Category Archives: Hard Rock Daddy Reviews
Reviews of hard rock songs, videos and albums.
By Adam Waldman
Memorial Day is meant to remember the fallen heroes of the United States military. Each Memorial Day weekend, my family and I remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom as we witness the awe-inspiring precision of fighter jets at the annual Jones Beach Air Show. You can’t help but appreciate the teamwork that it takes to master these amazing feats that are born out of supreme dedication and bravery.
We all enjoy the freedom that comes with being an American, but our freedom wouldn’t exist if not for the members of the military whose sacrifices make it possible. As the saying goes…“all gave some, some gave all.” Memorial Day is about honoring the military members who gave all, and for me, about paying respect to those who are willing to do so. Having never served, it isn’t possible for me to explain the mindset of those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for our country, but I gained some valuable insight after watching the video for “Send Me,” a powerful song by Max Impact (The US Air Force Band).
There are many bands pro-military artists in the hard rock genre, the most well-known being Five Finger Death Punch. While you have to admire the incredible support that FFDP gives to the military, there is something that is even more special about hearing inspired, thought-provoking music performed by members of the military. Seeing the members of Max Impact performing in military fatigues makes the the video for “Send Me” even more poignant.
Max Impact is a special band that deserves recognition, and “Send Me” is the perfect song to listen to today when you are remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
Hard Rock Daddy is excited to present the exclusive video premiere of “No Pity On The Highway,” the first single off of Radio Exile’s upcoming debut album.
You can feel the groove from the opening drum beat of “No Pity On The Highway.” When the rest of the band joins in, the groove kicks into high gear, leaving you powerless to refrain from bopping along to it (even if you’re listening to it on headphones in a public place, as I was when I was hearing the song for the first time). After numerous subsequent listens, this track remains fresh and grows on you even more.
‘80s hard rock is often times lumped together under one generic hair metal umbrella. What gets lost when this happens is the fact that it is also the decade that featured some of the best musicianship in the history of the genre, with many of the songs being as relevant today as they were back in the day. While there’s no shortage of great hard rock today, it isn’t often that a song feels like an instant timeless classic. By adding a modern touch to a classic rock sound, Radio Exile has written just such a song.
Ironically, this killer track may fall into the category of “radio exile,” which is an indictment of the state of radio (at least in America) and a sign of the times, not the music. This is why it is so important to help spread the word to other hard rock music fans virally. Music this good deserves to be heard, and not be at the mercy of a medium that rarely gives bands like this the attention that they deserve.
Radio Exile is a powerful unit, featuring some veteran rockers with vast experience. The band lays the foundation for frontman Chandler Mogel to deliver some impressive old-school, blues-rock vocals. At times, you’ll hear shades of Joe Lynn Turner, Michael Sweet and Dennis DeYoung, but Mogel’s sound is definitely his own.
If you’re a fan of classic, blues-rock, make sure to check out the video of “No Pity On The Highway” below…
In marketing, it is often said that it is better to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Every once in a while, there is a piece of steak that is so damn good, that there is no need to sell “the sizzle.” The Winery Dogs in a live music setting is that rare piece of steak that stands on its own. The steak in this case comes in the form of supreme musicianship and a band chemistry that is as close to perfect as you can get.
The Winery Dogs don’t have an elaborate stage show. Aside from the Snoop Dogg intro, a backdrop bearing the band’s logo, and a minimal amount of stage lighting, all of the magic created onstage comes courtesy of three virtuosos at the top of their game. Though Richie Kotzen, Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan each have decades of experience under their belts, they are still in their early stages as a unit, which makes their live show that much more impressive.
Ten months after wrapping up their first American tour at The Chance Theater in Pougkeepsie, NY (see review), The Winery Dogs returned to the New York metropolitan area, picking up where they left off at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut.
From the first note of “Oblivion” – the lead track from The Winery Dogs’ sophomore release (Hot Streak) – a palpable energy filled the room. Portnoy’s thunderous drums and Sheehan’s insane, frenetic bass playing laid the foundation for Kotzen to deliver his charisma-drenched vocals. With incredibly tight musicianship and vocal harmonies, you would never think that this was the first show of what promises to be an amazing tour.
Five songs into the set, Portnoy addressed the crowd, whose enthusiasm continued to grow with each song, showing an equal appreciation for the new and the familiar. In typical Portnoy fashion, his banter was entertaining as he discussed the pros and cons of attending the first show on the tour. The pro was that we would be the only ones to be truly surprised by the set, since setlists are available online almost immediately after the first show ends. The con was that the show may “suck” since they were still “learning” the songs because Hot Streak had just come out the day before.
Anyone who has ever seen The Winery Dogs in a live setting knows that Portnoy was being unnecessarily apologetic and humble. The fact of the matter is that The Winery Dogs on their worst night are still better than many bands on their best. If there were any mistakes made as they played many of the songs for the first time in front of an audience, it certainly wasn’t detectable. However, Portnoy’s candor created an interesting vibe in the room, especially during the slower-tempo songs where it felt like we were all invited into the band’s rehearsal. Despite the majority of the crowd having little to no familiarity with the new material, the songs were greeted with the same amount of enthusiasm as the songs from their first album.
It is human nature to want to hear certain songs when seeing a band in concert. The most popular songs are usually the ones that have gotten the most radio airplay, particularly with newer artists. Established artists often have trouble introducing new material in concert because fans want to hear the “classics.”
The Winery Dogs straddle the fence between new and established artists, but that is only part of the reason why fans embrace all of the material equally. There is something truly unique about this band. Because of their superior musicianship and chemistry, song selection is almost irrelevant. The setlist could stay the same throughout the tour or change on a nightly basis and the shows would be just as entertaining.
One of the most interesting facets of The Winery Dogs’ live show on the first tour was the dynamic that existed between the rhythm section and Kotzen. The lead singer/guitarist took on a cool, introspective role as Portnoy and Sheehan were the focal point with their energetic playing and showmanship. While that dynamic still exists, Kotzen has started to take on more of a traditional frontman role on this tour, allowing his personality to complement his playing. This was particularly notable in the middle of the set when Kotzen prompted the crowd to sing along during his acoustic performance of “Fire” (a slow-tempo track off of their latest album).
Aside from the use of an acoustic guitar and the Hammond organ on songs like “Think It Over” (another new track), there were no equipment changes during the show. The beauty of The Winery Dogs in a live setting is making complexity look simple. Even on the first night of the tour, this talented power trio displayed impressive dynamics, crisp breaks and the cohesiveness of a band that has been together for a few decades, rather than a few years.
The days of arena shows for rock bands have long since passed, however, The Winery Dogs are turning back the clock to a time when fans had true appreciation for artists, not just songs. If there is another band out there that receives ovations for songs that most people in the audience have never heard, I have yet to come across them. From the first note to the last, The Winery Dogs delivered an inspired performance that satisfied the energetic crowd while simultaneously leaving everyone wanting more.
Simply stated, The Winery Dogs “Double Down” tour is a must-see for any fan of live music.
Anyone who thinks that “rock is dead” should circle October 2, 2015 on their calendar – the release date of The Winery Dogs’ sophomore album, Hot Streak. Rock may never return to its glory days from a sales perspective, but musically speaking, The Winery Dogs have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that rock is very much alive and well with an album that transcends the splintering sub-genre trend that has occurred in recent years.
In the world of sports, it takes more than two accomplishments or victories to be considered a streak, much less a “hot streak.” However, with the release of their second album that – like their eponymous debut – features all substance and no filler, it’s fair to say that The Winery Dogs are on a Hot Streak.
Due to the emergence of streaming and slowing sales, many artists have reverted back to releasing EPs rather than full-length albums. The Winery Dogs, on the other hand, have released an album that is much more than a collection of songs. Hot Streak is a throwback to the glory days of rock, a musical journey that washes the world away and provides a welcome respite from the sensory overload that most of us experience on a daily basis.
Somewhere along the way – spurred on by the digital revolution and technological advances – singles surpassed albums on the rock and roll hierarchy, and developing artists had to become mindful of fitting into radio formats. While The Winery Dogs technically fall into the category of developing artists, they are not bound by the same constraints as others. This is partly due to their vast individual resumes, but most importantly, their ability to perfectly blend virtuosity with songwriting chemistry is what really makes them rise above the din. Simply stated, The Winery Dogs will continue their ascension in the rock world with Hot Streak because the music is too good to be ignored, even if they don’t fit neatly into a radio format.
From the high-energy, in-your-face intensity of the opening track (“Oblivion”) to the soothing sound of rain as the album fades out on the final track (“The Lamb”), Hot Streak gives new meaning to the proverb…“in like a lion and out like a lamb.”
Over the course of the 13-song musical journey that is Hot Streak, The Winery Dogs deliver an album that not only must be listened to in its entirety to be fully appreciated, but also gets better with each subsequent listen as you peel back the layers and discover the nuances that make this power trio so unique.
Even though Hot Streak is only the band’s second album, they have already established an identifiable sound that shines through on the title track, “Oblivion,” and “Devil You Know” (which features a Van Halen-esque riff). Other influences permeate the album as well, often times in very subtle (but cool) ways.
“Captain Love” shares the mystique, powerful guitar riffs and haunting vocals of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers.” The huge sound of this straight-forward track conjures up nostalgia for ’80s blues rock.
“How Long” introduces a ’70s guitar riff that is in the same vein as Robin Trower’s “Too Rolling Stoned” and the theme song to Shaft. Influences aside, the most intriguing part of the song is hearing Richie Kotzen match his vocal lines to his guitar.
The Shaft vibe continues at the onset of “Empire.” It’s hard to envision another rhythm section carrying this song the way that Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy do, with Kotzen’s guitar riffs and leads accenting the song (brilliantly).
“Fire” offers a break in the action, showing another side of The Winery Dogs. The Spanish guitar featured in this moody, emotive ballad gives the song a tropical vibe. Portnoy and Sheehan show that they have much more to offer than just intense rhythms as they let the song breathe and focus their attention on beautiful backing vocals.
Following the subdued “Fire,” the intense opening of “Ghost Town” is like a roller coaster dropping after a slow climb. Portnoy and Sheehan keep the pace pumping throughout (even during Kotzen’s moodier vocal moments) without ever overpowering the song.
The hook of “The Bridge” is the furious riff. Kotzen shows off his deeper vocals, giving you an even greater appreciation for his range when he transitions to the higher register. This song also shows what makes The Winery Dogs so special, jamming to show off their musicality rather than their virtuosity.
When executed properly, space can be as musical as the instruments being played. “War Machine” not only showcases a mastery of space, but also some incredible moments for each member of the band to shine throughout the song.
“Spiral” is a slower tempo, emotive song featuring some cool underlying effects that are reminiscent of the ones that Led Zeppelin used on “Carouselambra.” Kotzen oozes cool on this track.
The Kotzen cool is in full effect on “Think It Over,” a track that shows that The Winery Dogs make their own rules and write songs from the heart with no regard for genre. The end result is a brilliant track that opens with a Steely Dan “Dirty Work” type intro and a Lenny Kravitz vibe. On an album filled with jaw-dropping musicianship, “Think It Over” is more about great songwriting and incredible vocal harmonies.
The sound of fading rain at the end of “The Lamb” is met with mixed emotions…disappointment that the 13-song musical journey has come to an end, and gratitude to have taken the journey in the first place. If every album offered as much bang for the buck as Hot Streak, music fans would see the value in owning a tangible product instead of just streaming it online. Serious music fans should make sure to add Hot Streak to their collection, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to see The Winery Dogs in a live setting…money well-spent!
The inspiration for both the name Outlaws & Moonshine and their debut EP (1919) predates the band by nearly a century. Back in 1919, around a half century before the evolution of Southern Rock, the era of Prohibition began in the United States. That government miscalculation gave rise to speakeasies and moonshine while making outlaws out of bootleggers until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
Not much good came out of Prohibition in the early 20th century. However, in 2015, Southern Rock fans will celebrate Prohibition for inspiring this Indiana quartet to take us on a journey back in time.
With their debut EP, 1919, Outlaws & Moonshine have captured the essence of legendary artists like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet (to name a few), added their own modern touches, and created a sound that they call “New Southern Rock.”
Beau Van is a talented guitar player and a soulful Southern Rock singer, but perhaps his greatest gift is the ability to paint a mental picture with lyrics that bring you into his world. With obvious pride of his heritage, Van has a way of romanticizing a small town, country lifestyle. Just like Sons Of Anarchy made people want to become bikers, Outlaws & Moonshine’s 1919 makes you want to hang out and party with Van (and the rest of the band) in his hometown.
Should you be so lucky as to hang out with the boys of Outlaws & Moonshine, you would likely get to learn more about the story of “Cootie Brown” (the drunkest redneck in town), as you sat on the porch sipping moonshine from a mason jar. Maybe moonshine is not your thing. Would the boys drink “Whiskey” with you all night long instead? Hell yeah…they love that stuff!
While Outlaws & Moonshine have cultivated a sound that harkens back to the glory days of Southern Rock, one of their greatest appeals is how relatable they are to the everyman, the working stiffs who understand what it’s like to grind through the week anxiously awaiting the weekend.
Van’s unapologetic, defiant embracing of “country grammar” in songs like “Hey Y’All” shows his true character, and only serves to make him more likeable (even to a “Yankee” like me whose knowledge of the South is mostly derived from watching The Dukes Of Hazzard as a kid).
Based on the first three tracks on 1919, you’d expect a song called “Redneck Me” to be dripping with “back beat boogie woogie” – the words used to describe the sound of the band in their bio. This is where the album takes an unexpected turn, showcasing deeper emotions with a southern-style love ballad in the musical vein of Kid Rock’s nostalgic country rock songs and the Jonny Van Zant classic, “Brickyard Road.”
“Different Kind Of Man” – the final track on the EP – offers a little bit of everything that Outlaws & Moonshine has to offer. From the sweet acoustic guitars and melodic harmonies to gritty, soulful vocals and bluesy guitar shredding, this Skynyrd-esque track is the definition of “New Southern Rock.”
As the saying goes…“it doesn’t have to be old to be classic.” Outlaws & Moonshine may classify themselves as “New Southern Rock,” but that is more a matter of chronology than sound. If the band had made their debut with 1919 in the ‘70s, they may very well be mentioned in the same breath as the very legends of Southern Rock that they cite as influences.
For nearly four decades, Joe Lynn Turner has been delivering inspiring vocal performances. Although he is most widely known for his time with Rainbow, he also enjoyed a successful run with Yngwie Malmsteen and an abbreviated stint with Deep Purple where he recorded one studio album (Slaves And Masters). The album (released in 1990) features one of the best power ballads of that era, “Love Conquers All.”
A quarter of a century has passed since the release of the “Love Conquers All,” but it is still as powerful today as it was in 1990, as evidenced by the acoustic version of the song recorded recently in Glasgow, Scotland. These days, the legendary frontman spends much of his time performing overseas, no longer grabbing the spotlight that he once did in the United States.
Aside from being moved by this inspiring performance, the other emotions that come to mind when listening to this version of “Love Conquers All” (several times over) are jealousy of overseas audiences and sadness that America has dropped the ball when it comes to supporting transcendent talents like JLT.
We have become a country that celebrates mediocre singers who rely upon technology like Auto-Tune just to stay in key in the studio, and then lip sync their “performances” of songs that are average at best. Even more disheartening is our reliance upon reality television to discover new “talent.” Meanwhile, overseas audiences embrace true talents like JLT.
The vocal performance on the acoustic rendition of “Love Conquers All” is nothing short of brilliant. There is no need to rely upon technology to enhance the vocals because, even as he approaches his mid-60s, Turner is still as great as he ever was in his heyday.
We can only hope that Ritchie Blackmore’s recent overtures about playing rock music again will come to fruition in the form of a Rainbow reunion with Turner at the helm. Maybe then, JLT will get the attention that he so richly deserves here in America. Until then, enjoy the incredible moment that was captured in Glasgow, Scotland recently…
Written by Tim Clark
Running, jumping, screaming and spitting atop the massive stage at New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center like a possessed, dreadlocked preacher from another dimension, you’d think Randy Blythe is performing the last show of his career. But he isn’t. And neither is the band he fronts, metal titans Lamb of God. This is just how these five, self-proclaimed rednecks from “Richmond, mother-fucking Virgina” roll.
Even though Lamb of God’s brand of metal sounds as if it was created deep in the bowels of a furious hell, they have a lot to be happy about as they kick off the Summer’s Last Stand Tour with Slipknot, Bullet for My Valentine and Motionless in White.
Their latest studio album, VII: Sturm Un Drang, debuted at #3 on Billboard this week, and it’s admirable to hear them push their sound into (slightly) new terrain by deploying a bit of clean singing and adding a few guest vocalists.
But make no mistake, this is Lamb of God, and no matter how devastatingly heavy their studio efforts sound, it doesn’t hold a candle to experiencing them live. I am quickly reminded of this as they tear into “Walk With Me In Hell” off their 2007 effort, Sacrament. The crowd of thousands roar in approval, throw horns and bang heads. Following up with the classic, “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For” does little to quiet the masses.
And if you have your doubts about how the new stuff sounds live, rest easy.
“My hands are painted red/My future’s painted black/I can’t recognize myself/I’ve become someone else” growls Blythe as he does mad justice to “512” off of their latest album, inspired by his (unfortunate and unnecessary) time spent in a Czech prison.
The highlight of the show for this writer occurred when the opening, acoustic notes of “Vigil” wafted through the amphitheater before Blythe screamed at the top of his lungs just as a down-tuned, Sabbath-y riff kicked in:
“Our father thy will be done!”
On this night, Lamb of God is far from done. This is a band at the top of their game. And even though I consider As the Palaces Burn the group’s master work, their new album might be their strongest yet. Pick it up immediately and for, ahem, God’s sake, catch them live if you can.
After an illustrious career with Queensryche, and an unfortunate court battle with his former bandmates, Geoff Tate has taken the first official step on his next path with “Reinventing The Future,” the debut single from Operation: Mindcrime.
From the forthcoming album, The Key, “Reinventing The Future” is one of 12 tracks included in the first installment of an epic musical trilogy. Finally able to write without the constraints of other band members or the expectations of fans, Tate truly is free to “reinvent the future.”
It can be argued that Tate might actually be better off making a fresh start under a new moniker. His last album, Frequency Unknown, would most likely have been met with much more enthusiasm if it was released as Operation: Mindcrime, rather than being one of two Queensryche albums released within a few months of each other from different bands.
Although you can never say never when it comes to band reunions, there is likely too much water under the bridge for the original members of Queensryche to share the stage again, much less record. It’s probably for the best, since Tate and his former bandmates are no longer headed in the same musical direction.
Understandably, “Reinventing The Future” features shades of Queensryche, but there are also enough unique elements to show that Operation: Mindcrime is an entity unto itself. The song features Tate’s signature vocals and unique writing style, heavy guitars nicely complemented by keyboards, a solid rhythm section and interesting time changes.
Queensryche fans who love immersing themselves in Tate’s incredible storylines and characters should be eagerly awaiting the release of The Key on September 18th.
It should be noted that Operation: Mindcrime is not actually a band, but rather “a musical project of like-minded people uniting to achieve a common goal.” All of the contributors have added their own influences to help shape the sound of the project.
While the songwriting falls mainly on the shoulders of Tate, Kelly Gray (guitars) and Randy Gane (keyboard), a number of other musicians are featured as well, including: bassists, Dave Ellefson and John Moyer, drummers Simon Wright, Scott Mercado and Brian Tichy, guitarist Scott Moughton and vocalist, Mark Daly.
Rather than trying to recapture the past, Tate should be commended for “Reinventing The Future” with Operation: Mindcrime. The countdown to September 18th begins…