Check out my review at my music blog, Metal Excess!
Rick Springfield – Songs for the End of the World
(2012, Universal Music Enterprises)
1. Wide Awake
2. Our Ship’s Sinking
3. I Hate Myself
4. You & Me
6. A Sign of Life
7. My Last Heartbeat
9. Love Screws Me Up
10. I Found You
12. One Way Street
Rick Springfield – Lead Vocals, Guitar
George Bernhardt – Guitar
Tim Pierce – Guitar
Dan Strain – Guitar
Matt Bissonette – Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Rodger Carter -Drums
George Nastos – Guitar
Richard Page – Vocals
John Waite – Vocals
Producer: Rick Springfield & Matt Bissonette
One of the biggest surprises of the year for me has been Songs for the End of the World. Sure, I know a handful of Rick Springfield’s hit and while I’ve never had a problem with them, I never felt truly compelled to seek out any of his albums. Well, I was aware this album was coming out but still wasn’t too interested in checking it out. Then I came across some extremely high praise for this album online and decided that I needed to see what the big deal was. My conclusion? This is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.
Now, I’m not someone who has followed Rick Springfield throughout his career so perhaps his fanbase already knew what to expect from Rick but for anyone who remembers him for “Jessie’s Girl’ and being an ’80s heartthrob on a soap opera, there is nothing retro or ’80s about this album. Springfield has crafted a near perfect masterpiece of modern rock/pop with Songs for the End of the World. If this album had been released by an artist half (or a third) his age, we’d probably have some big radio hits to talk about here. Sadly, that’s not how the music business works these days but at 63 years old, Rick’s voice is fantastic, the lyrics are excellent, the production is amazingly well done and the songs themselves dig their way into your brain and decide to make themselves at home.
If Rick’s back catalog is even half as good as this album, I’ve really really been missing out. I’ve seen a number of critics online stating this is easily his best album since returning to recording music in 1999 and some sites are even going as far to say it’s one of his best albums PERIOD.
The first four tracks are outstanding: “Wide Awake” is a great opener, “Our Ship’s Sinking” and “I Hate Myself” are fantastic anthems that should go over HUGE with a live crowd and “You & Me” is the type of pop/rock ballad that should be all over radio.
“My Last Heartbeat”, “Depravity”, “I Found You” all have a very modern, dark heavier edge to them. “I Found You” especially. A band of twenty-somethings should wish they could write this good. “Love Screws Me Up” is yet another classic anthem that is sure to go down great in a live setting.
“One Way Street” and “A Sign of Life” are good songs but they are the only songs that song a bit less modern but not in a “oh, that sounds like an ’80s song” kind of way. Maybe “timeless” is the correct word? The only two tracks that fall flat with me are the ballads “Joshua” and “Gabriel”. I just can’t get into ’em.
If you’re a fan of melodic rock, you really have to pick this album up. I’m converted based off this album alone.
Highlights: “Wide Awake”, “Our Ship’s Sinking”, “I Hate Myself”, “You & Me”, “My Last Heartbeat”, “Love Screws Me Up”, “I Found You”, “Depravity”
Jack Blades – Rock ‘N Roll Ride
(2012, Frontiers Records)
1. Back In The Game … 4:21
2. Rock ‘N Roll Ride … 4:18
3. Hardest Word To Say … 4:37
4. Anything For You … 4:06
5. Love Life … 4:28
6. West Hollywood … 4:11
7. Born For This … 4:32
8. Don’t Give Up … 3:08
9. Say You Will … 4:26
10. Rise And Shine … 3:43
11. Hey Now … 4:39
Jack Blades – Lead/Backing Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar
Will Evankovich – Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Backing Vocals
Kelly Keagy – Drums
Brian Tichy – Drums
Eric Levy – Keyboards
Christian Matthew Cullen – Keyboards
After enjoying Night Ranger’s Somewhere In California so much, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I would enjoy Jack Blades’ latest solo effort Rock ‘N Roll Ride. I wasn’t wrong and Jack didn’t let me down! The album rocks a bit harder than Night Ranger, isn’t quite as polished or keyboard-heavy as Night Ranger can but Rock ‘N Roll Ride still fits under the same melodic hard rock category.
Much like Somewhere In California, this is great album to listen to during the summer. The whole album brings to mind to the beach, blue skies, bright sun shining down, road trips, friends and pure fun. “Love Life” and “Born For This” say it all. Great positive inspirational anthems that are perfect to enjoy under the warm sun.
“West Hollywood” is a song that I almost swore was a cover, it sounded so familiar, until I read in the press kit that it was inspired by The Beatles and was co-written with Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. There’s that same vibe familiarity with “Don’t Give Up”. That tune reminds me of Tom Petty. “Anything For You” also reminds me of The Beatles.
The ballad “Hardest Word To Say” is another fave but it sounds like something you’d hear on country radio these days (since country has basically become rock/pop). I can imagine Rascal Flatts doing this song. Maybe Jack should pursue a solo career as a country music artist? I’m serious, I would push that to country radio and see what happens. Back to the high energy stuff, “Back In The Game” and “Rock ‘N Roll Ride” are the hardest rocking numbers of the bunch and a good way to kick off the album. “Say You Will” is another fired up rocker.
Blades has developed a reputation as a great songwriter in the industry. He’s written and collaborated successfully with many artists and I’m glad he’s taken the time to develop songs for himself this time. Rock ‘N Roll Ride should be picked up by Night Ranger fans (after all, four-fifths of the band play on the album!) and any fan of melodic hard rock. Fun, uplifting rock album.
Highlights: “Rock ‘N Roll Ride”, “Hard Word To Say”, “Love Life”, “Born For This”, “Don’t Give Up”, “Say You Will”
My Darkest Days – Sick And Twisted Affair
(2012, Mercury Records)
1. Sick And Twisted Affair … 3:41
2. Save Yourself … 3:43
3. Casual Sex … 3:16
4. Stutter … 2:45
5. Nature Of The Beast … 3:03
6. Perfect … 3:51
7. Again … 3:38
8. Gone … 3:33
9. Love Crime … 2:59
Matt Walst – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Sal Costa – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brendan McMillan – Bass
Doug Oliver – Drums, Percussion
Reid Henry – Keyboard, Backing Vocals
John 5 – Guitar (“Casual Sex”)
Barry Stock – Guitar (“Again”)
Producer: Joey Moi
Well, when something is working, why change it? Just like My Darkest Days’ self-titled debut, Sick And Twisted Affair has he same producer (sans Chad Kroeger), guest musicians and dirty catchy club-worthy hard rock numbers that deal with sex.
There is a deluxe edition that features extra tracks a few alternate mixes and the same cover art but colored differently (I prefer the deluxe edition’s color scheme). I haven’t heard the deluxe edition but I’m really loving the fact that there’s only 9 songs on the regular edition. Always leave ’em wanting more, never overstay your welcome. Helps to cut down on filler too.
Speaking of filler, the only track I would consider to be just that is the band’s cover of Joe & Mystikal’s “Stutter”. I loved their take on Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” on the last album but this one doesn’t work, IMO.
So getting to what does work, let’s start off with the lead single “Casual Sex”. Definitely the follow up to “Porn Star Dancing” and meant to appeal to the club scene but that’s okay because it rocks at the same time (and just like “Porn Star Dancing” there are pop and rock mixes available). With that song and others, I’m noticing keyboards being used a lot more. There’s very much a synth sound found on “Sick And Twisted Affair”, “Love Crime” and “Again” where the band comes across like a sexier version of Orgy (not that orgies can’t be sexy).
More in the typical modern hard rock style there is “Nature of the Beast” which I would place as the weakest original track on the album.
It’s really hard to pick the best tracks because I find myself repeating each song 2 or 3 times. On this day alone I think I’ve listened to this album 6 or 7 times total. Virtually every song will stick in your head and take up space. There’s so much single potential here. “Love Crime”, “Again”, “Save Yourself” and “Gone” are ready for rock & pop stations. “Save Yourself” and “Gone” are the two ballads on the album, great songs and I can definitely see them blowing up big on the pop stations.
As with the debut, this album is going to be one of my favorite of the year. Great collection of hard rock that has broad appeal. If you were a fan of My Darkest Days’ first album, you’re going to be a fan of this one as well.
Highlights: “Sick And Twisted Affair”, “Save Yourself”, “Casual Sex”, “Perfect”, “Again”, “Gone”, “Love Crime”
Bon Jovi – Greatest Hits – The Ultimate Collection (2010, Island Records)
1. “Livin’ on a Prayer” … 4:13
2. “You Give Love a Bad Name” … 3:46
3. “It’s My Life” … 3:46
4. “Have a Nice Day” … 3:48
5. “Wanted Dead or Alive” … 5:11
6. “Bad Medicine” … 5:16
7. “We Weren’t Born to Follow” … 4:03
8. “I’ll Be There for You” … 5:46
9. “Born to Be My Baby” … 4:40
10. “Blaze of Glory” … 5:40
11. “Who Says You Can’t Go Home (Duet With Jennifer Nettles)” … 3:50
12. “Lay Your Hands on Me” … 3:49
13. “Always” … 5:56
14. “Runaway” … 3:53
15. “What Do You Got?” … 3:47
16. “No Apologies” … 3:44
1. “In These Arms” … 5:19
2. “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” … 4:39
3. “Lost Highway” … 4:04
4. “Keep the Faith” … 5:46
5. “When We Were Beautiful” … 4:10
6. “Bed of Roses” … 6:38
7. “This Ain’t a Love Song” … 5:06
8. “These Days” … 6:27
9. “(You Want To) Make a Memory” … 4:36
10. “Blood on Blood” … 6:16
11. “This Is Love, This Is Life” … 3:25
12. “The More Things Change” … 3:53
I’m a huge Bon Jovi fan. They’re one of my favorite bands, which is funny because I really can’t stand their last few albums and their shift towards country and adult contemporary rock/pop. Also, I’ve become somewhat jaded because it’s more obvious than ever that the band is really a brand and it’s completely Jon’s show to run. I think as he’s getting older, Jon has started to come off as a bitter guy for whatever reason, he denounces the ’80s hair metal scene they were fully-fledged members of at one time and he just seems to be on a power trip with only Richie having the smallest say in what the band does. To me, their last decent effort was 2002’s Bounce and with a few song exceptions, anything they’ve done since has been extremely bland and lacks the hooks and catchy choruses they built their name on in the ’80s and ’90s.
So anyway, this is the band’s fourth compilation album. Though to most fans, it’s really more like their second legit straight-forward compilation. 2003’s This Left Feels Right was an acoustic reworking of many of their best known songs and 2001 saw a Japan-only greatest hits released called Tokyo Road. The very first compilation was Cross Road. It was released in 1994 so given that the band has had a number of hit songs and albums since then, it was definitely time for another recap.
The tracklist is pretty solid. Sure there are personal favorites I could say I would have liked to seen included but keeping with the “greatest hits” theme, the album does it’s job. Especially in the Ultimate Collection form. It reads like a set list of what you would probably hear the band play in concert these days. I was caught off guard by “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (which was a new song included on Cross Road) and These Days getting two songs included but it’s cool because I like all three of those songs. The only studio album not represented on any of the U.S. releases is 7800° Fahrenheit (“In and Out of Love” and “Tokyo Road” appear on international versions).
There are a few different versions of this album. First there is the simply titled Greatest Hits, which is just disc one (featuring two new songs). Then there is Greatest Hits – The Ultimate Collection which features a second disc (and two more new songs). Then there’s also a Target edition of Greatest Hits which has all of disc one plus live versions of “Diamond Ring” and “We Weren’t Born to Follow”. Then the iTunes version features all the material from disc one and two plus a 5th new song called “This Is Our House”.
I definitely wanted The Ultimate Collection because all four new songs were slowly being released on the band’s website for streaming and I liked them all a lot. Someone pointed out to me that they all sounded like modern Bon Jovi (which we’ve already covered I don’t like) and I guess they are right. Maybe I’m just ready to like Bon Jovi again? Who knows! “What Do You Got?” is my favorite of the new songs but I think they’re all good. Maybe not songs that can compare to their classics but very good for modern day Bon Jovi, I think. So I’m happy with my purchase. I’m enjoying the new stuff and while I don’t usually bother listening to compilations these days, you really can’t go wrong with a collection of Bon Jovi’s greatest hits.
Hughes/Thrall – Hughes/Thrall (1982, Epic Records/Associated Records/Boulevard Records)
1. “I Got Your Number” … 3:37
2. “The Look In Your Eye” … 3:51
3. “Beg, Borrow Or Steal” … 3:47
4. “Where Did The Time Go” … 2:59
5. “Muscle And Blood” … 4:21
6. “Hold Out Your Life” … 4:47
7. “Who Will You Run To” … 3:43
8. “Coast To Coast” … 3:55
9. “First Step Of Love” … 5:35
Glenn Hughes – Vocals, Bass
Pat Thrall – Guitar, Guitar Synthesizer
Gary Ferguson – Drums
Frankie Banali – Drums
Gary Mallaber – Drums
Peter Schless – Keyboards
Producer: Andy Johns
I knew nothing of this album when I came across it online awhile ago. Seeing as how it was dirt cheap (I think I paid about $4.55 for it new) and was Glenn Hughes, I gave it a shot. I had no clue who Pat Thrall was, but that’s what the internet is for. Up to the point of this album, he had spent most of time playing in the Pat Travers Band (he would later go on to play in Asia and for Meatloaf) and from what I’m told is a very respected guitar player.
Enough of the history lesson. How is this collaborative effort? Well, um… It’s okay. It’s a very 1980s commercial rock album full of synthesizers. Every song sounds slick ‘n’ polished and ready for radio or a movie soundtrack. To my understanding, the album received positive reviews so I’m actually surprised this one went unnoticed commercially given how mainstream it is for that time frame.
I just don’t get it. What’s so good about this album? It isn’t awful but it’s just another slice of bland ’80s commercial rock/pop to me. I love ’80s pop (I like listening to the “hits” at least), but nothing really sticks out on this one. If you think I’m contradicting myself from earlier when wondering why this album wasn’t successful, I’m not… There’s tons of bland songs from the ’80s that were all over radio!
More of a curiosity for Glenn Hughes fans than anything else.
Highlights: “I Got Your Number”, “The Look In Your Eye”, “Hold Out Your Life”
Bon Jovi – The Circle [Deluxe CD/DVD Limited Edition] (2009, Island Records)
1. “We Weren’t Born to Follow” … 4:03
2. “When We Were Beautiful” … 5:18
3. “Work for the Working Man” … 4:03
4. “Superman Tonight” … 5:12
5. “Bullet” … 3:50
6. “Thorn In My Side” … 4:05
7. “Live Before You Die” … 4:18
8. “Brokenpromiseland” … 4:57
9. “Love’s the Only Rule” … 4:38
10. “Fast Cars” … 3:16
11. “Happy Now” … 4:21
12. “Learn to Love” … 4:39
When We Were Beautiful – Documentary
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals
Richie Sambora – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums, Percussion
David Bryan – Keyboards, Piano
Hugh McDonald – Bass
Charlie Judge – Keyboards
Producer: John Shanks with Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora
It’s hard to believe after only releasing two albums in the 1990s that Bon Jovi is now on their fifth studio release in the 2000s alone (The Circle is actually their sixth studio release if you want to count their acoustic reworkings of their own songs on This Left Feels Right). And I haven’t even mentioned the live album and box set they released this decade! So yes, the band has been extremely active this decade with a steady stream of albums and world tours that sell out wherever they go.
The downside to all of this? Their music overall hasn’t been up to snuff with their ’80s or even ’90s output. Their “comeback” album Crush was great, different but great. Bounce rocked harder and was really good. After that, the band has turned into a bland rock band that doesn’t really rock at all and they’ve dabbled way too much in country rock in an attempt to stay relevant (but it worked for a bit, so what do I know?).
In hype for this album, Jon and Richie promised they were done with Nashville and that the album’s title was a reference to the band coming full circle and getting back to rock ‘n’ roll and that they were giving us a “big rock record”. Well, I can tell you this much — thankfully, most signs of Lost Highway are gone (perhaps lost?). I wouldn’t say this album is “big rock” at all, but it is a better effort than Have a Nice Day even if it still sounds similar to that release. I had been hoping this would be closer to Bounce (“Bullet” comes close), but no dice.
I realize that the band is laughing all the way to the bank with the steady stream of bland, safe rock ‘n’ roll made for their soccer mom fans, but I really wish these guys would pay attention to the minority of fans that want a harder edge and huge sing-along choruses. I don’t expect a sequel to Slippery When Wet or New Jersey (though the band does offer up the bass line from “Livin’ On A Prayer” for “Work for the Working Man”), I don’t want a nostalgia release, but throw me a few bones! Give me a couple of songs that have that feel good over the top vibe that band had up until Keep the Faith.
Noticeably absent is the classic Bon Jovi sounding ballad that doesn’t care what decade it is. Even on the awful Lost Highway the band managed to squeeze out the under appreciated “(You Want to) Make a Memory”. Desmond Child co-wrote that song and he helps out a bit on this album, but even his involvement can’t save this album.
Ultimately, The Circle is another collection of mediocre, thoughtful and mature rock songs (Just like U2!) that don’t please this old school Bon Jovi fan and I can’t imagine reaching for this album in the future.
The CD/DVD limited edition comes with the 75 minute B&W documentary When We Were Beautiful, which follows the band on their Lost Highway tour from 2007. It’s a pretty interesting look into the workings of the band.
Highlights: “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, “Work for the Working Man”, “Bullet”, “Brokenpromiseland”, “Happy Now”