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)

Quiet Riot

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.

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)

Seven Kingdoms

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)

Howling Giant

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