.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Book Review: The Lives of Brian By Brian Johnson (Dey Street Books)

By: Jesse Striewski

The very first concert that started it all for me was AC/DC – fronted by the unmistakable Brian Johnson – all the way back in 1996. Since then there’s been no turning back as rock n’ roll has become not only my strongest subject, but my savior, largely in part to Johnson and the rest of the guys in the band that night.

It’s always been fascinating for me to learn just how the musicians I listen to get to that stage in front of me. Johnson’s life story is not unlike many before him; humble upbringings, paying dues, and plenty of mistakes and hardships along the way. Everything, from his early days with Geordie (a band name I had only ever heard over the years, though never really took the time to look up until after reading the book), to his one and only encounter with his AC/DC predecessor Bon Scott, to his eventual joining the band in 1980 and finding worldwide success, is covered here.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit too much information sometimes however, and at times I found myself wishing Johnson would simply get to the point a little faster. But to be honest, I’ve always been more of a fan of Johnson’s era of the band than Scott’s. As a whole, it’s the perfect source for those about to rock their reading material; if you’re already an established AC/DC fan, there’s no doubt this should be right up your alley, too.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Series Review: Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 1 (Disney +)

By: Jesse Striewski

There’s a lot to choose from in the Star Wars universe (one might even say the market has become “saturated”); but if you look carefully enough, you might just find something worth investing your time in. Such is the case with Obi-Wan Kenobi, a dream come true for fans of the series who have always wondered about the title characters’ most secluded years on Tatoonie.

Ewan McGregor returns nearly two decades later since last portraying the role of Kenobi in Episodes I-III, and it’s as if he never left. Long story short, he is thrust into helping a young Princess Leia (Vivien Lyra Blair) after she is captured, then escapes, from the Galactic Empire. This forces him into uses his long-suppressed Jedi powers while fighting off new foes from the Empire like Reva Sevander (Moses Ingram), and ultimately coming face-to-face with his former apprentice Anakin Skywalker for the first time since their battle in Episode III that transformed him into Darth Vadar (Hayden Christensen also returns in the role, with the legendary James Earl Jones voicing the character once again as well).

There’s a few other appearances that fans should also enjoy, such as the return of Jimmy Smits to the franchise, and even a small role from Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. But chances are if none of what I just mentioned made any sense to you, then this show is most likely not going to be your cup of tea. But if these characters have been embedded in your life since birth as they have been for myself, you’re likely to eat it up, too.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Lockhart – No Chance (Self-Released)

By: Jesse Striewski

My go-to response when asked what type of music I listen to is almost always “metal.” But unlike the average fans’ definitions of metal, I’m not referring to the likes of Korn (to be fair, I love all genres of it, though nu/mainstream metal remains at the bottom of the list for me…). Canada’s Lockhart – a “supergroup” of sorts featuring members of bands like Cauldron and Annihilator – are right up my alley.

Their new EP No Chance contains the type of AOR /classic metal sound that makes me making music myself (if I were still in a band it’d be exactly the sound I would want to achieve). And while it’s just three brief tracks in length, each one packs enough of a punch that it hardly matters.

Opener “No Chance in Heaven” is simply addictive with it’s synth-driven hooks a la Van Halen’s “Jump,” and “Just Can’t Wait” is equally poppy and gets stuck in your head. “Under Fire”is no doubt the heavy-ist track here, and is also worthy of turning up to eleven.

This is not just music assembled here, it’s the soundtrack to lives captured on tape (or whatever it was recorded on, though it sounds like it should’ve been recorded during the analog era!). I honestly love this in every way possible. Do yourself a favor and crank this instead of whatever they’re feeding you on mainstream radio these days…you might just be glad you did.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Series Review: The Santa Clauses Season 1 (Disney +)

By: Jesse Striewski

After all these years, Tim Allen finally returns as the big guy in red, although I wasn’t sure if it’d work after 2006’s embarrassing Santa Clause 3 (I still couldn’t tell you if I’ve ever sat through that one from start to finish). But surprisingly, it held my interest long enough to make it through all six episodes of the new sequel series.

The concept is nothing all too revolutionary; Santa (Allen) is poised to retire, but must first find his replacement. After ruling out his own offspring, he quickly pics a single father (Kal Penn), whose innovative intentions quickly prove to be more harmful to Christmas than anyone could have ever expected.

Along with Allen, Elizabeth Mitchell also returns as his wife, Carol Calvin, and Eric Lloyd briefly returns as his oldest son, Charlie. Allen’s real life daughter, Elizabeth Allen-Dick also appears as his teenage daughter. There’s plenty of seasonal in-jokes along the way and appearances from everyone from the O.G. Saint Nicholas of Myra (Mitch Poulos) and Krampus (Dirk Rogers).

I can remember going to see the original Santa Clause when it came out in theaters back in 1994; it wasn’t a flawless Christmas movie by any means, but decent enough for what it was. I suppose the same can be said about The Santa Clauses; although it’s not perfect, it brings back some of that magic that was missing from its two lackluster sequels.

Rating: 3/5 Stars