Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Adam Gordon's Raindrops - Blending Modern with Modern

    Ambient, orchestral, neoclassic. Every now and then I step away from the grunge to partake in something lighter. But make no mistake; I'm still the middle-aged headbanger that has been spinning rock on a turntable since the early 1970s. Some things never die.

    Adam Gordon's Raindrops is thoroughly modern in a 20th Century sense. So in a way it's blending 20th Century with the 21st Century. I like the way some of the tracks build up and entertain. When this album was submitted for review, the musician advised that the listener mustn't be in a hurry. Very true. While my tastes typically steer towards an hard electric guitar and a pounding drum beat, I do like to slow down from time to time. This ambient stuff can really grow on you after a while. Here's what I discovered about each track:

    1. Raindrops - Classic smooth jazz track.

    2. Blue Hill - This one reminds me at first of Chet Baker's tracks that were in the movie "L.A. Confidential." but then it switches into a surprise blend of sounds not expected at the beginning.

    3. Remember (Interlude) - Haunting, sparse, builds on that theme with horns.'s over!

    4. Memories - Reminds me of snow falling, only a really fast hard snow. The keyboards have a 1980s feeling to them. Again, the buildup from a sparse beginning to a middle that creates a tapestry of sound and variety.

    5. Rainbow - My least-favorite track. Didn't build fast enough to keep me interested. Good musicianship though.

    6. Raindrops (Reprise) - I hear sadness, and of course the theme building that is common in all the tracks (except for Rainbow). It works well as a bookend song tied to the first track.

    As I've written this, each track has played at least three times. The entire collection is mellow enough that it doesn't really get old. Listen to the album for yourself in the embedded player below. If you don't see it, click HERE to listen to it directly on Jamendo.

    Musician Link:
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    Friday, December 25, 2009

    Merry Christmas from BelRedRoad

    Christmas is many things to many people. For me, Christmas is special because of who it represents. I hope this day for you is a great one, filled with comfort, joy, and music! Here's to an awesome 2010.


    Artwork Credit:

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Kendra Springer - Ivory Tells The Story

    I've long thought my blood is filled with too much metal...

    After all, I've been listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, BTO and others since the early 1970s. Since then I've picked up a taste for UFO, KISS, Scorpions, Winger, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, P.O.D, Machinae Supremacy, Nanowar, and an entire host of metal bands that carry on the hard traditions of the early days. It's almost a given that if you were to ride in my truck, chances are there would be an axe grinding on the stereo. It's just me. Old habits die hard, or not at all.

    It might come as a surprise to some that I also like it soft. From time to time I prefer music that doesn't bounce an eardrum, fuzz out an SG on overload, or incorporate a cowbell. Sometimes the quiet life is exactly what I need. For some reason I'm fond of Windham Hill recordings from the late 1970s and early 1980s. I'm specific about the time period because I haven't bought a Windham Hill disc in over 20 years. I's like an F350 driver admitting that he likes to drive his wife's Miata. Think what you like; I'm comfortable with who I am. If you're not familiar with the Windham Hill sound, think of stripped down melodies, built from piano and very little else. The songs can evoke the vision of an old house in winter, a wood floor and a warm fire after dark, or the feeling of your loved one nearby. Sure, the dichotomy is obvious here. Who would have thought a middle-aged headbanger with an English degree would take to the light sounds of piano and flute? Go figure.

    Maybe it's the melodies. Maybe it's the choice of notes, or possibly even the memories that surround me whenever I hear songs done in this style. No matter what the reason might be, Kendra Springer's freshman effort "Hope" is a great one to sample the sound. While some piano players are mechanically proficient, in these songs I hear style and feeling. Not perfect, but then I'm not asking it to be. What I ask for in a recording of this kind is to cry. Seriously. I want to shed a tear with every key change. I want the song to tell a story to my soul without a single word. The feeling can be in every keystroke, chord change, or the echoing fade as the song finishes. Perfection doesn't do that. Soul and spirit do. In the title song you can hear the sadness, the desire for companionship, and the long gaze into a future that may or may not include the love sought with a desperate fervency. And the story continues, track after track. It speaks successfully to the heart of a man who is approaching his 40th anniversary of hearing Zeppelin for the first time. Any ivory commando who can do that gets a ribbon, and a post on this blog.

    Try it for yourself. This is music for winding down. If your wound tight (like I am sometimes), close your eyes and hear the story that the piano tells. You might have to listen to the album a couple times, but it's worth the repeat as I hear something different each round. Download from the Music Link posted below, or listen to it right here if you see the embedded player.

    I think you'll find that a fuzzed-out SG isn't a requirement when speaking to your soul.

    Artwork Credit: billtex48
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    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Onslow - German for Headbanging Stoner

    Onslow's Demo 2006 is more proof that Germans rock hard. Really hard. Hard like Eastern bloc Soviet-era concrete apartment complexes. Heavy like Melvins, but faster. Dark like Black Sabbath with more fidelity. The steady driving rhythm pulls you in, and headbanging becomes as uncontrollable as a muscle spasm. This instrumental demo makes the most of tight musicianship, accurate percussion, and unchecked energy.

    Only problem is this: There's not enough Onslow to go around! The demo is only 25 minutes long, and every minute of it is like a audio bath in guitar goodness. All instrumental. The first track "624" starts quietly (as quiet as German Stoner Rock can be), and about a minute later explodes into a stew of volume and power chords. Perfect for those mornings when you have absolutely no motivation to do anything at all.

    Motivation: courtesy of Onslow.

    Artwork Credit:
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    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Sekshun 8 is The Reason for Eleven

    Funny thing about getting older: When I was 15, I expected that in 30 years I would be driving a Cadillac and listening to smooth jazz. Instead, I'm driving a pickup and listening to metal. Some things never change, despite the march of time.

    Sekshun 8 released Black Winged Butterfly in 2009, but its sound is authentic early Nineties. In short, it rocks. Rocks like there's no tomorrow. Rocks at a volume that simply asks for more volume. It is the reason for the 11 on your volume control. Don't have an 11? Then twist it to 10 and attach the headphones to your ears with duct tape. You will hear licks and beats which pay honor to Soundgarden, Mother Love Bone, early Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alice In Chains. My suspicion is that - at 15 - these guys were much like me.

    In fact, "Watch the Burn" is written with the voice of someone at that age - the ultimate rebel, akin to Alice Cooper's "Eighteen" or "School's Out." It's about the kid down your street, the one with the dead flatbed Ford in the yard and the old dryer on the front porch. You know him; he took a wiffle ball bat to your rose bushes in the front yard last summer, and knocked over your garbage cans after you complained to his parents.

    Together the songs "Three Blocks" and "Hooked" create a study in two ends of a lifestyle. The first song describes the pleasures some feel with over-indulgence through partying and drugs, while the second one describes in detail the sad results from doing so. While I will neither embrace nor endorse the lifestyle portrayed here, I will embrace the music as catchy, heavy, and thought provoking. Both songs go into overtime in painting a picture through words. I can feel the excitement of the first song, anticipating the all-night party that is only three blocks away. I can also feel the sickness and helplessness of Hooked as someone figures out they have taken too much of something and just want it to go away. Not a good place to be. If someone can listen to Hooked and then think that the druggie life is cool, then they need a lot more help than this album can provide. Understand this: I know from personal experience that this lifestyle tends to destroy a lot of lives - more than it helps. The subject matter is nothing to make light of. It's heavy stuff, because the end can be lonely and cold for anyone who crosses the wrong line. Maybe it was the band's goal to send the message that "life can be fun, but without self-control it will go straight down the toilet."

    "Zombie Baby" keeps the visuals coming, creepy visuals that are like a window into the soul of someone who cannot love anything with bodily warmth. Alice In Chains - if they haven't heard it already - would be proud.

    Check it out for yourself. You can download the album for free at the music link below, or listen to it here if you see the embedded player.

    Artwork Credit: Sekshun 8
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    Saturday, October 10, 2009

    Critical Mass - Piñata

    Here's a great song that takes the childhood joy of breaking a Piñata and describes in adult terms. But then, aren't most of us just big kids at heart?

    Click the embedded player to hear the song. If you don't see it, click HERE to listen and download for free at!

    Photo Credit: Archie McPhee
    Music Link: Critical Mass Featuring The Lazy American


    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Video - KISS on Letterman

    35 years of KISS. What the? Am I really that old?

    My friend Brett is a huge KISS fan. Been that way as long as I can remember. He can rattle off facts, figures, progressions, playing styles etc. like nobody in the world. A couple of nights ago (literally, not figuratively), he posted a link at 2am on Facebook, for this YouTube Video of KISS playing on Letterman. After watching it, I was stunned at how tight they are and how much they still sound like the old days.

    Put simply, I'm buying their new album!

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