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Old 01-23-2012, 04:40 AM   #761 (permalink)
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Hi everyone and welcome to the first Journal News of the new year. A new year usually brings with it some changes, and we've had a few here at the NewsFoxes. Firstly, we're sad to say goodbye to Kate, who has left us for a better position in her hometown, but we're excited to be able to introduce you to not one, but two new members of the NewsFoxes team. More about them later.

We've also decided to change the format of the section slightly. Instead of having each of the girls concentrating on one particular subject (Helen with Rock and Metal, Laura with Already Running Features and so on) we're going to be splitting up the reporting between the now four members of the team, with each taking a story and then passing the next one on to her colleague. We'll see how it works out.

So without further adieu (hee hee) let's get this party started! (News from Laura)Laura?
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Old 01-23-2012, 04:41 AM   #762 (permalink)
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Thanks, ladies, and welcome to both our new recruits, Alicia and Li-Chang. You'll be hearing more from them over the coming months.

One last thing then before we go: you've probably been wondering what the Pollys are all about, with the teaser posts Trollheart has been putting up every day now. Well, we here at NewsFoxes of course know, but we've been sworn to secrecy, so all I can say is wait and see. Only five more days to go...

See you all next month with more news on what's happening here at the Playlist of Life. One thing is for sure though: there's always something going on!
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Old 01-23-2012, 04:55 AM   #763 (permalink)
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Sin-atra --- Various Artists --- 2011 (Eagle)


Oh, whether this is great or a load of tosh it's definitely gonna be fun! When I saw this I just had to buy it: a tribute album to old Blue Eyes by rock and metal bands? I am so there! We've had this sort of thing before, of course, but mostly by pop acts, with the likes of Westlife's “May we be Frank?” --- no you may not! --- and of course Robbie Williams' “Swing when you're winning”, and tribute albums by their very nature are nothing new, but to see the cream (maybe) of rock pay homage to the Chairman has got to be worth a listen!

As expected, it's insane from the off, with Devin Townsend mashing up, chewing up and spitting out that classic “New York New York”, even more disturbing than Sid's, er, rendition of “My way”! Power metal chords, a growl that would make Waits blush and a total irreverence mixed with a sense of awe and respect that you just have to smile at. I'm sure ol' Frankie himself would approve. Well, maybe not. But it's fun, and Devin's ad-libbing --- ”I wanna wake up/ In a city that doesn't sleep/ And find I'm king of the hill/ Overlord of the freakin' universe!” --- just adds to the sense of surrealism and fun this first cover has to engender in all but the most stony-faced and, dare I say, square music fans?

Glenn Hughes is up next, to tackle that old love ditty, “I've got you under my skin”, and to his credit he doesn't mess too much with the source material like ol' Devin, putting a heavy hard guitar melody on it but generally sticking to the original lyric and tune. Good version, if not quite as much madcap fun as the opener. Nice addition of horns in a respectful nod back to Frankie's big band backing. Nice keyboards that really complement the guitars here. Gives the song quite a dramatic, almost ominous feel.

Not too much info available on this release, sadly, so I can't tell you specifically who plays on what, only the vocalists, but you'll no doubt recognise Queensryche's frontman Geoff Tate on a blastin' version of “Summerwind” which is just a joy to listen to, swaying along on a semi-big-band rhythm, great guitars and brass, though I think the latter may be on keys. It's even possible that the same backing band is used across the album, just with different vocalists, though that may not be the case. Either way, there's a cool guitar solo backed with some heavy keys on this, and an almost Sabbathesque ending, then it's the turn of Mister Twisted Sister himself, the one and only Dee Snider.

Now I would have thought “The lady is a tramp” was tailor-made for Dee, but he's decided to go with his interpretation of “It was a very good year”, which I have to say from the opening is virtually unrecognisable from the original, but when Dee gets singing he really gives it his all --- as he always does --- and totally gets into the groove and the spirit of the thing. Backed by a Zep Kashmir-like melody, he definitely puts his own spin on the song, and without question he still has a fine set of pipes, even, what, twenty-five years later?

After that, it's hard to discount anything, but Tim “Ripper” Owens singing “Witchcraft”? That seems to be stretching the envelope to tearing point, however the ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth vocalist has a good bash at the song, and comes away leaving it still breathing. Barely. Hard and heavy screaming guitars and crunching drums are the order of the day, and it's probably the fastest version of any of the Sinatra catalogue on the album so far, even approaching Devin Townsend's “New York, New York” for sheer insanity and fun. That sounds like harmonica there, but I'd be willing to bet it's being made on a keyboard.

Strangely enough perhaps, no-one has decided to tackle Frankie's swansong, perhaps agreeing that the ex-Sex Pistols guitarist's version was the definitive (what?), so the next one up is “Fly me to the moon”, and it's Cheap Trick's Robin Zander that takes it on, opening with a whimsical little snippet of NASA dialogue, then the song takes off itself, rocking along but really not too far removed from the original, though obviously a lot faster and heavier. The band certainly have a whole lot of fun behind him, but as with just about all the covers here, you never get the feeling they're laughing at the songs, just rearranging them --- in some cases radically! --- for their own genre, and in that sense making them theirs, as a certain show's judges never tire of saying.

We mentioned “The lady is a tramp” earlier, and indeed it does make a showing here, handled by Eric Martin. It's given a real big rock sound by the Mr. Big singer, with brassy keyboards and burning guitars, almost closer to AOR than metal, but still great fun, while Anthrax's Joey Belladonna does a great job on “Strangers in the night”. Being a drummer as well as a vocalist, I'm assuming that he's behind the drumkit, but don't quote me. Great guitar solo rips the song wide open, then dramatic keyboards pull it back together before Joey takes it home triumphantly.

Talking of ripping songs apart, those poor rubber tree plants get it good when Franky Perez kicks the **** out of “High hopes”. It's almost too bad to even be funny, but considering the humourous frame of mind that you really have to approach this album with to be able to not be offended by it, it's a blast. Frankie must be spinning though! Meanwhile, Doug Pinnick apparently has the world on a string, or so the Kings X man would have us believe. It's probably true, and he does a fine job with the song, actually using a lovely orchestral arrangement to open, thereby coming the closest on this album (so far) to evoking the original spirit of the songs. Of course, it's not long before grinding guitars and heavy drums crash in, but to Pinnick's credit he does not overdo the vocals and really comes across as creating one of the best interpretations on the album. Nice synthwork there too.

I'm not sure who exactly Elias Soriano is, other than that he's apparently in a band called Nonpoint, but he certainly flattens “Love and marriage” (can never hear that song without thinking of Al Bundy!), runs over it and then comes back to reverse over it a few times to make sure it's dead, gleefully snarling all the time. It's stupid, it's silly, it's pointless and it's very, very, very funny. Closing on perhaps an appropriate track, the philosophical “That's life” is taken by the late Jani Lane, in what must have been one of the Warrant frontman's last recordings before his untimely death in August of last year. Quite poignant, given the title and the lyric, but he does a good job with the song, with a mixture of rock, blues, gospel and big band swagger, and it's a damn good closer to what is, generally, a pretty awful album, but you don't realise that because you're laughing so much.

Look, this album is never gonna win any Grammies, and it's the sort of thing you used to see in record shops (remember them?) in the bargain bin for fifty cents, and thought, nah, not worth it! But if you truly hate Sinatra you might feel like it's cocking a snook at the Chairman; if you're a fan you probably should avoid it unless you've got a great sense of humour or are very tolerant. At the very least, it's a chance to hear some of rock's finest shuffle out of their comfort zone and tackle songs that they would probably never had considered performing otherwise. It's almost like the guy in a ripped t-shirt and tatty jeans finding his way into the exclusive country club, while whispers of "Shame!" abound! And really, where else can you get to hear Dee Snider sing “It was a very good year”, Devin Townsend berate New York, or a guy from Anthrax pound out “Strangers in the night”?

If you just want a good laugh, are prepared to accept a few (really) terrible versions of Frankie standards, or just need something to lift those whatever-blues from your life, this could be the one. Stick it on, rack up the volume and just try not to laugh. Hell, ol' Blue Eyes is probably bustin' a gut right now up there in the Great Gig in the Sky! Either that, or his lawyers are preparing a deposition right now...

TRACKLISTING

1. New York, New York (Devin Townsend)
2. I've got you under my skin (Glenn Hughes)
3. Summerwind (Geoff Tate)
4. It was a very good year (Dee Snider)
5. Witchcraft (Tim “Ripper” Owens)
6. Fly me to the moon (Robin Zander)
7. The lady is a tramp (Eric Martin)
8. Strangers in the night (Joey Belladonna)
9. High hopes (Franky Perez)
10. I've got the world on a string (Doug Pinnick)
11. Love and marriage (Elias Soriano)
12. That's life (Jari Lane)
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Old 01-23-2012, 04:57 AM   #764 (permalink)
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The Pollys are coming!
Days to go...
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Old 01-24-2012, 05:05 AM   #765 (permalink)
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Old 01-24-2012, 05:11 AM   #766 (permalink)
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You know, this is getting harder. The worm is beginning to wish he hadn't started this whole alphabetical thing, but as a wise worm once said, “I've started so I'll finish” --- whaddya mean, he was a human? Anyhoo, here we are with today's selection. Hope you like it.

Today's Daily Earworm has been brought to you by the letter I, with Imagination, “Just an illusion”.
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Old 01-24-2012, 05:20 AM   #767 (permalink)
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Daughtry --- Daughtry --- 2006 (RCA)


Yeah, I know what you're all thinking, as am I: anything affiliated with the dreaded X-Factor or American Idol is generally to be avoided, scorned, put down, reviled, and usually I would agree with that. But a few things may mark this debut out as just a little different from the usual post-competition slew of winners and also-rans that deluges the charts after a season ends. For one thing, though this is the first time I'll be listening to his work, I'm reliably informed that Chris Daughtry, who gives the band their name, can actually sing. So what, I hear you say derisively? Everyone who makes it through the auditions can sing, or thinks they can. True, but he really can. Plus, he's not riding on the musical production muscle of Cowell, having been only a finalist and not the winner of that year's show: he's signed to a proper label, and also he writes all his own songs. Well, writes or co-writes. Lastly, he's not a pop performer, he's a rocker.

So, enough to perhaps sweep away those talent show prejudices, even for a little while, and give the guy a chance? Well the record-buying public certainly thought so, as this album debuted at number two in the charts when released, and has sold solidly since. Daughtry have since released two more albums, one of which was only last year, so they're certainly not milking the proceeds from this album, substantial as they must have been. They seem like a credible rock band who aren't content to just sit back and let the money roll in. They want to make music. They want to rock.

And so, it seems, they do.

The obvious comparisons to Nickelback are there, and Daughtry certainly follow their blueprint, Chris Daughtry himself sounding very like Chad Kroeger, but “It's not over” has a certain rock charm, with heavy guitars from the man himself, and Phil X, good solid rhythm section in drummer John Freese and bassist Chris Chaney, and “Used to” is a powerful anthem with very memorable hooks, Daughtry's voice having no trouble rising above the music, his rough, gravelly tones perfectly suited to this sort of music. Howard Benson's keyboards come a little more into the mix here, adding a little touch of AOR to the track, but it's heavy all the way. I wouldn't call it heavy metal though, but certainly heavy rock.

“Home” has a definite tinge of country to the melody, veering a little towards Lynyrd Skynyrd territory, a power ballad certainly, a big hit for him in his native USA, as indeed was the opener. Sounds like there are strings in this song, but they may be synth-created as none are credited on the album. “Over you” is a triumphant eff-star-star-kay-you song, where Daughtry snarls ”Thought I'd never get through/ But I got over you!” Great guitar solo followed by a total dropaway to vocal and acoustic guitar before the song picks up again, and you can just see the fists punching the air during any live performance of this.

Somewhat more restrained is “Crashed”, with big guitar sound and measured drumbeat, Daughtry really stretching his vocals on this one, mostly holding the song together by the force of his voice, at least on the verses. “Feels like tonight” has a lot of power and passion behind a fairly straightforward guitar line, but gets rockin' soon enough, while the legendary Slash guests on guitar for “What I want”, adding a real touch of class to proceedings, then things slow right down for the first real ballad in “Breakdown”. Very country-oriented, with what sounds like pedal steel but may not be (again, none is credited on the album), though being a ballad doesn't stop Daughtry cutting loose with a blazing guitar solo! In fact, as it develops, the song becomes less of a ballad and more a rocker. So we have yet to have a proper ballad, if indeed there is one on the album.

Perhaps the most commercial track on the album, “Gone” has a sort of pop feel to it, though it does soon turn into a decent rocker, and “There and back again” opens with a nice funky little bassline then utilises some nice Zeppelin style guitar riffs, but the main problem I'm having here is that everything does tend to sound quite similar. Nothing is really standing out, and I'm unlikely to remember any of these tracks after the album has finished. Still, conversely, none of them are marking themselves out as bad tracks either, so I guess it's a balance delicately maintained, which itself is a difficult enough thing to achieve.

More country influences in “All these lives”, with nice acoustic guitar and keyboards, but I would have thought this would have made a better ballad. Daughtry see fit to crank up the electric guitars and pound the drums, though, and it kind of melts into another standard rocker, while the closer, “What about now”, introduced on acoustic piano and guitar, could very well be that ballad we've been waiting for. It certainly resists the temptation to rock out, and it could end up being a decent finale. Yeah, it is. Pity they didn't include a few more songs like this, nice restrained guitar, keys to the fore, powerful but deep vocal, a song I don't mind being in my head as I close the review.

All in all, I'm not as impressed as I expected to be, given the hype. Yes, it's a good rock album, but it's not a great rock album. It's quite generic really, with little in the way of imagination or experimentation. Perhaps their other albums trod new ground and opened up new horizons for the band, but here Daughtry play it very safe, which, while it will certainly sell records, is no way to announce yourself on your debut, no way to prove yourself a force, a lasting talent in the overcrowded heavy rock market.

To be honest, it sounds like Daughtry listened to all the standard rock albums around at the time, copied the riffs, the tones, the phrasing and ended up with really more of a soundalike to the likes of Nickelback et al than their own individual sound. In this way, they become something of a clone, and it's more than a little disappointing, considering what might have been. I'm quite surprised that the album sold so well, given its generic rock sound. I should clarify that I don't think it's a bad album, just nothing terribly special, and I wonder had Chris not been on American Idol, would he have got a record deal and if he did, would the album have been as successful as it was? I guess sometimes the power of televison appeal can't be overstated.

A missed opportunity, I feel. But it's still better than listening to Kelly Clarkson!

TRACKLISTING

1. It's not over
2. Used to
3. Home
4. Over you
5. Crashed
6. Feels like tonight
7. What I want
8. Breakdown
9. Gone
10. There and back again
11. All these lives
12. What about now
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Old 01-24-2012, 05:22 AM   #768 (permalink)
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The Pollys are coming!
All will be revealed in


Four Days...
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Old 01-24-2012, 05:13 PM   #769 (permalink)
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Old 01-24-2012, 05:14 PM   #770 (permalink)
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Let's rock out today with the letter K! Heh heh!

Today's Daily Earworm has been brought to you by the letter K, courtesy of Kiss, with “God gave rock and roll to you”.
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