Friday, November 21, 2014

DVD Review: New Documentary Shows Rock Music's Influence On Bringing Down The Berlin Wall

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In honor of that achievement, Lightyear Entertainment and Specialty Studios created the documentary "Rockin' The Wall: How Music Ripped The Iron Curtain." The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 in order to keep the civilians of East Berlin and the Eastern Bloc from traveling to West Berlin for freedom of expression. The seventy-plus minute documentary discusses the impact that rock 'n' roll music had on the fall of the Berlin Wall. When the wall was built over in Germany, the U.S. was booming with the automobile industry and rock music and how music was everywhere. The documentary includes interviews from members of The Doors, Vanilla Fudge, Toto, Quiet Riot and Mother's Finest. One of the great discussions is how British and American rock music was smuggled into East Berlin and what sort of an impact it had on the youth of that city. American funk/rock band America's Finest was one of the first bands to perform live in East Berlin and how difficult it was to cross through the famous "Checkpoint Charlie." Members of Vanilla Fudge discuss how they took popular songs from the early-sixties and added a hard rock edge to them to give their music a more political charge. Quiet Riot's Rudy Sarzo recalls his emotions the day he heard that the Berlin Wall came down and was already looking ahead to try and cure the troubles of bands performing live in Cuba.
 
The film was inspired by Larry Schweikart's book "Seven Events That Made America America" as rock music became a liberating force against Russia's Iron Curtain. The movie's soundtrack features over a dozen songs performed by some of the musicians that played a big role in the destruction of the Berlin Wall. The "Rockin' The Wall" documentary has been touring across the U.S. over the course of the past few months. A DVD and digital download of the documentary was released on November 4th. To find out more about this historic event, please visit rockinthewallstudios.com.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CD Review: Omnivore Recordings Releases Deluxe Reissues From Old 97's And Game Theory

The Dallas, TX band Old 97's released their debut album "Hitchhike to Rhome" in 1994 and instantly became one of the founders of alternative-country music alongside such bands as Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown and The Jayhawks. Since then, the band has released ten studio albums during their twenty year career and has became one of the top live draws around the country and one of the few successful alt-country bands that is still together. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Omnivore Recordings is re-releasing it as an expanded two-CD set featuring demos and outtakes from the recording sessions for the album. The first disc contains the original sixteen-song album which has been remixed from the original session tapes by Rip Rowan, Old 97's longtime engineer. The songs definitely benefit from these remixes as the twang of the country-stomp opener "St. Ignatius" and the punk-like speed of the grunge-like rocker "504" sound very fresh and new. The sixties-sway of "Dancing With Tears" and the southern surf-guitar of "Leaf Clover" shows the band's diversity in these early days. Their cover of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" shows their respects to the early days of country, while also injecting youth into their sound in "If My Heart Was A Car."
 
The second disc begins with the band's four-song demo cassette that contained the storied lyrics of regretful love in the unreleased song "Making Love With You." The demo version of "Dancing With Tears" has a more laid-back acoustic feel, while "Ivy" is a work-in-progress that has the Old 97's still searching for their alt-country sound. The final six songs on the second disc contain outtakes that the band recorded for their debut album, but never made the final cut. The quick pace of "Eyes For You" is a shot of punk youth, while "Victoria" has the perfect blend of country and rock that would have fit perfectly on the original release. Fans can thank guitarist Ken Betha who discovered these tracks while digging for the original tapes for remixing the album. This new set from the Old 97's was released on November 17th. The band has a handful of live shows to finish out the year. To find out more about this new expanded version of "Hitchhike To Rhome," please visit old97s.com.
 
Underground 80's power pop band Game Theory released five full-length albums that have since been out of print, that was until Omnivore Recordings stepped in. The band's 1982 debut album "Blaze Of Glory" was remastered and re-released in September by Omnivore Recordings and now the label is looking to re-release the French-only compilation "Dead Center." The album was released in 1984 in France only and it combines the band's first two EPs "Pointed Accounts Of People You Know" and "Distortion."
 
The music definitely carries that synthesizer sound that made every pop song a hit in the 80's. Beginning with the modern, keyboard-heavy "Nine Lives To Rigel Five," Game Theory were full of pop anthems that never caught the ear of the general public, but found an underground following as the band grew to cult status. The band looked to be the leaders of the early 80's new wave movement with "Dead Center," but also show their post-punk edginess with their rendition of "The Letter." The original ten-song release adds on another eleven songs to this newly released version of the album. The bonus tracks are made up of demos, live versions and rare mixes of the song's that have showed up on this and other albums from Game Theory. The live versions of "Mother Of Pearl" and "Trouble" shows the band enjoying the live setting as their passion for performing is heard in the delivery of these songs. One of the highlights of the bonus tracks is Game Theory's live cover of "Gloria" as they try to capture the intensity of the original. The newly remastered version of Game Theory's album "Dead Center" will be available on November 24th. To find out more, please visit omnivorerecordings.com.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CD Review: New Independent Artists Tackle Country, Jazz, Soul, Punk & Alternaitve Music

From the Chicago area comes some new independent releases from singer/songwriters Angela James and Sarah Marie Young, along with new music from the alternative/punk band Dead On TV. The new quick-hitting EP from Dead On TV features six high octane, energy-filled songs beginning with the title-song "Creeper." Their rhythm is contagious as you can easily get into the punk bashing of "Pour Your Heart Out." They do slow the tempo down for the grunge-like alternative feel of "Screwdriver," before finishing with the reckless attack of "I'm Easy." To find out more about Dead On TV, please visit deadontv.org.
 
Americana singer/songwriter Angela James recently released her full-length debut album entitled "Way Down Deep" back in October. The album has a gentle feel to it as you are introduced to James' warming voice with the minimal instrumentation of the opener "Halo." The laid-back country feel of "Drink And Try Not To Cry" and gentle folk sound of "Lost And Found" showcases why there is no need to rush through this album. It is like a fine wine that you take your time with in order to enjoy it more. The chorus of "All I Need" hooks you in after only one listen, while "Can't Go Home" sounds like a potential hit on the country charts. The album closes with the mellow sway of "Lighting Strikes" as you realized that you are hooked by the voice of Angela James. To find out more about her new album "Way Down Deep," please visit angelajamesmusic.com
 
Soulful Jazz singer Sarah Marie Young recently released her second album "Little Candy Hearts" through Snip Records. The new eleven-song release of originals showcases Young's sweet, sultry voice as in "Can't Stop."  She gets a little more jazzy on the up-tempo swing of "Little Candy Hearts," then gets her pop groove going with "Black And White," but the soft smoothness of "Long Way To Go" is where her voice shines. The album closes with the gospel-like hymn of "Be With You" as Young's voice continues to impress. To find out more about Sarah Marie Young and her latest release "Little Candy Hearts," please visit sarahmarieyoung.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CD Review: New Music From Singer/Songwriters Suzanne Jarvie, Dan Medakovic & Hovey Otis

From Toronto, Canada comes the debut album from singer/songwriter Suzanne Jarvie entitled "Spiral Road." It was produced by Hugh Christopher Brown (Ani DiFranco, Barenaked Ladies) and was released on November 11th. Her sound on this new release is sunk deep into the country/Americana music as felt in the steady opener "Before And After" and the gentle touch of "2458." The song "Never Gonna Stop" is very personable to Suzanne as she sings about her son waking up from his coma despite what doctors have told her. She picks up the tempo on the smooth country rocker "Enola Gay" and sings with a renewed inspiration on "Love Is Now." Suzanne finishes the album with a return to the opening song with "Before And After Redux" which has a more bluegrass feel without the full harmonies that are in the opener. To find out more about Suzanne Jarvie and her new album "Spiral Road, please visit suzannejarvie.com.

Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Medakovic recently released his latest studio album "Jolley Cut" on November 7th. After venturing out with the alternative-country group, Fry Truck, Medakovic returned to the studio to create an album of folk/rock gems that sound timeless.  The new twelve song release begins with the acoustic, slow jaunt of "Big Yellow Moon" that just plain feels right as you can't help but sing along to the chorus. The album's first single, "The Hardest Part" has a laid-back feel as Medakovic's vocals are right at home amongst the folk heroes of the seventies. The title song, "Jolley Cut" has a classic country feel, while "Gringo In Paradise" sound like an outtake from Cat Stevens' "Tea For The Tillerman" album. Medakovic's music is very addictive as you feel comfort in his lyrics to "Chrome Hearts (Slow Drive Home)" and he adds a little island-flavor to the Jimmy Buffet like "Taco Star." The album finishes with the acoustic, war-fueled lyrics of "Stripes And Stars." To find out more about Dan Medakovic and his latest album, "Jolley Cut," please visit jolleycut.com.

From Burlington, VT comes the debut EP from Hovey Otis, led by singer/songwriter Tim Davis. The new release entitled "Standing Alone" was produced by Rob Stroup at 8 Ball Studio in Portland, OR and features five songs that deal with love and loss. The album begins with the warm folk sounds of "Standing Alone" then tells the story of love a first sight in "Girl With No Name." Hovey Otis picks up the tempo on the folk/rock of "New Mexico," before closing with "Your Story" as lead singer Tim Davis's vocals draws up similarities to John Mayer on this smooth ballad. To find out more about Hovey Otis, please visit hoveyotis.com.

Monday, November 17, 2014

CD Review: Japanese Punk Band Slang Look To Further Their Success With "Devastation"

Japanese hardcore metal/punk band Slang recently released their seventh studio album entitled "Devastation In The Void" on October 11th through Cleopatra Records. They followed that up with the release of their former album "Glory Outshines Doom" just two weeks later. The band has built a strong underground following in the U.S. with a successful tour in 2010 which spawned a live DVD of the shows. With the release of these album simultaneously, Slang look to built upon the success they have achieved here in the U.S.
 
The album "Devastation In The Void" is eleven-songs of high-powered energy that comes off aggressive, beginning with the opener "Scum." The speed and adrenaline are pumping through "Yoshimura Hideki," before slowing the rhythm down just a bit for the four-minute "Dystopia" (the longest song on the album). All of the lyrics are in Japanese which are almost impossible to understand (unless you speak Japanese), but are not necessary to get blown away by the sheer force of the music being performed. The guitars in "Reason Of Brutality" look to overpower you along with the super quick, fast-paced drumming of "Cursed Dawn." The album closes with the fused New York-brand hardcore metal into their sound on "162 Graves."
 
The band's previous release "Glory Outshines Doom" is fifteen-songs of powerful hardcore speed metal. The song titles are in Japanese, but by the second song, you'll realize that Slang has a crushing, take not prisoners attack, that is pure metal. They turn the traditional "Happy Birthday To You" into a devastating attack, using their instruments as weapons. The album does feature a couple of sixty-plus seconds instrumentals that pay homage to their early metal influences. The title-song "Glory Outshines Doom" brings together all the elements to create a crushing close to the album. To find out more about Slang and their two latest releases through Cleopatra Records, please visit cleorecs.com.