Album Review: Hollywood Vampires – Rise (earMUSIC)

Hollywood

By: Jesse Striewski

This assembly of some of rock’s most elite members (featuring Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and even the one and only Johnny Depp) further proves the Hollywood Vampires are not simply another throwaway project. Surprisingly, the most sub-par thing found here on their second effort is just the unfortunate album cover design.

The interesting thing about these guys is their sound doesn’t sway in just one direction, but rather showcases all of it’s members many influences equally. “I Want My Now” kicks things off purposefully, while heavy-Alice inspired tracks like  “Who’s Laughing Now,” “We Gotta Rise,” and “Mr. Spider” all lead the charge.

A handful of surprising covers also make their way in; Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” and the Jim Carroll Band’s “People Who Died” are worthy entries, while their take on David Bowie’s “Heroes” is slightly less exciting. All in all, Rise is one of the better albums to be released so far this year.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Sammy Hagar & The Circle – Space Between (BMG)

Sammy Hagar

By: Jesse Striewski

I remember a time when it wasn’t considered “cool” to like anything other than the David Lee Roth-era of Van Halen (how foolish). In recent years, I’ve come to have a better  appreciation for Sammy Hagar’s material both in and out of VH, and Space Between definitely helps expand said appreciation further.

Hagar’s latest effort with The Circle (which also features ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, former Busboys guitarist Vic Johnson, and renowned drummer Jason Bonham, soon of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) offers plenty for everyone. Tracks like “Devil Came to Philly” and “Bottom Line” are standout rockers, while “Wide Open Spaces” lends a softer side. A video for “Trust Fund Baby” is also worth a watch, though it’s one of the weaker songs on the album.

If nothing else, this debut studio effort from The Circle is stronger than any of the material released from Hagar’s previous project, Chickenfoot. At the very least, give it a try.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

Book Review: Playing Back the 80s – A Decade of Unstoppable Hits By Jim Beviglia (Rowan & Littlefield)

80s Book

By Jesse Striewski

If ever there was an appropriate book for Rewind It Magazine, Jim Beviglia’s Playing Back the 80s has got to be it. Throughout the book, Beviglia chronicles his personal favorite songs of the decade, giving intriguing, often new insight on many classic songs.

Along the way, Beviglia interviews the numerous artists, songwriters, or producers who were behind the making of the music itself, and all lend their versions of just how the songs actually came together. There’s plenty of never-before-heard stories that any fan of 1980’s culture should find a decent amount of interest in.

Iconic numbers you would expect such as Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl,” Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” are all analyzed appropriately. But there’s even several profiled tracks that aren’t necessarily your average go-to’s, such as “She’s a Beauty” by The Tubes, “Talking in Your Sleep” by The Romantics, and even Jan Hammer’s “Original Miami Vice Theme” (just to name a few), all of which contain their own unique stories.

Sure, there are some questionable choices as well; Glen Frey’s “You Belong to the City” would have likely made a far more interesting song to cover than “Smuggler’s Blues.” And several notable artists from the decade are omitted completely, including Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Tears for Fears, and even Oingo Boingo. Still, there’s no doubt Beviglia’s effort here is a labor of love, and worth the trip down memory lane for just about anyone with an appreciation for ’80s music.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Bad Religion – Age of Unreason (Epitaph Records)

Bad Religion

By: Jesse Striewski

Bad Religion were undoubtedly one of my favorite punk acts growing up, and many a summer was spent going to see them play at Warped Tour in my younger years. But with the current political climate, complete with hypocritical extremist groups on each side (including so-called, anti-fascist-yet-still-violent, far leftists), I was somewhat reluctant to even check out the band’s latest release (just to clarify, I’m a neutral person able to see flaws on both sides, I’m just not into bands who promote violence in any way), but after just one listen, I was instantly glad I gave it a chance.

Everything that’s ever made this band so great to begin with is still easily found here, seventeen albums in to their career. The thought-provoking (yet still not overly preachy), heartfelt lyrics, hook-laden guitars, and of course, the classic “Oohh’s” and “Aahh’s” the band is so well known for, are all present. Tracks like “What Tomorrow Brings,” “The Approach,” and the brilliant “Candidate,” are all perfect examples of what these guys still have to offer to humanity as a whole. Give it a listen with an open mind (something much of society has sadly forgotten how to do).

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Interview with Actor/Musician Danny Cooksey By Jesse Striewski

IMG_7177

There’s no doubt I’ve done my fair share of interviews with various celebrities over the past ten-plus years since I first started doing music journalism; some are easier to feel a sort of personal connection to than others, as though you’ve known them your entire life after watching them virtually grow up before your eyes. Danny Cooksey is hands down one of those celebrities for me, and in a very indirect sort of way, I even have him to thank for my lifelong love of heavy metal music (but more on that later).

As a child in the ’80s, I watched a young Danny on one of my favorite sitcoms at the time, Diff’rent Strokes. Then as a teen in the ’90s, I watched as he embodied the ultimate teen-aged slacker in such unforgettable roles as Budnick on the classic Nickelodeon TV show Salute Your Shorts. Recently, I was able to speak to Danny from his home in California, where we covered not only many of the previously-mentioned roles he’s taken on over the years, but also what he’s up to these days – which may come as a surprise to many of you.

These days Danny lives a more modest, family man-type of life, taking his son to school every morning before coming home to tackle either voice-over work, or teach acting lessons (the vast majority of which he actually teaches one-on-one online). As far as teaching goes he tells me; “I believe that each person has their own sort of individual process as far as what they want to accomplish with their needs and goals with acting. One thing I try to focus a lot on is the audition process, because even if you’re the best actor in the world, that’s a whole different monster in itself.”

One of the first things I wanted to know regarding Danny’s past was how he felt when he comes across an old episode of one of the many shows he’s been in; “You know, it’s funny, there’s certain memories that are seared in your brain, while others kind of meld together. I remember when my my daughter was younger she found an old VHS tape with Diff’rent Strokes on it, and I had no recollection at all of the plot line or anything. It was sort of this odd, out-of-body experience, but it’s pretty interesting. I don’t really sit around watching myself often or anything, but every once in awhile something will come on that I’ll catch, and I just kind of have to pinch myself and say, ‘Wow, how did I ever even end up in that situation?!’ (Laughs).”

Of course I couldn’t help but ask Danny how he reacts when called Budnick (without a doubt one of his most memorable roles) these days, to which he replied; “You know, I still think it’s awesome! But I actually have more people asking me what high school I went to and trying to figure out where they know me from more than I get called Budnick (laughs).”

Music has also played a heavy role throughout Danny’s career as well. As a child, he took a try at singing country music before later switching it up to rock, briefly fronting the band Bad4Good in the early ’90s, who released one album (Refugee) in 1992 before ultimately dissolving.  I asked Danny how he felt looking back on that project now, to which he replied; “I’m still so proud of that record. We worked really hard on it, but it was a really weird time in music, and it seemed like things were just changing by the minute. I feel like if it were released a few years earlier that record might’ve been a little more successful than it was. Or maybe it would’ve been something totally different if it were released a year later (laughs)! But it was an amazing experience for sure.”

But if there’s one thing I really wanted to ask Danny about, it was the scene in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day where he and co-star Edward Furlong were seen blasting the then-new Guns N’ Roses hit “You Could Be Mine.” Although I already knew of several hard rock/heavy metal bands and songs before that (including even ones by GN’R), it would be the first “rock” song I’d ever physically own in any way (and on cassette of course!), and I credit that as the moment I instantly fell in love with an entire genre. So I had to ask Danny whether or not he was a GN’R fan prior to the filming of that scene (as well as thank him for the role he played in my introduction to the song that quite literally changed my life), to which he said; “Oh yeah, I was definitely a big fan! I had actually seen the original lineup on tour with The Rolling Stones in like ’88, and they were just awesome!”

He goes on to elaborate on the inclusion of the song in the film; “When we were in the early stages of filming, I was given a cassette of the music that was going to be used in the scene. Originally it was going to be 2 songs, and I believe they were “Higher Ground” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones, which were, you know, both fine. But at some point I got handed another cassette, and it was an advanced copy of “You Could Be Mine,” in which case I thought I was just the coolest person on the planet since the record wasn’t even out yet! (Laughs).”

As if all these accomplishments were not enough, Danny is still involved in making music to this day, currently performing in a project that helps raise proceeds for abused animals called Shelter Dogs, who self-released an album, Take Me Home, in 2015 (which ironically was co-produced by acclaimed Guns N’ Roses producer Mike Clink), and are currently in the process of writing a brand new album. Be sure to look out for more material from them soon, but in the meantime you can still check out their previously released music on Spotifiy, ITunes, and of course YouTube. And those interested in his acting classes can also reach Danny at: https://www.dcacting.com/.

-J.S.

Album Review: Crazy Lixx – Forever Wild (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)

Crazy Lixx

By: Jesse Striewski

I was just getting warmed up to these Swedish rockers when I reviewed their previous effort, 2017’s Ruff Justice. Now on their sixth full-length album, the band takes things to a higher level (quite literally).

“Wicked” kicks the album off with a promising start, leading way to more over-the-top anthems like “Breakout,” “(She’s Wearing) Yesterday’s Face,” and the epic “Never Die (Forever Wild).” Every track feels empowering in a positive way, and as though they could be inserted flawlessly in to just about any ’80s montage (see their latest, Top Gun-inspired video for “Silent Thunder”).

Crazy Lixx may have started out as a guilty pleasure for me, but now they’re pretty much everything I look for in a rock band these days. Sure their style may still invoke the party animal in the best of us; but what sets them apart from other bands in their field is the ability to not rely on raunchy themes or lyrics simply for shock value; I’ll take a band like them over the likes of Steel Panther any day.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 

Album Review: Whitesnake – Flesh & Blood (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)

Whitesnake

By: Jesse Striewski

I’m not really sure what’s more surprising; the fact I’m reviewing a new Whitesnake album in 2019, or the fact that it actually exceeds expectations. With so many bands from their era often not able to re-capture the same lightning in a bottle, Whitesnake are a definite exception.

The album’s first single, “Shut Up & Kiss Me,” was honestly a bit too generic to stir up much emotion for me. But the follow up single, “Hey You..You Make me Rock” definitely gets things back on the right track. There’s plenty of other rockers to get the party started, including “Good to See You Again,” “Trouble is Your Middle Name,” and my personal favorite off the album, “Well I Never.”

Of course there’s a couple of lighter moments as well; “Always & Forever,” “When I Think of You (Color Me Blue),” and The Beatles-inspired “After All,” which are all worthy of putting alongside any of the Snakes’ best power ballads. All in all, David Coverdale and company have assembled here 13 tracks more than just a little deserving of a listen that I might actually come back to hear again soon myself.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 

Album Review: Lord Dying – Mysterium Tremendum (Entertainment One)

Lord Dying

By: Jesse Striewski

Portland, Oregon’s Lord Dying first came across my radar while covering an Anvil show they were opening for a few years back. It’s no doubt been a minute not only since then, but since their most recent release 2015 release, Poisoned Alters, as well. After just one listen it’s apparent the guys have been hard at work honing their craft in the meantime.

It might have taken 4 years to get there, but the band seems to be reaching their peak here. This third effort follows the concept of (surprise!) death, with tracks such as “Envy the End,” “Tearing at the Fabric of Consciousness,” and “Nearing the End of the Curling Worm” leading the way.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on Lord Dying in any way, they omit enough talent to spark some interest over many similar bands within their genre of sludge-inspired metal (the ’70s-inspired guitar riffs found here have more in common with prog rock than your typical extreme metal act). Worth checking out for those with an open mind.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

Interview with Tommy Stinson By Jesse Striewski

Boston Calling Loses Momentum At Sundown On Sunday

Tommy Stinson has truly had the kind of career most aspiring musicians only ever dream about (and as one of the many bassists he’s influenced over the decades, I’m speaking from experience). In the early ’80s, he was a founding member of pioneering indie rockers The Replacements, a band that remains a personal favorite of mine to this very day. After their dissolution in the early ’90s, he briefly formed the alternative bands Bash & Pop and Perfect, before joining Guns N’ Roses (another personal fav of yours truly’s) in 1998, stepping in for departed bassist Duff McKagan – a role he occupied until McKagan’s eventual return to the band in 2016.

And if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also done time with ’90s rockers Soul Asylum, and in more recent years, he’s kept busy with semi-recent reunions of both The Replacements, and Bash & Pop, as well as released the occasional solo material. Stinson also has yet another new project called Cowboys in the Campfire that he’s working on, and next month will be embarking on a solo tour with The Lemonheads. Last week, I was able to actually catch up with Stinson over the phone while at his New York home regarding the upcoming tour, where we discussed his many past, present, and future endeavors.

I immediately asked Stinson if he had played with The Lemonheads prior to said upcoming tour, to which he said; “First time playing solo shows with them, yeah, but I did some shows with them when I was playing bass with Soul Asylum for awhile, maybe 10 years ago or so.” Tommy also says fans can expect to hear a little of everything on these shows; “I’ll probably lean a little more on my solo records and Bash & Pop stuff. I might even include some of my new stuff I’m working on with Cowboys in the Campfire, so a little bit of everything.”

As far as what songs Tommy still enjoys playing live, he tells me he’s really excited to get some of these new Cowboys in the Campfire songs out there. He also says, “A lot of the Bash & Pop stuff really translates well with an acoustic. There’s always “Friday Night (Is Killing Me)” and “Nothing” from that first album, those are always fun to play, and I can usually get a rise out of people and myself with them.”

I also had to ask what it was like being a part of the long-delayed 2008 Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy, one of the most talked about (and expensive) rock records ever made, to which he said; “You know, I have a few favorite moments on that record, I suppose one of them would be “There Was a Time.” It got to the point where we were rehashing things so much, and then they kind of went to the meat grinder and they sound like they sound now. It would be cool if one day it actually came out in a more raw form without all of the bells and whistles that were kind of heaped on top of it, you know?”

We ended our conversation on what’s in store for Tommy in the near future, to which he said; “With a little luck, I’ll be finishing up this Cowboys in the Campfire record, and after that hopefully starting to work on a new Bash & Pop album, probably by the end of the summer.” I also asked if there were any hopes at all of seeing another Replacements reunion after their last run ended in 2015; “I don’t really know if there’s any need or want for it anymore after we did that last bit. I haven’t really talked to Paul (Westerburg) in awhile and I’m not sure what he’s thinking right now. Never say never, but it looks like that last run might have been the last one.”

At the time of this writing, the closest Tommy will be coming to Florida on this upcoming tour with The Lemonheads is Atlanta, but you can keep up to date on tour dates, and everything else Tommy is up to at http://www.tommystinson.com, and via social media.

-J.S.

Album Review: L.A. Guns – The Devil You Know (Frontiers Music s.r.l)

LA Guns

By: Jesse Striewski

Just two short years after 2017’s The Missing Peace album, L.A. Guns are already back with new music. And unlike some bands from their era, they’re still releasing material worthy of putting alongside any of their “classic” efforts (no doubt attributed to the recent burying of the hatchet between guitarist Tracii Guns and singer Phil Lewis).

The production value isn’t the greatest, but there’s plenty of hard-hitting, energetic numbers found here with tiles like “Stay Away” and “Needle to the Bone,” and both the title track and “Rage” have some fun videos to go along with them.

When I first got in to L.A. Guns, it was around the Vicious Circle era; a lot of the songs here actually remind me of some of the heavier tracks from that album that I really loved (such as “Face Down” or “No Crime”). The Devil You Know may not be quite on the same level as some earlier releases, but it’s chock full of what the band does best, and if you’re already familiar with that at all, check this one out.

Rating: 3/5 Stars