Album Review – Blue Oyster Cult: Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 (Frontiers Music srl)

B.O.C.

By: Jesse Striewski

Blue Oyster Cult have always been terribly underrated in my book, and I tend to forget just how much I actually like them until I go back and give their music another listen. I was fortunate enough to catch the band live once a few years before this album was recorded, and I was reminded just how good they are live after listening to this.

Although somewhat puzzling why they chose to wait six years to release the audio for this live effort, the quality here is top notch. All of the expected hits are of course here, including “Burnin’ For You,” “Godzilla,” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” But aside from the usual suspects, the tracks that stick out most are the ones you’re not likely to hear on the radio anytime soon; “The Red and the Black,” “Shooting Shark,” and a 10-minute rendition of “Then Came the Last Days of May” are all stellar. But hands down the track that sticks out the most goes to the epic “I Love the Night.”

I would have liked to have seen a few more of my personal favorites make their way in here as well, including somewhat forgotten classic “Joan Crawford,” and the slightly more modern “See You in Black.” Still, there’s seventeen nearly flawless tracks found here, and very little to complain about.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

The Radolescents at Shovelhead Lounge on 1/3/2020 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Seth Johnson

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It’s been a minute or two since the last time I made it to a really good (or “rad”), old school punk show, especially one that represented as many sub-genres as the recent Radolescents show I caught at the Shovelhead Lounge this past Friday, January 3.

For those who don’t already know, The Radolescents are made up of former members of classic Orange County, CA punk outfit The Adolescents (who are still active to this day as well), centering around core members Rikk Agnew (guitar), and Casey Royer (drums), who also shared time together in such legendary punk acts as D.I. and Social Distortion. The two have also enlisted Agnew’s nephew, Frank Agnew, Jr. (also the son of former Adolescents guitarist, Frank) on vocals, and original Adolescents guitarist John O’Donovan (who was briefly a member of the band during their inaugural period back in 1980).  But before I get to their set, there was a host of other bands who played beforehand in support.

Orlando’s own Grave Return opened the show with much enthusiasm. Their slightly-snotty sound was reminiscent of early punk acts such as The Dead Boys, noticeable on tracks like “Night Visions.” It’s clear these guys should be around for awhile.

Tommy Frenzy’s Hard Drive were next up in line. Originally hailing from the New York punk scene of the mid/late ’70s, Frenzy’s set list consisted of classics from his time fronting the Tuff Darts, as well as brand new numbers off his latest release on Violent Breed Records, You Yeah You. Backed by the husband and wife rhythm section of Roger (bass) and Suzy Lamoureux (drums), Tommy & co. ripped through a set of tracks that included “”That Girl is Stupid,” “Hottest Thing,” “Don’t Play Shy,” “She’s Dead,” “Phone Booth Man,” “Businessman,” and “Here Comes Trouble” (among others).

Hard Drive bassist Roger then pulled double-duty, performing next with the more hardcore-influenced local act Swift Knuckle Solution. Aside from regular members Tony Marks (drums/vocals), and Lance White (guitar), Roger was also joined by guitarist and former Suburban Lockdown band mate Mike Roberts. The guys plowed relentlessly through tracks like “Spinning Sides,” “Loss of Control,” and “One Wrong Step” before making way for Radolescents tour mates The Hajj.

I must admit, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from The Hajj. But as soon as they started their set, I totally got it. This two piece act, lead by brothers Freddie and Phil Al-Hajj, played more laid back, ska-influenced jams. It was clear by the time they finished their set they had left an undeniable impression on the central, FL crowd.

And finally, The Radolescents finished off the night, running through their 1981 self-titled debut album (a.k.a. the “blue” album) in its entirety. From the album’s lead off track “I Hate Children” to album closer “Creatures,” every track got its due, with classics such as “Who is Who,” “Kids of the Black Hole,” “No Way,” and “Amoeba” of course receiving the highest praise. The band then played the first two tracks from the Welcome to Realty EP, including the title track and “Losing Battle,” before rather unceremoniously ending their set.

Still, the band sounded as spot on as can be, and every note played felt like it was right off the records themselves. I’ve actually seen the “other” version of The Adolescents live before (back in 2013), then-consisting of vocalist Tony Reflex and bassist Steve Soto (rest in peace). But I think this version of the band not only sounded tighter than that one, it somehow felt even more authentic (especially now without Soto remaining in that band). Those in attendance last Friday night were lucky enough to witness a night of some epic, old school punk. Truly a trip down memory lane that I’m glad I took.

-J.S.

 

Interview with Former KISS Guitarist Bruce Kulick By Jesse Striewski

Bruce Kulick

What a time it is to be a KISS fan; the band is currently embarking on their End of the Road tour well through 2021, and, a new book about the band’s non-makeup years titled Take it Off: KISS Truly Unmasked by Greg Prato was recently released by Jawbone Press.

Recently I was able to talk with former KISS (and current Grand Funk Railroad) guitarist Bruce Kulick, who spent 12 years with the former during said “unmasked” era from 1984-1996. The first thing I wanted to know was what his thoughts were on Prato’s new book, to which he said, “It’s very in-depth and informative. There’s a lot of interest in my era (with the band) lately, so it’s great timing for Mr. Prato.”

I also asked Bruce how it was recently playing the KISS Kruise IX, and he says; “It’s always a perfect fit, KISS fans that know I will serve up a huge buffet of my era with the band. The guys in my band are total pros, and amazing to work with. And doing the Animalize medley was so much fun…the press really jumped on it!”

I had to know what Bruce’s favorite KISS albums – both with and without him – were. He informed me; “I think Destroyer was my favorite. It has so many good songs on it. And although I do have highlights from each LP I did with the band, I do feel Revenge is a great album.”

I was also curious if Kulick ever felt left out at all being one of only two members of KISS to never don their famous makeup (the other being former guitarist Mark St. John, R.I.P.), to which he replied, “Not a big deal to me at all. It was the way it was meant to be.”

Some might not realize that in addition to guitar, Bruce is also a talented keyboard player. I asked him if he was self-taught, and he tells me, “I did take keyboard lessons in my late teenage years, and it is a great instrument. I should play it more!”

Of course I asked how things were with his current band, Grand Funk Railroad, as well. Bruce says, “Pretty amazing. The band in its current version is going on 20 years. Great players, and we all get along, so that helps! We know how fortunate we are to be performing in the “September” of our years (laughs)!”

With the final days of KISS also coming to a close, I asked Bruce how he felt about the band retiring, and if he had any plans to possibly join them at some point on their farewell tour. Bruce tells me, “I am happy for them to go out big. No firm plans are actually made yet for me sitting in, but I think it’s a strong possibility, especially for their last show.”

And finally, Bruce informed me what else might be in store for him in 2020; “I did recently discuss with ESP Guitars doing more guitar clinics, and I hope to record with my KISS Kruise band this year, I think fans would love that.” Visit Bruce’s site at http://www.BruceKulick.com to keep up to date with everything Bruce is up to.

 

Film Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Walt Disney Studios)

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By: Jesse Striewski

Star Wars has been interwoven in our culture for more than four decades now, and after nine films in the Skywalker saga, the series’ inevitable conclusion has finally arrived. The film has already received its fair share of negative feedback, with some critics citing it as too predictable or even pandering to die hard fans. But here’s the thing; so was Return of the Jedi, and today that film is now regarded as a classic.

Sure, The Rise of Skywalker might not be flawless, but it does bring back that same sense of excitement I felt when watching the original trilogy as a kid. Director J.J. Abrams has done wonders redeeming the entire series with this sequel trilogy that began with The Force Awakens in 2015.

In this chapter (without giving too much away), we learn that the evil emperor Palpatine, again played by Ian McDiarmid, is back (no doubt a bit of a hokey concept) and planning on a destructive up rising of the entire galaxy. Of course Rey (Daisy Ridley) and the rebel alliance must overcome obstacles (and inner demons) to stop this from happening in the most good vs. evil sort of way.

For all the logic it might ask you to put aside, it makes up for with heart tenfold. I was completely brought back to when watching the “new” Star Wars movie was an event with the entire family in my household growing up. And I’m not ashamed to admit I was fully in tears by the end of Skywalker. If you’re able to just put aside that “I’m too cool for this” mentality adopted by all the negative keyboard warriors out there, you might be able to enjoy this for what it actually is; an overall pretty great film.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Creedence Clearwater Revisited at the Seminole Hard Rock Event Center Tampa on 12/18/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos by Brooke Striewski

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They say that all good things must finally come to an end. After roughly 25 years together, Creedence Clearwater Revisited – which features original Creedence Clearwater Revival members Stu Cook (bass) and Doug Clifford (drums) – are finally hanging up the towel on their Final Revival Tour. Normally we here at Rewind It Magazine stick to Orlando/Daytona-based events, but knowing that this would be the last chance ever to catch these legends live, we made the trip to see them.

Although I had some of the same reservations as many regarding a John Fogerty-less CCR, I went in with as open a mind as possible, and was instantly glad I did. The band skipped the usual opening act (a welcomed addition when you’ve traveled a couple of hours just to see a certain group) and got right down to business,  opening their set with a handful of hits in the form of “Born on the Bayou,” “Green River,” “Lodi,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and, my personal favorite, “Hey Tonight.” It was quickly apparent that current front man Dan McGuinness was more than suitable in Fogerty’s original place. Lead guitarist Kurt Griffey and keyboardist Steve “The Captain” Gunner also did more than admirable jobs rounding out the lineup.

The band then slowed things down a bit with the tearjerker “Long As I Can See the Light” before ripping into more classic numbers like “I Put a Spell on You,” “Down on the Corner,” “Lookin’ Out my Back Door,” and a vicious version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” which featured not only guitar and bass solos, but an all-out jam session from the entire band as well.

More classics quickly followed in the form of “Midnight Special,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Proud Mary” before the band brought the entire audience to their feet for “Fortunate Son.” The guys slowed things down once more for “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” before going into “Cotton Fields.” Cook then took the time to address the audience and show his appreciation to them before finally closing out the night with a righteous rendition of “Up Around the Bend.” Like The Beatles, the music of CCR has been ingrained in me as it has been for so many others before me…by my parents. Hearing these songs finally played live after a lifetime of listening to them was nothing short of magical, bringing this amazing journey through music of mine one step closer to full circle.

 

Album Review: LA Guns – Another Christmas in Hell (Frontiers Music srl)

LA Guns

By: Jesse Striewski

Who would’ve ever thought that a sleazy sunset strip band like LA Guns had a Christmas EP in ’em?! But here they are with one, and the ironic thing about it is…it actually works.

Oddly enough, the EP starts off with a recorded voicemail message from William Shatner, which then segues into their version of Billy Squier’s “Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You.” Covers of Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” and The Damned’s “There Ain’t No Sanity Claus” are about as spot on as they get, but their take on the Ramones classic “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)” is a tad on the weaker side. There’s even a 9-second rendition of “Dreidel” thrown in for good measure.

So before you throw down on the egg nog this season, throw this one on to get yourself in the holiday spirit. It should just do the trick.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

-J.S.

 

Film Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (CBS Films/Lionsgate)

 

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By: Jesse Striewski

Although I already took my son to see this adaption of the popular book by Alvin Schwartz while it was still in the theater, I missed the chance to review it the first time around. In light of its recent DVD/home media release earlier this month, I figured it was better late than never to review it.

Set in a small Pennsylvania town in 1968, the story follows a group of teenagers who unwittingly unlock an ancient evil after taking a mysterious book they find while sneaking into the local haunted house on Halloween night. Things quickly get out of hand as one by one the teens (and their tormentors) become victims of unspeakable horrors written on the book’s pages.

The talented young cast is headed by Zoe Colletti and Michael Garza, while veteran actors such as Dean Norris and Gil Bellows round out the supporting cast.

The eerie atmosphere is both well done, and a throwback to midnight movies everywhere. Although riddled with a somewhat typical/predictable ending, the film is still the perfect late night creepy scare fest flick. So turn down the lights, and settle in for one hell of a bumpy ride!

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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By: Jesse Striewski

(Warning: may contain spoilers!)

It’s been thirty-nine years since the original Shining hit theaters, and over four decades since Stephen King’s novel it was based on was released. Now King’s 2013 follow up novel finally gets the Hollywood treatment, and couldn’t be more spot on.

Doctor Sleep is one of those rare films that engrosses viewers so deeply, they get completely lost in the world that’s being presented. It’s escapism at it’s absolute best. And unlike the slower pace of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 original, this follow up feels equivalent to that of a rollercoaster ride (yet without ever dumbing things down too much, which is far too often the case these days), even with a run time of over two and a half hours long.

The story follows a grown Dan Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor), now a recovering alcoholic who is propelled into helping another young prodigy that “shines” by the name of Abra Stone (played by Kyleigh Curran), who is being hunted down by a pack of half-human monsters who feed on children with her unique gift.

And like the original book/film, there are some noticeable differences present in this adaptation as well, some for better, some for worse. Aside from the obvious character changes made (Abra and Billy perhaps the most noticeable of all), there’s some characters that are drastically reduced (Dr. Dalton, played by Bruce Greenwood in the film, plays a much smaller role than in the book), or barely touched upon at all (Abra’s grandmother “Momo” played a significant role in the book, but is only mentioned and never actually seen on screen). And, without giving away too much, there’s also a key revelation at the end of the novel that unfortunately gets left out completely here.

Still, nearly every portrayal on screen is exactly what is pictured while reading the novel. McGregor is brilliant as a grown up Dan Torrance, newcomer Curran does an outstanding job as the young Abra Stone, and Rebecca Ferguson is both playfully menacing and sexy in her take on Rose the Hat. We also get glimpses of several other characters from the original film; Alex Essose as Wendy Torrance, Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorann, and Henry Thomas (yes, the one from E.T.) as Jack Torrance, all do impeccable renditions of their respective counterparts. There’s even a brief cameo by Danny Llyod, who played Dan Torrance in the original film.

You could go see whatever mindless drivel that’s currently being churned out at your local theater, or see something with some actual substance (even those who haven’t read the book, but are fans of horror, should be entertained). Doctor Sleep is a film that both pays homage to an absolute American classic, and stands alone on its own all together. It should be viewed on the big screen while the chance to do so is still available.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys (Frontiers Music srl)

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By: Jesse Striewski

If ever there was a band worthy of comparison to Spinal Tap, it has got to be today’s incarnation of Quiet Riot. As if the album cover didn’t already give it away, Hollywood Cowboys is as amateurish you might think.

On their second and now final studio album recorded with former singer James Durbin on vocals (former vocalist Jizzy Pearl has now stepped back in to fill the spot once again), once again what they’ve compiled here doesn’t sound much better than essentially a demo recording. I was honestly surprised the band didn’t rush back in to re-record Durbin’s vocals with Pearl, much like they had done when Durbin replaced previous singer Sean Nicols on 2017’s Road Rage album.

All things considered, some of the songs found here actually aren’t that bad. Tracks like “Insanity” actually contains some impressive guitar work, and “Hellbender” probably stands above everything else . But the mix is still so off throughout the entire album, with the drums simply overpowering everything else. Perfect example; look up lead off single “Don’t Call it Love” on YouTube and see how many people agree with that exact same sentiment in the comment section.

I’m not the kind of person who enjoys being overly critical for the sake of being harsh, but I’m also not going to sugar coat things. I actually really dug Quiet Riot back in the day (one of the best concerts I’ve actually ever been to was a bill they were on with Skid Row back in 2006, a year before original lead singer Kevin Dubrow’s untimely passing), and I honestly sympathize with drummer Frankie Banali’s recent cancer diagnosis (and wish him the best). But there’s a reason why some bands from their era don’t maintain the same status/ as an act like Motley Crue. There’s also usually a fairly good (and dysfunctional) reason for so many rotating lineups, and Durbin wisely stepped down from the current mess this band has sadly become.

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

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.