Flashback of the Month
Storyville Robbie Robertson Geffen
1991's Storyville was Robbie Robertson's second solo effort, coming some 15 years after The Band had decided to call it quits. Despite glowing reviews, music fans were ambivalent at the time, since after all, it was a breakout year for Mariah Carey. But sales success doesn't always equal music with staying power; otherwise we'd all be riding around listening to the Bay City Rollers.
Storyville is one of those undiscovered American masterpieces, like that vintage bike discovered in some old barn, only the music comes fully assembled; and what a lost gem it is. For those who live near New Orleans, all you have to do is play this album while cruising through that city's parishes or somewhere similar-the Spanish Moss can be optional (Memphis will also do). You'll have to turn it up, because it's both subtle and complex, with Crescent City rhythms and Bourbon Street stroll, steeped in Louisiana mysticism. The guest appearances bring something to the music, as opposed to just marketing exercises: Bruce Hornsby, Garth Hudson, Aaron Neville, Neil Young, and others add a dose of seasoning.
As on his first solo album, Robbie plays the role of story narrator and singer, as in "Day of Reckoning (Burnin' For You)," a rather steamy love song of sorts. Like good scotch, it's music that's best enjoyed from start to finish. Love affairs, politics, religion, worldly advice-it's all here, waiting to be discovered.
Sting in the Tail
You know the adage that goes something like, "If you don't have anything nice to say..."? Well, lets change that to, "If you don't have anything to say...". One wonders why the Scorpions decided to make this their one last album before retirement. After 22 million albums sold, did they really need the money? To see a once great band go out on an album like this is a truly sad thing to witness.
Things start out well enough, with "Raised on Rock," recycling riffs from their previous hits. At least it's listenable. The album's title track (and best song) comes up next. Still, things are OK. But then we get "Slave Me," a song about...what? Middle-age lust? The lyrics are über-cornball. "The Good Die Young" is full of tired lines and lyrical re-treads. Ditto the next track, "No Limit." Any up-and-coming metal band wouldn't dare write lyrics like this in 2010. The first big ballad, "Lorelei," is pathetically clichéd and lyrically juvenile. Now we know what happens when Bert and Ernie decide to join a rock band. The other power ballad, "Sly" is a love song to...a dude? I mean Sly is short for Sylvester right? The line "Sly come home tonight" is sung like the kid who cries out "Shane!" in the famous western. And things get worse when we hear:
"When the runaway train took you way, a part of me died..."
Huh? Rappers can write better than this. You too, will be left trying to figure out how he/she ended up on a runaway train. The album's closer, "The Best is Yet to Come," sounds like something aging rockers play at their retirement party. Not a pretty sight. Trust me; you don't want to be hanging around to hear this track. Oh well, at least we have fellow German rockers, Rammstein, around to carry on the torch. Good thing.
Dress to Kill
2 Cents Eight 0 Five
Meanwhile the kids are alright. Bassist Jesse Fishman, guitarist Dean Woodward, and brothers Adam (drums), and Dave O'Rourke (guitar) make up Los Angeles punk metalists 2 Cents, but they are more like a sock full of coins to the temple. On their latest album, Dress to Kill, the title track, "Love Like a Riot" and "Come and Get It" kick things off like an artillery barrage. The band has made a name for itself playing maximum-security youth correctional facilities across the country, which to us sounds like throwing red meat to the lions. One would think a steady dose of Norah Jones would be more apropos. "Wicked by Design" makes a great biker anthem, while "Now you Know" is the right way to do a metal ballad. Of course we're using the word "ballad" loosely here because 2 Cents barely slows down their relentless attack.
2 Cents may, or may not be, the future of rock 'n' roll. For sure, they are definitely a guilty pleasure if you like to seek out open roads to open her up a little and ride like a bat out of hell (nothing that we officially endorse, of course). But let's face it, sometimes it's fun to play outlaw. And that's what this band is all about-having fun.
Black Gives Way to Blue
Alice in Chains
Alice In Chains could only come out of Seattle, the home of grunge and bands that seemed to follow an eerily similar history (Nirvana, Soundgarden, etc.) of internal strife and drug abuse. Drugs claimed the life of Alice In Chains' front-man Layne Staley in 1996, and the band has been in a sort of limbo ever since.
Fans hoping for another album like 1992's Dirt were instead treated to the abbreviated EP Jar of Flies released in 1994. The lack of touring didn't help, but the fellas sold CDs anyway, as witnessed by their eponymous third album which debuted at number one.
Listening to their latest album Black Gives Way to Blue, it becomes obvious these guys aren't corporate rockers. The new vocalist, William Duvall, is a great fit and surprisingly sounds like Staley in places. It's like the band has adopted the trend of motorcycle companies and stripped away the chrome to add more black. The songs are well constructed, but the themes remain dark, less ambiguous, but nonetheless brooding. Punctuated throughout by chugging, distorted guitars, the songs grow on you with repeated listening. There's much here to consume. "Check My Brain," "Last of My Kind," and "When the Sun Rose Again" exhibit the sort of superior song construction and musicianship that escapes lesser groups. Alice In Chains is simply a very good band that has nothing left to prove.
The Sound of Madness
From the Creed/Nickelback mold of melodic rock comes The Sound of Madness, the latest album from Shinedown, who hit it big with their platinum debut release and even saw their sophomore effort go gold. The band now features vocalist Brent Smith, drummer Barry Kerch, guitarist Zach Myers, and bass player Eric Bass. Bands like this do what they do very well. The stakes are high in this genre and the band's label, Atlantic Records is grooming them like the second coming of Bad Company. Grammy-winning producer Rob Cavallo (Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day), worked the controls to the point of perfection, never letting things get too far out of control.
The songs on this album, which was released last summer, are enjoyable enough and play exceptionally well on those short summer rides to the beach. Yeah, the music might appeal to a somewhat younger set, but that's what rock is all about-it keeps you young. We may grimace at the term "melodic rock," but you can't knock the band for releasing an album that's enjoyable, even if it sounds like you heard it all before.