Feed aggregator

Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A - An Instant Classic

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 05:04

This is without a doubt my favorite Schenker outing in decades. Michael Schenker Fest Live Tokyo International Forum Hall A is going to be very tough to beat as the best live DVD in 2017. It's early in the year, but this is what you call an instant classic, and for all the right reasons.

Michael Schenker has been building on his legend for years now, having left behind the days of a tougher struggle, and now he has finally to my mind once again surrounded himself with a stage full of musicians who are truly up to his game. He's never had a bad band, but that's not the point by a longshot, the point is that this band better suits his songs, his playing, and his temprament at this stage of his life. He plays the gig of a lifetime here, a performance as strong as any he has ever put on, but the beauty is that there is an amazing amount of proper attention to be paid to the whole band, and the whole experience.

The Michael Schenker Fest is a great idea that finds Schenker reunited with the three lead singers who loom largest in his solo history. Gary Barden is from the first iteration of the Michael Schenker Group, and here he seems to be experiencing a return to form that we've been waiting on for many years. He's eased into a lower toned vocal approach, and his husky phrasing and easy stage presence are just as effective as his halcyon era with the band in the early '80s. Next in line is Graham Bonnet, a man who left an indelible mark on Schenker fans with just one album, Assault Attack, in 1982, a record that is still the favorite of many a Schenker fanatic. We waited over three decades to see Graham and Michael smiling at one another onstage, and it was worth the wait. Rounding out the lineup of singers is McAuley/Schenker Group frontman Robin McAuley, who brings his unique set of melodies and still blazing vocal chops to the proceedings, giving the audience yet another flavor of the Schenker legacy.

Then there is the thrill of hearing all three singers combining their efforts in varying degrees to celebrate Michael's time with the great UFO. It's so good to once again hear singers sing this material with the obvious love and commitment these great songs deserve. McAuley handles the heavy lifting on "Shoot Shoot", and "Rock Bottom" (which has never sounded better musically to my ears), and he's joined by Barden and Bonnet for a fun filled run at "Doctor Doctor". These guys are not just having great fun, and doing a great job, they are egolessly presenting a celebration of the music of Michael Schenker to their respective fans. The smiles the musicians exchange throughout the program are alone worth the price of admission.

Now I must talk about the band, this band. I'll start where it all begins and that is with Michael Schenker. Michael has written as many classic riffs as any of the greatest guitarists of the last fifty years, his solos are such that they are known to his fans as well as the riffs and choruses of the tunes, and his command of technique combined with an emotional sense of composition has made him such a legend that it has truly been a daunting task to keep up with his high water marks. However, here he manages to take the legend to the next level - he's playing explosively, he's having a great time onstage, and the visceral excitement he displays while flexing his musical muscles with this band is a sight to behold. A thing of beauty and majesty.

Great rhythm sections make bands great. Of this there can be no denying, and over the years Michael Schenker has played with some remarkable teams, but to my ears the team of bassist Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna are as good as any, and I will say that they are my personal favorite. I've been intensely following the music of Michael Schenker since 1975, even to the point of getting myself hired as a guitar tech for the McAuley/Schenker Group for an all too brief period. I know the music, the lineups, the individual players, and I'm a good enough musician in my own right that I can say, this is an area where I am an expert. I could write you book on the topic. Chris Glen and Ted McKenna have been playing together since 1972, and it sounds like it. Glen is a marvelously melodic bass player, and his adventuous flights of fancy are a wonder to behold, and his tone is perfect. Maybe the best in all of hard rock for his era, certainly my favorite. McKenna is a master of knowing when to steadily rock the rhythm and when to turn the beat on its ear as Schenker lays down is very unique rhythm chops. Schenker's best rhythm section since they were last Schenker's rhythm section.

The band's secret weapon can be found at stage right - Steve Mann plays the classic utility role of guitarist/keyboardist/background vocalist that was inaugurated in the very early days of UFO, and he fills the role as well as anyone, up to and including the fabulous Paul Raymond. Where Raymond brought more of a Ian McLagen/Faces vibe to the proceedings, Mann is a bit more of a smoking hot lead player who can execute some nice harmonies with Michael, and his keyboard playing is more synth based and vibey, though he certainly nails the legendary parts necessary to make "Doctor Doctor" and "the solo sections of "Rock Bottom" as effective as they need to be. Mann is a fantastic foil for Michael Schenker, and I hope they continue to work together moving forward.

The DVD is very well shot and directed. You see the fun, the energy, and when someone should be in the frame, they are, and that's a huge key to any concert document. It looks fantastic, and the sound is superb. Whatever efforts that were put into this project in post-production is well worth the efforts. This is one for the ages. I just hope I've managed to express how much I love this package. It does exactly what I wanted it to do - it returned me to every era of Michael Schenker music, and all the great musicians of those eras and bands that I have revered for so long, and isn't that what rock is supposed to do? Plus, it makes me look forward to new music and what could lie ahead. It makes you feel great, it makes you feel alive, and it makes you want to keep rocking.      

My First Band: Anacrusis 1977

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 01:16

I remember the beginning of Anacrusis much better than the end. I had been hanging out learning to play guitar for a couple of years with a fellow by the name of Wendell Napier. Wendell could player guitar like nobody I had ever met, and to this day I've not played with many musicians who were more natural than he. We had gotten pretty good at playing together, so we decided to form a band and do a show. All in the same week.

We were picking talent from the neighborhood in which we had went to high school, a little part of Dayton, Ohio known as Northridge. We easily figured Mitch Mitchell as our bassist, as he was the only bassist we knew. He had been playing in school variety shows, and local outfits for some time. As for a drummer, we elected Bruce "Smitty" Smith, an unlikely choice given to the fact that Bruce was a probably the least likely candidate we could imagine. Bruce Smith had an intellect, an appetite for learning that was as big as the great outdoors, stood well over six feet, and must have weighed a good deal over two hundred pounds. A large, gentle, intelligent man-child whose tastes for music we imagined must run towards jazz and classical. His glasses stated that this just must be the case. This turned out to be an inspired call, for Bruce could play the drums fantastically. I'm anxious to hear his recollection of how exactly he came to join this motley crew, as I simply don't recall the conversation or the circumstance, but it must have been a doozy.

Last, but most certainly not least we chose a fellow several years our senior to be our vocalist and frontman. Bob Pollard may have been best known as a legendary high school and college athlete (he threw the first no-hitter ever for Wright State University's baseball team), but I knew him as the absolute biggest rock 'n' roll junky in my world. He was a friend of my brother's, and I owe just about everything I know and love about rock to those two. They introduced me to everything that mattered, and I followed in their footsteps as a record collector, novice guitar player, and wanna be rock star. Bob knew, and he had a secret that maybe not many beyond me knew. He could sing, and he wanted to be a star.

I believe we first called Bob on a Monday evening. We told him we were forming a band, he was going to be our singer, and that we had a show on Friday night. He thought we were nuts. Here's the story in his words:

"Tony Conley and Wendell Napier called me on Monday night and said, "Do you want to be in our band? We have a show on Friday night." So, I go, "No, there's no way, that's impossible." They called me again the next day and said, "So, do you want to do it or not?" I said, "Okay, man, you must have something if you're going to be that persistent." I practiced on Tuesday night with Mitch and one of the guitar players. On Wednesday night I practiced with the other guitar player, Tony Conley, and our drummer, Bruce Smith. On Thursday we had a full band rehearsal and because everybody knew their shit, we had like twenty-five songs. We had them down in one practice. We played the show on Friday, and there had to be three or four hundred people there. We did all covers, we did UFO, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, and kicked ass. I've never been so excited about a show in my life. It's been all downhill from there, haha!" ~ Guided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll, James Greer.

Since then, Bob has never said another good word about Anacrusis. I suppose he has his reasons, it's all cool. 

To the best of my recollection, this was in the spring or early summer of 1977. The venue was Brookwood Hall, a dilapidated union hall that sat in a corn field next to nothing, and later became the scene of some of the most celebrated punk rock shows in history. But, that's another story.

We then went on to play a short residency (probably a few weekends) at a local dive called The Domino club, ran by a bearded biker by the name of Gibby Davis. These shows were the things of legend. We were loud, extremely energetic (there was no shoe gazing, that would get a beer bottle bounced off your head), and also, in short order we had even managed to work some original material into the set, something that was extremely taboo at that time. The beautiful thing is that the tunes were good enough that people thought they were just songs they didn't know yet. In fact, I believe we even once played a whole set of our perhaps ten originals (Sonny The Monster, Daddy's In The State Pen, Self Inflicted (Ariel Nostalgia), Fame and Fortune, Status Symbol, Somewhere  Sometime, and a few others whose titles are perhaps lost to my memory).

I believe our greatest night at The Domino Club was the evening that we hosted the class graduation for the Northridge High School class of 1978. Yes, they held their graduation party in a bar. Welcome to Dayton, Ohio, 1978. There were probably close to a hundred under aged kids in a bar, getting their rock 'n' roll on. Did I mention we had flash pots? Yes, we even blew up Bart Hanselman pretty good when he went up close to investigate why one pot wasn't going off when it should. My first wife was an officer of that year's class, and a cheerleader to boot. We corrupted those kids as best we could. Mind you, we played completely sober, no drugs, and no groupies. We were playing music, did we really need anything else?

We did some other shows around town, perhaps the funniest being a new years eve show in someone's basement, who had no idea what they were getting themselves in for, and we wrecked the joint and basically had a paid rehearsal as the guests stayed upstairs cowering in fear. Not that we were dangerous, just awfully loud. Then, there was another gig that we played at an apartment complex swimming pool where the cops showed up, and I swear to God we went into Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" as soon as they showed up.

This all transpired in less than a year, and what transpired to end it, I've never really been certain. I've heard Bob Pollard says that he was thrown out when he wouldn't allow Wendell to fire Mitch. I know that Wendell had issues with Mitch's playing, but as much as I wish I had a clear memory of this, I just don't know. 

Whatever the causes the band had come to its end, and it may have just died of our lack of knowledge concerning what to do next, and how to do it. Hard to say, but I will say that I've mourned its death for all the years since, as it was a joyful experience that I've never near replicated.

Not too terribly long after that, I received a call from Bob Pollard, he had a manilla folder of lyrics, and a handful of original tunes. We got together in drummer Kevin Fennell's basement with Mitch Mitchell on the bass, and we put together a dozen original tunes under the name of Guided By Voices. However, to this day Bob has never mentioned this, though it was the first iteration of what became his legend. This was in 1980 or 1981.

Many years later, in 2005, Bob and I briefly reconvened our musical partnership as I served as lead guitarist and musical director for a project that released on the record, Lightning Head To Coffee Pot, under the name of The Moping Swans.

I wish I could do it all over again tomorrow, it was truly one of the greatest pleasures of my life, though I'm sure I was too young, and unknowing to have known that then.




Then on the Dixie Strip where Bobby (Robert Pollard) got his start in music with a band called Anacrusis that was great for a bunch of young kids at a place next to where Flamingo's is at now that was so small,but those kids rocked that place and packed it way past what capacity was.

Reverb.com Proposal

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 22:25


Reverb.com has grown in just a few years into a major player in the retail musical instrument business. Not just a retailer, not just a tech company, but its competition is clearly more traditional brick and mortar stores, and one large online store (Sweetwater Sound). However, its main difference is that it operates as more of a mall than an independent outlet with many stores under its umbrella. It is, for all purposes, an online mall.

It sits just behind Sam Ash ($385M sales in 2015), Sweetwater ($433M sales in 2015), and Guitar Center ($2.1 B sales in 2015). It differs from these companies in both its business model, and in the fact that they are a rapidly growing concern, whereby the others are more or less established and either relatively stable in their numbers (Sweetwater) or struggling (Guitar Center under its incredible debt load).

I realize I'm not telling you anything you most likely don't know. I'm just putting this up to show you where I am going in my thinking.

To this point Reverb.com is golden - it has performed amazingly well, and is seen by its base as a great and reliable resource. Everything you provide is top flight, and it's very difficult to find any faults.

The question that comes to my mind is what could be the next step to grow the business, the market, and to win customers from these other established entities. How to leap-frog over Sam Ash and Sweetwater, and start the charge on Guitar Center.

Probably the best way to make this leap to greater awareness, more customers, more sales, and a brighter future may be accomplished by enlarging and extending the concept of the content generation already in place. Content marketing that will envision more of a lifestyle branding, and a nurturing of an audience who may not realize who you are or what you do. A way to introduce the online model to a lot of people who are squarely in the demographic, but still uncomfortable with this medium.

I'm not talking about any new invention here, just going through the best of what's come before, and developing a better way of delivering on the promise. 

What I have to offer is a team that is well proven in content generation that can augment what you already have in place to tremendously enlarge your outreach (which is already wonderful). Whether this would be an internal addition to the company or exist as a contracted entity is a question, but I prefer the control offered by being internal, plus you have the added bonuses of manageability and accountability.

What I'm really talking about here is adding theaters to your mall. Your existing audio-visual content is already the best in the world, and this is just moving that concept forward in the time-tested method of the mall movie theater. A way to drive customers to your mall - they come for the movie, but they end up shopping at the stores and eating in the food court.

Also, I feel that it is important to be able to do this in a way that doesn't eat up money - co-oping and sponsorship dollars can be utilized to defray many of the production costs involved to make costs manageable, and the venture profitable. Advertising and marketing that carries its own weight.

I have three offerings along the path of content marketing that I think will play very well in the market. The first two are intended to be cable TV productions:

Reverb.com Presents: An Evening With...

This is a concept I developed a while back when we were working with Joe Satriani and his manager Mick Brigden that was entitled G3-TV, a guitar-centric venture that finally gave way when Joe realized he didn't want to be in front of cameras. This particular part of the project never left my desk.

An Evening With... is a one hour show that is split between live performance and a moderated interview (think a combination of Austin City Limits and The Actor's Studio). The difference in this show being that it is done as a live event in the same theater every two weeks, and before an audience that has bought tickets. The advantages are obviously having the same physical setup and crew at every taping, and the ease of production provided by that. We would actually put on a two and a half hour show, editable down to one hour.

In addition to the content of the show itself, this also allows for massive content generation for the back side and the Reverb.com site for gear pieces, and augmented artist interviews. We could easily co-op this stuff with gear manufacturers, and retailers as well.

Reverberations By Reverb.com

Reverberations is a series that presents regular mini-documentaries (30 minutes). This show would be more conceptual than a performance based show, or a talk show format. It will encompass a multitude of real life musical tales that let viewers see what they rarely get a chance to see. Whether it's on the road for a band's first tour, its last tour, newest record, or a look at an artists career, this is the first regularly series of real life musical documentaries, that is not unlike a new Muscle Shoals or Sidemen: Long Road To Glory coming out every few weeks. A week to shoot, a week to produce.

Content marketing in this way will allow Reverb.com to attach itself to the programming without the programming ever becoming a commercial for Reverb.com, but at the same time will provide the opportunity for massive ancillary content generation for the core business as a byproduct.

Reverb Records

Reverb Records would be a boutique record company that could fill in the blanks being left in the classic rock/classic blues rock/country fields in the American market at the moment. Projects that can be created easily, managed, and recorded with reasonable budgets that can actually be profitable, and that would further cement the worldview of Reverb.com being a home for all things music. This one is the longest shot, but if done correctly could be a real sleeper. One such project that I helped put together that would be a fit was last year's Supersonic Blues Machine's first record that featured a core band of Fabrizio Grossi, Lance Lopez, and Kenny Aronoff, who were augmented by guests such as Billy Gibbons, Eric Gales, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, and Walter Trout. This project was done for Mascot Records, and the band has been headlining blues festivals and corporate events around the world.

Well, by now I'm certain that you may well think me insane, but the truth of the matter is that these are all things that have been developed by myself and my team over the last few years, and we can not only make them happen, but we can make them happen in a way that grows a business without being a financial albatross. 

Much of this centers on the skills and vision of myself and my partners, writer/director/producer Scott Rosenbaum, and our business development specialist and fundraiser guru Breck Philip. Together we are poised to enter into further discussions and see where all or any of this could lead.



Blindstone - The Seventh Cycle of Eternity (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:17

Danish power trio Blindstone continue their relentless journey in the sign of the mighty riff on this their seventh musical journey. This time around the band has gone through a change in personnel, introducing drummer Sigurd Jønk Jensen, replacing Anders Hvidfeldt. Anders did an outstanding job, but it feels Sigurd is switching the Blindstone drum department up yet another notch. He actually gets to show his skills already in the thundering opening track Dead Man's Blues, a heavy blues rocker, true to the Blindstone trademark. Guitarist/singer Martin J Andersen lets his guitar speak loudly all over the track, riffing, soloing and filling every crack and crevice with a tasteful bit of wah-ornamented guitar magic. Rolling switches into low gear and offers some crude and fat bass riffing from Jesper Bunk. Man, this is one steamroller of a track! Rebel In Black offers some nice dynamics with a cool verse and slow pace riffing. The backbeat bluesy On My Way offers a change in pace and sound with some (I presume) neck pick-up Strat riffing. One thing I actually do feel has changed a bit, is I don't (so far) hear as much Frank Marino influences, apart from Martin's similar vocal range and style. Ok, Looking Back, a beautiful ballad, does have a touch of Marino mixed with Trower, which is top notch in my book. Martin also stays away from the wah in this one and the solos are just out of this world in tone, clarity, feel, presence and tastefulness. Frickin' outstanding! The oddly title By The Suns Of Warvan, You Shall Be Avenged is a cool heavy riff-oriented instrumental with a strong feel of early Satriani. Wish Satch, whom I'm truly a huge fan of, would record a song like this today. Multi-facetted, melodic and un-shredding, still with truly impressive guitar work. Thunder From The North continues with some heavy guitar chugging and a surprisingly hooky and melodic pre-chorus. A great track, indeed! A Love Manifesto continues in the vein of its predecessor, but still with a totally different approach. Heavy, break-filled verse leaving lots of space for highly personal Martin's low-key vocals that fit so well with this type of music. It also offers another dose of killer solos. Stonesnake opens with some busy drumming and continues in a up-tempo boogie:ish vein, suddenly switching down to half speed in the verse. Killer track! Once again the band moves into the grinding, steamroller heavy-as-lead territory with Once You See The Signs. A crusher! Another cool surprise now comes in the form of Hendrix penned Power of Soul, a heavy blues rocker that has been given the proper Blindstone treatment. All in all, yet another top notch release from the Danes. Seven albums and not a single let-down. Impressive!
Janne Stark
Label: Grooveyard
Year: 2016

Country: Denmark

Brett Ellis -The Warriors Before Me (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:15

This time ace guitarist Brett Ellis visits a bunch of tracks penned by others, a tribute album if you will. He starts off with the obvious choice of one James Marshall Hendrix and Ezy Rider. A highly flammable version with some explosive and impressive guitar work. Moving on to usual suspect #2: Robin Trower and yet another killer interpretation of Twice Removed From Yesterday. For me, personally, Brett's vocals have been the weak link, but damn, the cat has really improved. Killer vocals, indeed! Tryin' Anyway by Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush also gets the proper Ellis treatment. Stellar guitar work with the unmistakable Marino wah-vibe nicely in place. Love the jazzy piece in the middle! Next up, maybe not that obvious, but an outstanding sadly overlooked track by Uli era Scorpions, Living And Dying, sung by Rick Reed with Allison Smith handling the harmonies. Wow, Brett does hand us some outstanding un-obvious classics, clearly proven by his stellar version of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow's Self Portrait. Damn good job, I must say. Lovely guitar work and killer vocals (Graham Heath handles the harmony vocals on this one)! I always love me some funky Pat Travers, obviously Brett and I share a similar taste. It clearly shows in his explosive interpretation of Go All Night. Not that obvious, but it is also on my list of "awesome timeless classics"; Black Sabbath's Supernaut, here given a new dimension by killer female singer Allison Smith. Next up, a highly unexpected track! Outta Love Again by Van Halen! Didn't see that one coming! Any good? You betcha ass! Better drum sound than the original and Brett puts his own twist on the guitar solos, which I like! Oh yeah!! The next track I used to fiddle around with myself, trying to learn the intro solo, which Brett has done a great job with. He's also given the track the proper heaviness it deserves. Which track it is? Bad News, originally recorded by G-Force, the short lived side project of Gary Moore featuring ex-Truk/Captain Beyond, now ZoomLenz singer Willy Daffern. Graham Heath, who handles the lead vocals on this one, sure has a strong touch of Daffern. Elis also gives proper treatment to tracks by UFO, Johnny Winter, Foghat, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, but before finishing off I have to mention the brick heavy outstanding version of ZZ Top's Neighbour Neighbour. Damn, it ROCKS big time!
Janne Stark
Label: Grooveyard Records
Year: 2016

Country: USA

Dellacoma - South of Everything ( CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:12

Australia has a way of delivering high quality bands one after another: Electric Mary, Tonk, Airbourne, Tracer, Toehider etc etc. Add Dellacoma to the list. This bunch I'd add to the same category as fellows Tonk and Electric Mary. Good time, melodic, energetic and edgy hard rock with great riffs and ballsy vocals. The album kicks off with the highly infectious Moving On To Something New which actually made me think of early Enuff Z'nuff. Walk The Plank continues in a similar almost early Crüe oriented vein, while Lessons Learned offers some chunky Aerosmith:ish funky riffing. The album is however not all party party party, which shows in heavy, almost doomy Time Falls Away. Change kicks off a bit reminiscent of Buckcherry, but actually better in my opinion. Good time rock n roll! Fjh (Get Me Out) continues in the same vein while Fameslavesgoldoffers some nice southern rock oriented riffing gone AC/DC. Killer track! A really good debut album indeed. Not at par with Electric Mary (not many are in my book) but clearly placing themselves in the upper mid-region.  The opening track promises a lot, but is never really challenged when it comes to hooks and catchiness. Interesting to see what the follow-up may offer.
Janne Stark
Country: Australia
Year: 2016

Label: private

Freerock Saints - Blue Pearl Union (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:10

Now here's a new exciting offering from Greece! Bluesy hard rockers Freerock Saints, fronted by female Areti Valanopoulou. A vocal power pack with a smooth side to it. Flanked by Super Vintage guitarist Stavros Papadopoulos the two serves a platter of outstanding 70s oriented hard rock with a bluesy touch and some Zeppelin tricks for good measures. Tracks like Roll With The Wind offer the classic take-a-break-while-I-sing verse. It's not only how well you fill that gap, but also how you follow it up that matters. The duo checks both approved boxes. Areti delivers some great whiskey tinged Plant-like vocals and Stavros then kicks in with riff magic a la carte. I mean, he's already showed in his other band that riffing is his business, and he does it like pro. Shot Down In Flames takes us to Bad Company territory, and it also shows that you can make a sound ballsy even though you have a dangerously clean guitar sound. It also helps the overdriven guitar solos pop out a bit more. Blue Pearl opens with Stavros letting his Hendrix vibe fly freely. A cool bluesy ballad where Areti's soulful vocals lifts it up a notch. If you're into stuff like Sass Jordan, Black Pearl or Skyline, check this band out!
Janne Stark
Country: Greece
Label: Grooveyard Records
Year: 2016

Future Elephants? - Future Elephants? (2LP)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:08

You may wonder whatever happened to Neon Rose singer Roger Holegård. Yes, he did record some stuff with Truck and Wasa Express, but that was ages ago. So, finally, he's teamed up with guitarist Dante Holmberg (Uppåt Väggarna, Strix Q), bassist Anders Lundquist and drummer Rolle Lindgren and formed a zoo, we'll at least the elephant section, the future elephants section… probably, hence the question mark, I guess... No idea about the name, but somehow it does stick out. Damaged Childopens the album and man; this was a nice surprise. Even though I love the heavy rocking style of Neon Rose, Future Elephants? well-arranged prog rock really strikes a positive nerve. The sound is raw, naked and dynamic, very analogue sounding. I just love the minimalist production with nothing to hide behind. The songs are intricate, well-arranged yet very easy accessible. In The Tide Is Rollin In You can almost hear Danne standing on the side just waiting to throw in a riff. Then suddenly we're off in guitar land, reminding me of Automatic Fine Tuning (or Wishbone Ash on steroids). Damn, I love this! Ivory Dancereminds me a bit about Crack The Sky, with lyrics handling the extinction of beautiful animals just for our money and pleasure. Roger's still got it, both vocally and lyrically. In This Tone opens up with some guitar licks that sound so genuinely guitar through amp that any digital device would crumble and die. Add a bit of mellotron, some drunken pub chanting and you feel like you've been transported back to 1974. Love it! Sundown In Matobo takes us to Africa, I guess, I'm not really sure about the dialect, though. November Pain initially takes us into a dark, heavy and gloomy territory, but moves on to softer grounds and suddenly we land in a Pink Floyd:ish landscape with Dante going all Gilmour on our asses. Really beautiful stuff with killer guitar playing indeed! And The Mountain Kissed The Sky mixes Swedish folky vibes with Native American drums and a feel of Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride. Don't Raise That Gun with some vintage AC/DC sounding riffing and makes me think of Baby, Please Don't Go, except for the heavy and doomy chorus. Album finale The Pilot ends the album in a great proggy manner featuring both sunshine and rain (literally). An outstanding album that should attract all fans of 70s progressive music with biting guitar-work and intricate but accessible songs. Quite the masterpiece!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2016

Label: Rock Music Productions

Danko Jones - Wild Cat (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:05

Canadian power trio Danko Jones really speaks to the slightly punkish genes I developed in the late 70s. Yes, I was actually quite the fan of bands like Sex Pistols, DMZ, The Boys, Saints and Dead Boys, but then Motörhead came in and filled the gap between punk and metal. Still love some of that stuff, but it doesn't really wear out my CD player anymore, so to speak. Then one day I heard Born A Lion by Danko Jones and it appealed to me in the same way. Raw, energetic, powerful, rebellious, garagey and waving a big fuck-you finger. I just loved it! Probably also because this band knew how to write good riffs and cool lyrics, plus they had a bluesy vibe. Well, I was hooked. Despite the odd let down, this band has always delivered high class stuff. Not to mention on stage, holy shitballs, Dank Jones busts balls and kicks asses like no other! Finally, a new album! Opener I Gotta Rock immediately places a well-aimed boot in the groin! The lyrics are surprisingly blanket type rock n roll trivia, but it works for the song. Danko is still the best anti-shredder I know whose single string kindergarten solos actually works. He plays what works for the song and that's good enough for me. My Little Rock n Roll continues in the traditional Danko Jones break chord manner. We've heard it before, but damn it still works. Going Out Tonight picks up the tempo and this one will surely work great live! You Are My Woman has a sort of 60s poppy vibe to it with a hooky chorus. Do This Everynight is also a pretty happy rocker, while Let's Start Dancing whips it up like crazy! This is Danko Jones in its prime. The title track is a hard hitting boogie rocker with Danko spitting out every word like it was a poisonous bite of food. A killer track. She Likes It is a really cool, quite different track with a quirky guitar riff and cool half-tempo chugging with some busy drumming backing it up. Probably one of my favorite tracks with a pretty cool guitar solo as well. Success In Bed continues in the classic Danko stomp feel, and reminds me a bit of another old track, but the chorus takes a new route. Diamond Lady again takes the tempo up and this is a real great rocker with a soothing chorus. The album finishes with the track Revolution (But When We Make Love), a cool bluesy Strat powered heavy rocker. Conclusion: if you like albums like Below The Belt, Like A Lion or Never Too Loud, there should be no hesitation - go get it!
Janne Stark
Country: Canada
Year: 2017

Label: AFM

Super Vintage - Welcome To Mojo Land (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 08:03

Greek southern rockers Super Vintage, which features excellent guitarist Stavros Papadopoulos, also found in Freerock Saints, is back with a new dose of music. The previous albums have been high class releases both when it comes to music, production and performance. Opening track Southern Moon Rising is a cool bluesy rocker landing somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company in its vibe and feel. Delta Mud opens with some cool front porch acoustic guitar and slide, but soon moves into the electric southern rock living room. Classic southern rock, no more no less. Son Of Pain continues in the same vein, with some really nice dynamics and some killer soloing from Stavros. Let Me Be What I Want to Bekicks off with a nice busy riff and adds a bit of funky rhythms to the album. This is by no means any revolutionary album exploring new musical territories or extravagant new sounds. Super Vintage is like my Volvo. You get what you expect, what you're used to, it's trustworthy, works like a clock and you get that fine familiar feeling. Super Vintage sound like they should, and it's good!
Janne Stark
Label: Grooveyard Records
Year: 2017

Country: Greece

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory - A Direct Appeal For A Great Film

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 13:03

"Please support this and get behind it, its such a lovely heart-warming film about 3 humble blues legends, one of whom is the great Hubert Sumlin, a man whose fans included Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards Jeff Beck and lesser mortals like yours truly, anyone who could create the wonderful guitar lines to Killin' Floor and Smokestack Lightning with Howlin' Wolf is a 1000% genius in my book. Hubert created a whole style out of nothing. Support and crowdfunding are needed to give this commercial life, please get behind it, I've seen it, its fkn great!" ~ Bernie Tormé I'm asking you all to contribute to the Sidemen: Long Road To Glory Kickstarter campaign. Here is who you will be joining. Without your contributions, we cannot bring this film, this tribute to Pinetop, Hubert, and Willie, to the public. I am asking you to join these folks:

Warren Haynes appears in the award winning blues documentary, Sidemen: Long Road To Glory, and he has also autographed a guitar to help raise money for the film's Kickstarter campaign. The movie's writer and director, Scott Rosenbaum put together a short piece featuring Haynes performing the Robert Petway 1941 blues classic, Catfish Blues. Since December 30, over 120,000 people have viewed this trailer which promotes the film and the fundraising effort. It's obvious that Warren Haynes supports the movie, and that his fans are watching this clip.

Bonnie Raitt also appears in the film, has donated product for the fundraiser's perks, has tweeted her support for the film, and she loves this movie.

Guitar wunderkind Robben Ford also is seen in the documentary, and has autographed a guitar for the film, as a way of showing his support. Another of the world's elite guitarists, Eric Johnson, sent me a very warm note of thanks after I had sent him the film when we met up in Sacramento last week. Tim Reynolds from Dave Matthews band appears in the film, and has also most graciously signed a guitar for the project.

Sidemen was also featured today as the official movie of The Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, where it played to a packed house.

Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea III, brought to you by Joe Bonamassa, the Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea Foundation, and Sixthman is featuring several screenings of Sidemen: Long Road To Glory, and the film will be available on demand in every stateroom for passengers's viewings. In addition, director Scott Rosenbaum will be standing in for Alan Paul (Guitar World, "One Way Out: The Inside History Of The Allman Brothers"), moderating live interviews with Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, and Jaimoe onboard the ship before live audiences.

Blues Music Magazine has graciously offered a year's subscription to any contributor to the movie's Kickstarter campaign, a kind and generous offer of support.

Jérome Brunet, one of the world's greatest photographers, has donated several great prints, and taken the time to attend screenings for the film at festivals.

So many great artists and friends have given to support this film. Now, I am asking you on behalf of myself and the Sidemen: Long Road To Glory team to give. We need your cash contributions to make this happen. It cannot happen without your help. We thanks everyone for their warm responses, and generosity.    

Eric Johnson - Acoustic Brilliance At The Crest Theater In Sacramento

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 17:12

Eric Johnson put on a quietly dazzling show at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, California last night to an adoring audience. It was an excellent turnout for a Tuesday evening, and everyone knew why they were there. No tire kickers, or lookie loos (sorry, I'm just back from the NAMM Show) - no, this crowd knew the man, and knew the music, and that made for a beautiful evening.

EJ is Eric's new acoustic album, and he played most of it and more in two sets stretched over a couple of blissful hours. Eric's easy going demeanor lends itself perfectly to the living room like setting of a chair surrounded by some acoustic guitars, and an electric keyboard a few steps away that allowed him to move easily between them as he casually worked his way through the setlist.

The night was made even more special by my meeting up with Tower Of Power organist/pianist Roger Smith, who when he was twenty years old played with a teenaged Eric Johnson and bassist Roscoe Beck in a band named Blind Mellon, which pre-dated the guitarist's days in the Electromagnets. Roger regaled us with tales of early jams, building their first studio, and even asking Eric's dad permission to take his son out on the road for gigs.

Photo: John BlandKicking the set off with the Simon & Garfunkel classic, "Mrs. Robinson", which also is the opening track of EJ, Johnson had the very willing audience in the palm of his hand, and he kept them there throughout the night. Johnson's smooth, sophisticated approach certainly keeps things from ever getting bogged down, as acoustic performances can do in the hands of those less well versed. A combination of a very melodic voice and some stupendous chops that he makes look so easy insured that there was never a dull moment, and many of the pitfalls that can derail an acoustic performance were skillfully avoided. Johnson deftly pops and slides single note fills into the vocal numbers that always made you smile, and appreciate his sheer musicality and virtuosity.

While everyone knows of Johnson's legendary prowess on the guitar, his piano playing is very elegant and sophisticated in much the same fashion that so informs his guitar work. His chord voicings are expansive, expressive, and he rarely utilizes block chords or pentatonic scales, instead choosing to incorporate a more harmonically sophisticated method of working the keyboard just as he does on the guitar's fretboard. "Water Under The Bridge", which opened the second set is one such song, and it evokes the memory of Sir Elton John's more sonorous keyboard outings with a gorgeous vocal melody to boot.

Another thing that Johnson does brilliantly is reimagining classic cover tunes such as his final encore, a beautiful piano driven rendition of The Beatles's "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away", which surely had John Lennon smiling somewhere in the cosmos.

Johnson reaches deep into his listening past to resuscitate Les Paul and Mary Ford's 1951 hit, "The World Is Waiting For The Sunset" as an instrumental, and a right toe-tapper (fingerpicker?) it is!

If, by chance, you are unsure as to whether you wish to check out Eric Johnson in an acoustic setting, put those wonderings away. Without question it is a more laid back evening and event than one of the maestro's electric outings, but this satisfies deeply in a different way, but one which you will surely appreciate when you experience it.


The Hall Of Heavy Metal History Makes An Auspicious Arrival

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Tue, 01/24/2017 - 13:26

The Hall Of Heavy Metal History is based on big dreams. 

Pat Gesualdo dreams big. When he had his own disabilities as a youth, he unwittingly healed himself by retraining his brain synapses through learning how to play the drums, and in the process he discovered a wonderful holistic healing method of drum therapy, which led to him starting a fantastic organization called D.A.D. (Drums Against Disabilities) over twelve years ago.

Utilized by hospitals and health centers  in over fifteen countries around the world, Pat's breakthrough program helps children and adults with Autism, ADHD, Muscular Dystrophy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities to develop retention, coordination, social skill interaction, sensory integration, fine motor skill, and physical and cognitive function. Pat is also the only person in America who can certify drum therapists.

Not just a world class drummer and philanthropic organizer, Pat is also a huge fan of heavy music and the musicians who make it. Over the last year he conceived and organized the Hall Of Heavy Metal History, which had its first induction on January 18, 2017 at the Anaheim Expo Center during the world renowned NAMM Show. The show was expertly hosted by Eddie Trunk, a man who has done so much to support the genre.

Pat Gesualdo and myself, photo by Lauryn C. Mercer
The inductees for this inaugural year included legends both living and deceased, as is essential and fitting for a representative selection of heavy music heroes. 

Ronnie James Dio loomed on this evening as a man who had a tremendous influence on the genre and its proponents. It's also worth noting that all the proceeds for this evening's event were donated to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. His induction was accepted by his widow, Wendy Dio, who spoke passionately about the man, his art, and her cause. 

Wendy Dio
Ronnie Dio also made it into one of the more fascinating, but lesser known stories of the evening, that of the formation of the fathers of power metal Manowar, whose founder, guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman, told the tale of how while on tour with the Dio fronted Black Sabbath. Ronnie explained to Ross that he was a big fan of the guitarist's, and insisted that Friedman connect with a member of Sabbath's road crew, one Joey DeMaio. Ross and Joey met, and then started jamming in Sabbath's dressing rooms, often drawing the attention of the band onstage when they heard the roar from backstage in between the band's songs. Friendships were forged, and the terrain of metal was forever changed by Dio's foresight. Friedman had the rapt audience at attention as he told this tale, and he rounded out his speech with grace and class by wishing his parents were alive to see this moment.
Ross "The Boss" Friedman
Legendary bassist Rudy Sarzo also delivered a most memorable speech as he ran through his extensive resumé, and his work with such stalwarts as Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Dio, and perhaps most poignantly as he spoke of his great friendship and musical partnership with the incomparable Randy Rhoads. A very moving speech by one of music's finest gentlemen. 

Eddie Trunk naturally proved to be more than up for the task as the evening's M.C., utilizing his vast knowledge and long history of relationships to make the evening run as smooth as silk from the pre-induction press conference to the induction ceremony itself.

Don Airey was another metal legend who moved the room with his warm remembrances of his time with Rhoads while in Ozzy Osborne's band, his experiences with the much missed Gary Moore, and his touching mention of Jon Lord, who Airey ultimately replaced in Deep Purple after Lords' retirement in 2002 before Mr. Lord's passing in 2012.

Don Airey and myself, photo by Lauryn C. Mercer
The other speech that proved unforgettable was that of current Scorpions' drummer, the great Mikkey Dee, who spoke with fond memories and great love and respect for his boss and mentor in the glorious Motorhead, Lemmy Kilminster, whose posthumous award was graciously accepted by manager Todd Singerman. Dee joined Motorhead in 1992, the same year Singerman became the band's manager, and their histories are forever entwined in the history of heavy metal.

Mikkey Dee
The evening's festivities would not have been complete without some live metal, and it was supplied in spades beginning with guitarist Ethan Brosh, who's been lighting up stages for the last few years opening shows for such metal mavens as Michael Schenker, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel, as well as a couple of smoking instrumental records (a third is in the works). Brosh and his band got the crowd fired up for the induction ceremony in high style.

After the inductions, the crowd was delighted by a thunderous set by the always dependable Dio Disciples, who had singers Joe Retta and Tim "Ripper" Owens paying brilliant tribute to Ronnie James Dio with power, passion, and precision. Craig Goldy did his usual great job of delivering the goods of whatever great Dio guitarist he is asked to emulate, while always throwing some of his own tasty chops in with the mix. Goldy is one of rock's great unsung players, and is as great a person as he is a guitarist.

Ross The Boss Band
Next up on the bandstand was the brand new Ross The Boss Band. This was only the fourth time this lineup has played together, but the way they manhandled a selection of Manowar classics you would have never known it. Fronted by newcomer Marc Lopes (Let Us Pray), who has the fiery pipes required to deliver the founders of power metal's vocal histrionics, the band is rounded out by super bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X, Mike LePond's Silent Assassins), and one of the finest drummers in the genre, Kenny "Rhino" Earl. This will be a band to watch as they have already booked many tour dates for 2017, and will be hitting the studio to produce new music.

All in all it was an auspicious arrival of what will certainly grow in action and prestige in the years to come as Pat Gesualdo continues to dream big, and make it real. There are big things in the works for the future of the Hall Of Heavy Metal History, and this is only the beginning of an institution that will reward and acknowledge those who have contributed to this thing we call heavy metal history.

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory - Kickstarter Campaign 2017 Begins January 30th (file under: real news)

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 13:15

Friends, I need your help.

On January 30, 2017 a Kickstarter campaign for the blues documentary, Sidemen: Long Road To Glory will be publicly launched. The purpose of this campaign is to raise the funds necessary to pay for the licensing of the music used in the film, in order to get the film into distribution. We need your support to do this, both financially and in other ways, which I will get to shortly.

I have been involved with this great film for almost seven years. The movie is the story of blues legends Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. But, it didn't start that way. It started off as a live concert document, inspired by the likes of The Band and Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Unfortunately, there could have been no foreseeing the death of these three gentlemen within eight months of each other in 2011.

This derailed the project in a variety of ways, not the least being the extreme personal burden on director/writer/producer Scott Rosenbaum, who lost not three documentary subjects, but three very dear and close friends with whom he had been traveling, living, and working with for several years. My real involvement with the film really began with a series of conversations, texts, and e-mails between myself and Scott as he worked for almost a year trying to figure out not just what to do with a half finished film, but whether the film should even live on, or be discarded.

Ultimately, it was determined that in tribute to the lives lived by these great men, that their stories must be told, and that the show must go on. I connected Scott with my friend, record producer/bassist Fabrizio Grossi, and together we all worked hard to amass an incredible list of artists willing to be a part of this film. The film segued from live concert document into an incredible telling of three life stories, stories that anyone would love to watch - this is a music documentary, but it is also a very moving tale of humanity that would move any viewer. One that ends not with the deaths of some legends, but with a path and template for both the blues and its players moving forward.

The film is completed, and played very well on the summer film festival circuit, winning many awards, citations, reviews, and accolades. It made it to the finish line, and now it must make it to market, and onto screens.


Rock Guitar Daily is something which has been very near and dear to my heart for almost ten years. I've written well over a thousand interviews, reviews, gig reports, and various sundry features - a labor of love by any measure, one that was motivated by my love of music and musicians. I've never sought to monetize this blog, I have only used it to support the music I love, and also to build relationships for myself (both within the industry and with readers, listeners, and other music lovers). It has always been my policy to support what I love, and to avoid negativity. I've found that I do not have the time to support everything I like, so why would I burn up energy and time with things I didn't like? Millions of eyes have read these pages, and hopefully the hundreds of musicians, bands, acts, and artists I've covered have benefitted from the work I have done.

Now, it is time for me to ask something from you. Of course, the first thing I must ask for is your financial support for this campaign when it begins on January 30, 2017. Let's not try to fool anyone, this is all about raising money to get this film onto screens. This is not just a great film, it's an important film. It gets down to the true grassroots, it's all about the love of this great music, and these great men. Your cash donations will be what takes the movie to the next level. But that's only just the beginning. I'm asking for this support as a friend, not because I feel we are owed anything.

As vitally important as the money is the support you can show for the film and its makers in the way of sharing our message with your social circles. Without you reaching out along with us, we will not be able to make this happen. So, we need your help - a lot of it. Please join our sites on Facebook, Twitter, and share our links and announcements when you see them. One person, one vote? No, much better than that, your voice can reach those we have no access to, and you can help us in a very visceral way make this film happen for the world - your vote can win us hundreds of new friends and supporters that we really need to help this succeed.

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory on Facebook

The Sidemen: Long Road To Glory Kickstarter campaign goes live on Monday, January 30th. You'll be able to find the campaign via the Kickstarter website (https://www.kickstarter.com), the film's website (http://www.sidemenfilm.com), or on our social media sites (see above).

Our team has developed a wonderful Kickstarter campaign, and we've got some fantastic perks lined up. Original artwork, autographed Custom Build guitars from Thin The Herd Guitars, posters, t-shirts, copies of the movie, and tremendous bundles of packages to reward your kind and generous help.

I'd like to thank each and every one of you reading this in advance for any consideration of help you can give us. Getting this film to market is just the beginning, but it is something we need to make happen before we can move on to the future, and we absolutely cannot do it without your help, and for that help we humbly thank you all.

Tony Conley, Rock Guitar Daily

2016 Top 20!

Stark Music Reviews - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 06:01
I'm a bit behind when it comes to reviews, but there's stuff on the way. In the meantime, here's my Top 20 of 2016!!

CROBOT – Fat City
ALTER BRIDGE – The Last Hero
PALACE OF THE KING – Valles Marineris
BLINDSTONE – The Seventh Cycle of Eternity
SNAKE HEAD RITUAL – Ceremonial Thunder
PRETTY MAIDS – Kingmaker
COLD TRUTH – Grindstone
KANSAS – The Prelude Implicit
MAGNOLIA – På djupt vatten
FREEROCK SAINTS – Blue Pearl Union
NITROVILLE – Cheating The Hangman
ELECTRIC RELIGIONS – Duality Of The Universe

THE DEAD DAISIES – Make Some Noise

Eric Gales - Middle Of The Road - A Preview (it will blow your minds)

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 05:50

Yeah, over the holidays I got a glimpse. A listen to Eric Gales's new album, Middle Of The Road, soon to be released on Mascot Records. Enough to tell you this. For Eric Gales and his audience, this one is a game changer.

Eric Gales breaks it down on this album like he never has, and we have a record that evokes the memories of not just guitar heroes, but of popular music's highest points. Ray Charles. Little Richard. Miles Davis. Stevie Wonder. John Lennon.

What? John Lennon? How's that?

Well, this record is raw. Four on the floor, wall to wall, and straight to the heart. Much like Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album that laid the musician's life out in as plain a language as anyone could imagine, this album tells the truth. Fabrizio Grossi's production is brilliant - sparse and directly in your face, delivering Gale's message, which might be the most important thing about this project. This is about how we live our lives, and what we have to share with one another. A thing called love. And it's wrapped in melody, harmony, and grace.

The guitars are there, and they are more gorgeous than they have ever been - when you hear "Help Me Let Go", it's worthy of Lennon and McCartney's most tender moments in terms of a writer writing out his life for public display, but the guitars are majestic. An album, and a song of looking inwards and serving outwards. Gales seems to be singing not just for himself and his family, but for us all.

I have to stop there. A much longer review will surely be coming closer to the release date, but I felt like I had to preface it with this - I've been smiling at everything Eric has been doing for the last few years, but it's important to say that things are going up a few notches, and whether you were ever drawn to Gales for his almost unequalled guitar skills, his songs, or his ever improving vocals, well, let's just say, the best is here to come.


TrueFire In The Jam: Robben Ford Sessions - An Amazing Experience

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Thu, 11/24/2016 - 01:43

TrueFire works. They've been a leader in the online guitar lessons since 1991, and with over a million pupils and collaborations with over 600 instructors, they are the state of the art. Their course library contains over 25,000 interactive guitar lessons that cover just about anything a player could want.

In The Jam is just what it says - it is an unparalleled jamming/learning experience in the online arena. It's mind boggling to see what they have put together with this latest edition/addition. I've been spending some quality time with the Robbin Ford Sessions these past few weeks, and I am still just blown away at what is available here, and what has been accomplished by all involved.

Included in this massive, but ultra easy to navigate tutorial is eleven chapters. These chapters include a welcome and explanation/introduction by your host Robben Ford, and ten tracks from Robben's 2014 album, A Day In Nashville. The album covers a lot of ground from rock, jazz, blues, some country, as Robben says, "There's something for everybody." Indeed there is - each track contains audio and video tracks of everything Ford plays, including commentary that let's you know not just what and how he's playing what he's playing, but also why he's making the musical choices throughout. If that was all you got here, it would be a tremendous value, but we're only getting started.

Each track comes with a great three camera screen view that lets you see Robben's right hand, left hand, and full guitar/hands shots for both his lead and rhythm guitar parts, as well as an onboard mixer that lets you control the volume of the whole track (master), lead guitar, rhythm guitar, vocals, and bass, so you can emphasize or even mute any part or section of the track.

So, for instance, you can mute all the guitars and vocals to focus in and hear exactly how the rhythm section (bass and drums) are playing together to support the track, or you can mute the lead guitar, bass, and drums in order listen to just Ford's lead vocal and rhythm guitar track, and learn how he accompanies himself. Then you can bring up the lead and rhythm guitar parts to se just how this master has assembled his guitars for each track. The options are many, and you can not just learn technical and musical skills from the individual instruments, you can also gain tremendous insight into how tracks are put together, and the role of the arrangers and producers on tracks such as these. It's all quite remarkable in its depth and level of completeness.

Robben Ford is a very natural performer, and that skill translates straight over into his exceptionally easy to understand teaching style and commentaries. He almost makes being Robben Ford seem easy. He's that good.

This software is directed to the guitar community, but it would be of tremendous value to any musician at any level of skill and experience. Any serious student, or even just anyone with intermediate musical skills and is looking for a jam would do well to experience this program. I must add the requisite, "Where was this when I was a beginner," at this point. This won't make playing easier, and you'll certainly have to still put in your time learning your instrument and the associated skills, but this gives you so much wonderful information that it eliminates much of the mystery that once made learning much more difficult. These are great guitar lessons that you can repeat endlessly, fast forward or rewind at any point, and toggle between instruments, great commentary, and the again invaluable lessons of listening and watching the instruments and players working together. I'm hard pressed to think of any function of the recording process from a player's perspective that isn't covered here.

Each track also includes a session commentary that is essential watching and listening. You can glean a vast amount of knowledge from this alone. The visuals are superb, the sound amazing, and the content is unparalleled.

There is also tablature and notation for each track. Yes, the folks at TrueFire have thought of it all. In The Jam is a beautiful tool, perfect for learning, great fun for jamming along, and when you see and experience it, I promise you will be just as blown away as I have been.  

The Dictators NYC - As Good As It Gets

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Wed, 11/09/2016 - 17:22

As good as it gets. Last night amongst more looming news, The Dictators NYC put on one of the greatest straight ahead rock 'n' roll performances I have ever witnessed. It had it all - a charismatic frontman, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, inciting the crowd, reciting the rock poetry, and singing his ass off, Ross "The Boss" Friedman putting on a brilliant hard rock guitar clinic about a half foot from my face, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson on ridiculously impassioned drums and hearty backup vocals, the brutal but sophisticated bass attack of Dean "The Dream" Rispler, and one of New York's finest, Daniel Rey (Hey, somebody get this guy a nickname!) on second guitar and vocals. Yes, as good as it gets.

Here's my disclaimer: I've been a big fan of The Dictators since 1975, when they unleashed Go Girl Crazy to a somewhat disinterested public. Some say The Dictators invented punk rock, and no less a connoisseur than the king of garage rock love, Steven Van Zandt (aka "Little Steven", or "Miami Steve") called the band, "The connective tissue between the eras of The MC5, New York Dolls, and the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s." When I first heard them, I was an impressionable young guitar slinger, and I wasn't sure what the hell they were, but I knew they had balls, a great sense of humor, songs for days, chops galore, and I knew that I dug it all. Well, that all rings true to this day, and I can claim no sense of critical judgement here - I am an unabashed fan, and that's what I went looking for last night, because my soul was in need of something that would take me back to 1975, my personal summer of love. Elections be damned.

Tuesday night, small market Sacramento, first night of a tour, and the distraction of the most divisive presidential election of our lifetimes (the country's lifetime?), there were plenty of obstacles that would have seen a lesser band off their best, but from the minute they walked onstage, it was electrifying. They were unperturbed by any off the distractions, and they gave the crowd a show of a lifetime.

Before the show I spent a lot of time in some very serious conversation with Ross "The Boss" Friedman (née FUNichello - see Go Girl Crazy back cover), so much so that when he was walking to the stage I rather brazenly told my friend that in light of what was happening, I wanted him to play the show of his life (he does every night, anyway), and I'll be damned if he didn't. As I said I had positioned myself in the front row right between Friedman and Manitoba, and I witnessed what may have been the best single guitar performance I've ever witnessed. He played like his life was depending on it - brash chords with his amp set to stun, sizzling leads, and crazy fills in every space he could fit them in. I've seen just about every guitarist that ever mattered to me, I spent months just feet away from Michael Schenker when I was in his employ, and seriously, this may have been the best night of rock guitar I've seen.

Speaking of performances, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba put on a brilliant display of exactly what the world wants, needs, and desires of a frontman - he ran the show with steely determination, his usual great mix of humor and passion, and he had the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end. He even poked some good natured fun at Friedman about his days in the proto-power metal band, Manowar. I can't lie, there are some political differences amongst the members of The Dictators NYC, but if all America handled it as gracefully as this bunch, this day would be a little lighter and brighter for everyone. Manitoba steered his ship like an admiral on the high seas.

The setlist ran the gamut of the band's long career, and it seemed even more inclusive than in the past if I'm not mistaken, with some deep cuts not seen on previous tours. Now all we need is a new album to emerge for the next time around! The classics were in place: "The Next Big Thing", "Who Will Save Rock And Roll", "New York, New York", Pussy And Money", the always anthemic "Weekend", and many others that are still rattling around in my head this afternoon a day later.

Rounding out the band is maybe one of the finest engine room rhythm sections going. You've got JP Patterson, who is whirling dervish on the drums, and whose passion behind the kit was barely containable as he leaned into his microphone to contribute some backing vocals that are as powerful as his stick work. Then there's Dean Rispler, an in-demand New York rock record producer who also finds time for his own band, Kosmodemonic, as well as contributing his guitar work with punk rock supergroup Osaka Popstar, on some wonderful Entwistlean bass. He's super rock solid, and with a tone to die for, but he's also aces at throwing in melodic flourishes that make you grin every time. Daniel Rey needs no introduction - if you don't know, get on it, but his list of collaborations and productions includes names like The Ramones, White Zombie, Ronnie Spector, and about a thousand more notables - his co-guitar work with Friedman is stellar, he's the link in the chain that makes this an unbreakable outfit.

This was the first show of the band's annual West Coast tour, and if at all possible, you've got to see this band - it's life affirming for god sakes, everything rock is supposed to be, and whether you know it or not, you need this more than ever. They tore down the walls and defied the odds, just as they've been doing for over 40 years. God bless The Dictators NYC. As good as it gets.

Johnny Hickman - Hickmania III - The Third Time Is A Charm, Once Again

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 18:38
Photo by Steve RizzariThis marks Johnny Hickman's third annual mini tour of house parties in Northern California, and once again I find myself saying that it was one of my favorite nights of the year - one of the best shows I've seen this year, a year that has seen what I would best describe as an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live shows.

There is nothing tougher for a performer than doing a full night of music with just voice, and guitar. In fact, it's always been something I've tended to avoid due to the difficulty involved, and how seldom I've seen it work - it's asks a tremendous amount of the artist, of the audience, and very few artists can pull it off. This being said, Johnny Hickman has the chops as a writer, a player, and a singer to pull it off, but to be honest, where the rubber hits the road is in his ability to draw the audience into every tale he tells as a performer and a personality. He's one with his audience, there is very little separation between the stage and the crowd, they are all in it together, it's almost like a team sport. You can see just how much he is enjoying doing what he does, and the loving response from the crowd is right inline with this.

Photo by Suzanne RogersThese house parties are gathering legendary status as the years go by, and everyone continues to get better at their job. The party hosts provide their homes, great food, drinks, and the setting for a recital experience that may be the twenty-first century versions of parlor concerts of the renaissance age, but with none of the haughtiness or pretentiousness. This is more of a pretty straight forward, unabashed love fest. There is no illusion but that everyone is here for the same reason, nobody's here to check out the act, or the show, they are here to spend an evening being entertained by some they love, and who also loves them. Given that these are invitation only events, and there is at most maybe 60 audience members, there are literally no strangers in the room. I'm an interloping outsider for all intents and purposes, when it comes down to it. The relative new kid on the block, though I've known Johnny for probably five years - still, half the crowd knows me by name, and treats me like family.

The music is the center piece, and it's able to support all of this quite easily. Johnny, and I'm going to just call him Johnny, as we've become pretty good pals over the years, and I'm not going to try to put on airs, or act like I'm seeing this as a journalist - I'm not. I'm here as another member of the tribe, and I am in for all at this sonic sermon. Johnny has been in a band with one of the world's greatest songwriters for almost twenty-five years, and his partnership with his bandmate in Cracker, David Lowery, is just that. Lowery sings some songs Johnny's written, Johnny sings some that David has penned, and a lot of their best work is pure collaboration. An American Mick and Keith if you will, and Mr. Hickman is as good a writer as you'll find. He's a storyteller in the great tradition, and you can hear a thousand songs, novels, poems, and legends in the tales he tells. Whether it's a sideways grin at some of his oddball, down on their luck characters, or great tales of love and loss, it's always exactly as it should be - not to saccharine, not too sad, not to silly, but rather they are all recipes that are done just right. Amazing stuff actually. He can quote Tom Waits as easily as he can ring your bell with a rocking guitar lick, and that's just not easy, but he sure makes it look that way.

He is also possessed with the stamina of a prizefighter - last year I saw him play the first show of a tour with a severely lacerated ring finger, and this year he played for three hours without missing a beat, he was going as strong at the end of the show as the beginning, and then he proceeded to sign posters, drink toasts, hug everyone in the room, and still find time to talk with me about my son Ian, who has taken on the nickname of "the dude." Johnny Hickman's love of the Coen Brothers's classic film, The Big Lebowski is legendary, and I was trying to reminisce about the root of my dude's nickname, and I'm sure that this all ties together somehow, but there was also on my end of things a good deal of Maker's Mark bourbon on this night. At any rate, Johnny is the type of guy who loves people, and I don't know who had the better time, the artist, the crowd, or the drunk writer, but I'm also equally certain that it just doesn't matter. What matters is that in an America that is literally tearing itself apart, we all got to spend the night in a protective shroud of love, music, food, and friends, and that is what matters.

My only regret is that there is no documentary evidence with which to show you all. In these days of cell phones, and fan shot videos, these shows are camera and recorder free, the way music was meant to be heard for sure, but I'd still pay a great deal for a DVD of one of these nights, just so those not lucky enough to experience it could still see what's possible when a lot of factors get together for all the right reasons.

Great thanks to everyone involved, and I am grateful to get to be a part of this every year. If I started naming names, I'd have to name everyone in the room - what a perfect cast.

Well, I do have to give a special thanks to Jim and Suzanne Rogers, our hosts for the evening, and my running partner for the evening, guitar amp guru, Ben Fargen.

Summer Town
Bible Study Sue
Trials & Tribulations
Southern Cal
Little Tom
$1000 Car [cover]
(Come Back To) Stockton
Buenos Niches From A Lonely Room
Mr. Wrong
Whole Lotta Trouble
Some Day
San Bernardino Boy -- HATS! 714, baby!
California Country Boy
Poor Life Choices -- work in progress *NEW*
The Great Decline
Our Little Movie
Father Winter
Papa Johnny's Arms
Another Song About The Rain
Construction Man
There's No Easy Way To Say Goodbye
Hold of Myself
Wedding Day
Whittled Down
Long Tall Pine Tree
Little Queen Bee
Harvest Queen

Poster by the amazing Steve Rizzari     

Diamond Head - A Band Reborn Returns To America As Strong As Ever

Rock Guitar Daily with Tony Conley - Mon, 11/07/2016 - 16:23
"Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed." ~ Lars Ulrich - MetallicaDiamond Head kicked off the first night of their American tour last week in San Francisco, and they were marvelous. Reinvigorated by vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, and lead by the unflaggingly brilliant guitar work of founder Brian Tatler, the band gave a performance that got them a enthusiastic welcome back to the states by a pleased as punch audience.

Brian Tatler has always been incredibly scrupulous about the way his band Diamond Head has presented itself. While he's managed to keep the band's standards very high, it has perhaps come at the price of having his band being acclaimed as one of the most influential acts to come out of the NWOBHM scene in the early 80s, but also an act that has been absent as often as it's been on the boards. The good news is that this iteration of Diamond Head is as mighty as any that has come before it, and having a relatively new frontman who owes nothing to the past while giving it great respect results in a band that can play old and new songs that seamlessly live together in the new set.

As with many bands of a certain vintage, Diamond Head now sports a combination of players who run the gamut from being present at the creation (Tatler) to a brand new bassist (Dean Ashton). Then there is the brilliant man behind the drums, Karl Wilcox, who has been with the band for nearly twenty of the last twenty-five years. I've said it many times in the past, but a great drummer is an essential element in rock 'n' roll, and Wilcox is a very underrated stickman. Musical, powerful, and visual - these are the elements that every kid who picks up a set of sticks should learn. Rounding things out you have Andy (Abbz) Abberley on second guitar (2006), and the aforementioned Ras out front. They are a very cohesive unit, and a great blend onstage. Again, a testament to Tatler's unswerving demand for the best he can present for his brand and band.

The setlist was made up of certified Diamond Head classics, four songs off of their very impressive new self titled album, and a couple of deep tracks for the hard core fans. The great thing is that you cannot identify the old versus the new, unless you know their histories. The new album opener, "Bones" is a fantastic example that has Tatler riffing in his easily identifiable style, and Ras singing in both a style that suggests that he has certainly done his back catalogue homework, but melodically he's very much his own man, and a very compelling writer - when this number segues from aggressive riffing into a very smooth and melodic B section, he handles it with the aplomb of a younger Phil Mogg, but with the very accurate vocal gymnastics of a Halford or Dickinson. I use these names as identifiable benchmarks only, Ras sounds like Ras, and he's one of the best hard rock/metal vocalists to emerge in this century.

I had a chance to speak briefly with both Tatler and Ras before the band hit the stage, and it's great to see a lead guitarist and a singer who are both obviously enamored with one another's talents, and their creative partnership. That this new album is their first as a working unit, it certainly bodes well for the future of this classic British outfit. Onstage you can actually watch them being musically inspired by one another, and to see the sparks it creates is most impressive as Tatler digs into the chords with even more determination after a particularly powerful line from Ras, and Ras gives it right back after Tatler has torn off a particularly hot lead or riff, and there are many, many moments of great guitar work from one of England's most underrated players. Tattler reminds me of a riffier Pete Townshend, in that he's always about the song, and never relying on his instrument for just flash, or to show his goods.

This gig came to me at the last moment - a sudden realization that Diamond Head was going to be just two and a half hours away, and given the added attraction of it being the first night of a tour, I had to make it happen, and I'm stoked that it did, as it turned out to be one of the best gigs I've seen in a year that has literally been an embarrassment of riches in terms of great shows. Anybody that wants to tell you that rock is dead should be directed to see a Diamond Head show to get their mind right. Rock ain't near dead, and God bless a band that keeps making itself not just the best it can be, but as good as it's ever been, and I tip my hat to these guys for being not just a buzz, but an inspiration.

Diamond Head is still going strong across the US, and if they are anywhere near you, get out to the show, you'll be greatly pleased, this much I can promise you.

Thanks to Steve Goldby at Metal Talk, and Dave Bonney for making this happen, and don't miss Bonney's Tour Diary, a Metal Talk (www.metaltalk.net) Exclusive!