4 musical videos, January 2014

Lately I seem to spend a lot of time on YouTube. A. Lot. of. Time.
The amount of videos there that interests me is ridiculous but of course, I don’t have enough time. Just a very long “watch later” list.
But why should I alone have all the fun – here are the gems I found in January, from a musicians point of view of course.

1.Foo Fighters on recording “Wasting Light” at Dave Grohl’s house
The question was “what can we make different in recording this new album”. Fascinating. Sure it’s easy to go easy about a new album when you have millions in the bank but you still have to get the creative juices flowing in the right direction. Mission accomplished.

2. Guthrie Govan on Dunlop TV
I didn’t know about this guy until two years ago and he quickly came to be one of my favorite players. For one thing, he’s British, not only with the accent but also with a superb sense of humor, I could just listen to him talk for hours. On the other hand, he merges lots of playing styles with a level of fluidity that most guys are happy to reach in one style. This is just a peak, lots more to find.

3. Backyard Concert with Jason Mraz
All I knew was “I’m yours” but for some reason this clip made it into my watch later list. I watched about an hour of it and although it’s just him with a guitar on a makeshift stage I had the greatest time. He sings great, very witty, totally cool about the situation and being just a nice dude.

4. Rig Rundown – Aerosmith’s Joe Perry
Rig rundowns are fun. Basically a well-known guitarist explains his live setup, or as in this case, his guitar tech. Perry’s tech has a lot of work to do each night, I chose this rundown for that. For the curious: He does the switching, or Perry does, or not. The many guitars Perry takes with him may be for certain songs, but maybe not. At moments notice. This tech isn’t just tuning the guitars during the show, he works about as hard as Perry in my opinion…

A musical preview of 2014

In the last two years music has taken a much bigger place in my life again. That’s a good thing. Although I get great input I usually start the year by checking out other people’s/magazines’s best of lists. I made some on Spotify, feel free to check them out: Mike Portnoy, Eddie Trunk, Guitar World, Music Radar.

As noted in the 2013 review I very much grew to like going to concerts again so that’s what I’ll try to focus on. There will be releases from Steel Panther, Flying Colors, Sebastian Back, The Brew, Adrenaline Mob and more to look forward to, but I intend to catch lots of concerts, focusing on the “small to medium”-sized acts.

Here’s what I have so far:
9.1. Protest the Hero, TessaracT, Safety Fire
13.1. Helhorse @Astra-Stuben
9.2. Dream Theater @ Hannover
5.3. Aristocrats @ Fabrik
10.3. The Intersphere @ Knust
14.3. The New Roses @ Rock Cafe
22.3. Henrik Freischlader
28.3. TM Stevens
Sharron Levy
Sebastian Bach
The Brew
Plan B
Ich sucht
Kapelle Herrenweide
The Rawkings

And as I also hinted in the review there should be new original music in 2014. But that is indeed another story.

A musical review of 2013

I couple of end-of-year/beginning-of-year posts ahead.

Album of the year

2013 was a big year for releases of bands I liked, as noted last March.  Many were good, some great, all meant something. My top 5 in no particular order:

#1: The Winery Dogs – The Winery Dogs / best rock album in years, very fluid, lots of soul
#2: Queensryche – Queensryche / great comeback album, so excited to see them back at full speed and they’re already in the studio
#3: Bleu – To Hell with you / great songwriting/composition and ‘new’ production that turned my ears into new directions
#4: Karnivool – Asymmetry / Slowly but steady Karnivool is turning into my favorite band, replacing the mighty Dream Theater. I love the textures, the sound, the quirky characters, overall feel.
#5: Sharron Levy – Rough_Ready / very solid debut from the former The Voice contestant. it grows with every listen and that’s all you can ask for.

I also liked a lot: Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP 2, Niacin – Krush, The New Roses – Without a Trace, Black Light Burns – The Moment You Realize you’re going to fall

Top concerts

I re-discovered how much I liked live shows and saw quite a few actually. Playing on Thursdays and Saturdays a lot myself I couldn’t attend every show I wanted but most I saw were fun.

Best moment: Bleu performing in my living room. I realize I haven’t written about this and I must, but suffice to say it moved me lots to listen to his great songs but also to share it with friends, family and neighbors.

Most rocking show: The Winery Dogs. There was so much soul and blues in their show, with the songs taking center stage, not the chops.

Best overall concert: Karnivool/The Intersphere. Best support act of the year, by far. Plus, I had high expectations for Karnivool – and they were met.

Best concert I missed: I should have not only interviewed Wes Borland but also stuck around for the Black Light Burns show. Others I didn’t see: Mark Tremonti, Sharron Levy, Queensryche (but in my defense, they didn’t play anywhere close)

Playing live

Our cover band Mrs. Jones was quite active last year with 27 gigs or so. It’s not enough to live on but almost too many to play as a hobby. Still, I enjoyed almost every single one of them and we’ll continue to pound the stages of the Reeperbahn. This year.

Original music

As mentioned I also got around to start a new band with my music but that is actually a story for 2014…

Review: Queensryche – Queensryche

If you left the earth after Queensryche’s Empire or Promised Land album, came back in 2013, went into a record store and bought their current release Queensryche you’d hear exactly what you’d expect: a modern sounding Queensryche record with good lyrics, great riffs, grooving bass lines and of course Rockenfield as Rockenfield on drums. All non-time travellers had to suffer several some so-so albums but should trust all reviews out there, rejoice and make sure to catch the Todd La Torre-fronted Queensryche on their upcoming tour (I know I will, even if I have to go to f*cking Quadrath-Ichenau… seriously, who finds these places in the woods).

My favorite older album is Empire and I can say exactly what won me over on this record: Bass guitar and drums are grooving in sync again. You don’t have to listen farther than the second track and make it to the verse to understand what I mean. If you were worried about the new frontman don’t be – he can actually sing, and does which feels genuinely refreshing, compared to the last albums with Geoff Tate (who’s turd of a record Queensryche – Frequency Unknown features 1-2 nice songs but only one track that fits under the label Queensryche).

I’d say the new Queensryche definitely delivered and if that is what will convince the judge, so be it. I for one can’t bend my head around the fact that a judge would hold back his verdict on such an integral part as a band’s name for almost a year, but hey, I am no judge…

Review: Joe Satriani – Unstoppable Momentum

About three weeks ago Joe Satriani released his 14th studio album, Unstoppable Momentum. It is a beauty. I say this with the listening experience of all albums, being a fan since the The Extremist album.

Coincidentally, The Extremist is also the album that Unstoppable Momentum reminds me most of sonically. From the opening bars of the opening track with the same name, Unstoppable Momentum is a very dense record melodically while giving you a huge sound range, inviting you to lie back and enjoy the ride just like the track Why did on the mentioned Extremist.

Rhythmically one can find the classic straight Satriani tracks as well as the syncopated beats that The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing suggested and many songs on the 1995 Joe Satriani answered. Especially during the latter kind of songs drummer extraordinair Vinnie Colaiuta, first time playing on a Satriani record, really shines.

The band. In the Behind the recording YouTube video(s) Satriani explains how the band came about and how every take was special. I think you can hear it. In the drum intro to Can’t Go Back, in the break beats that work as foundation for Lies and Truths, in the groove that powers Jumpin’ In and Jumpin’ Out. This was not a track by track recording process (meaning first click, then drums, then bass, then guitars) but “let’s roll the tape and see if we catch the magic”.

Unstoppable Momentum is a really good record and maybe the best Satriani record since Joe Satriani.

Review: Steve Lukather live in Hamburg, Markthalle 03/24/13

Update: My comments on the overall sound in general and especially bass guitar sound obviously angered Steve which wasn’t my intention, and it’s only my observation – Sabine from Dream Out Loud had no issues with the overall sound, on the contrary. I went back to the text and made sure to be clear that the guitar sound was perfect and although the sound could have been better it was a great performance.

I have documented that Steve Lukather has a special place in my (guitar) education so it doesn’t come as a surprise that I pre-ordered his newest release as soon as it was available and – thank you Mascot Records – received it on the promised day.
The nine track-effort, labelled as the final part of a trilogy (2010’s All’s well that ends well and 2008’s Every changing times are the other two pieces) continues in his established style but with a more seasoned and relaxed approach. The opener Judgement Day for example features a simple melodic solo you could whistle along to, serving the song not any notes per minute ratio. Creep Motel feels like a highway song, the groove grabbing you to nod along, no doubt pushed also by the bass playing of Lee Sklar.
There is the classical power ballad in Right the wrong with epic chorus section and the much appreciated (almost) instrumental epic in Transition. It is the subtleness in his compositions that on the one hand make it easy on the ear and interesting to the listener who discovers layer after layer, e.g. percussion, monotonous piano, and background vocals in Last Man Standing. For all the simplicity of the recording process (Music Man Luke III, Bogner amplifier, Sure SM57) the record sounds great on small ear plugs, laptop speakers and the big system which I can’t say for every new release I heard this year.

Last night, Lukather and band (Steve Weingart on keys, Renee Jones on bass and vocals, Eric Valentine on drums) visited the Markthalle again, playing a little over 2 hours worth of tunes (no support band), with material from Transition, All’s well that ends well, Ever Changing Times, Candyman, Luke and the release with Carlton (here is the setlist).

Due to my interview duties I was at the venue when Steve arrived as he commented “I have a good feeling about tonight”, and it certainly showed. Lukather was in a very playful mood, but not in the “shut up, we know you can play” meaning. Rather, as on the latest record, he seemed to pour his heart into the songs. You can often tell how committed an artist is too a song and the audience when he’s more focused on the setlist tape or his hair. Luke was in the zone, with all the emotional ups and downs the stories of his songs tell At least that’s how I saw it. Very tasteful, just a great guitar player.
The rest of the band was following in his foot steps, most notably drummer Eric Valentine who’s a joy to listen to and look at, he brings a lot of energy to the band. Weingart was formidable and played great solos but that’s about all I can say because:

The sound was horriblenot as good as it should have been for the most part. It’s hard for me to understand how four people can sound worse than the eleven who were on stage at the same time when I saw Neal Morse/Flower Kings last month. Guitar and drums were audible but bass guitar basically non-existens (not helped by the cabinet being pointed rather to the side) and ‘rhythm’ keyboards drowning in the mix. And it wasn’t even that loud, so there must have been room for improvement, especially since the venue was packed and echoes thus manageble. And I don’t think it were my ears either: Renee Jones’ bass guitar was bad in the mix during Lukather’s November 11 concert so I was very excited to finally literally hear her but no. And I switched positions too, fearing I was in a dip or black hole of the venue but to no avail. Although I could clearly see her play the bass guitar was mostly nonexistent aside from the sections where Lukather and Weingart played with less volume (which apparently was a resut of a blown speaker).

Too bad reallyThat was a bit of a let down,  since Lukather was in prime time form and he and the band visibly enjoyed playing for a very receptive and thankful crowd which loved every minute of it (edit: added the Italics part). Of course I took some stupid cell phone pictures too, you can find them here.