As the USA recovers from Covid-19 there are a couple of new releases from today’s finest rock bands to provide a much needed experience of joy.
Weezer and Twenty One Pilots are today’s new/old rock heroes. Sure Weezer has some great back catalog; Twenty One Pilots’ catalog is fewer titles but growing well.
Okay, Weezer has been around over 30 years, but remain vital as ever. Alright let’s start with the newest Weezer platter….
Van Weezer is just the right album for Summer 2021. Vocalist Rivers Cuomo had been wanting to contribute this type of modern rock n roll that salutes his love for eighties metal and hard rock.
Hero is a standout single that is on par with great Foo Fighters tracks.
Blue Dream uses the actual tab from Ozzy’s Crazy Train! And the song is totally original.
There are many flourishes of Eddie Van Halen’s playing style throughout the record hence the title Van Weezer.
The entirety of the set’s thirty minutes is pure cathartic release of why rock fans never stop wanting more no matter their age.
Twenty One Pilots have spent their Covid time recording the follow up to their concept epic Trench.
The new one is titled Scaled and Icy to reflect isolation and the scaled back way of life everyone has endured.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are a great duo. On the current set singles like Choker return them to their earlier form on records like Vessel.
Do not let the surface happy pop sound fool you. The lyrics are just as complex and probing as any Tyler has done previously.
Good Day opens the set with the declaration that it’s hard to believe that today is good. Singing out is the best way to bring joy. Mr. Joseph does just that. He sounds a lot like Mika which is a great thing.
Both albums will provide plenty of happiness this Summer!
The Battle At Garden’s Gate is the second studio album from a band which had been on their first world tour when Covid-19 struck.
Instead of complaining about the abrupt halt to their goals they spent time reflecting on what had happened to them and to their world.
Josh Kiszka; Jake Kiszka; Sam Kiszka; Danny Wagner wrote new songs they recorded in Nashville. The result is a much more complex set of tunes in which these young musicians did something quite amazing. They found their sound. Perhaps not a signature yet but still an audible gust that sets them apart from their peers.
Tracks like My Way Soon and Heat Above revel in the freedom of making music and being able to hit the road where you can make your own rules. It’s not for nothing the band’s earlier hit was called Highway Tune.
Age of Machine displays a new side to this group. A progressive component that lifts Josh’s vocals to new heights. I think his vocals have set them apart as genuine stars in the making.
His brothers Sam and Jake form a guitar sound that is all their own. You hear a chord progression that is Greta Van Fleet’s unique stamp. A mix of progressive rock with melody rooted in 1960’s psychedelia. Not a simple feat.
Producer Greg Kurstin (Foo Fighters) has brought out something deep in their arsenal of heavy melodic soft but hard edged rock that was there on the debut Anthem of the Peaceful Army but now is on the March with opuses like Broken Bells and Built By Nations.
This album is highly recommended. With the pandemic starting to lift let’s hope we can see these guys back on the road soon.
Mikael Söderlindh and Viktor Tell had a vision: to spread happiness by turning an everyday essential into a colorful design piece.
In 2008, socks were just socks. White, gray and black pieces of textile that were nowhere close to the fashionable and creative design piece they could become. But that was all about to change.
HELLO, HAPPY SOCKS
Happy Socks, a high-quality sock that combines unique designs and craftsmanship. (Probably) The world’s most comfortable and colorful tool for spreading happiness was born. This concept is now brought to life by Happy Socks’ talented team of creatives.
90 COUNTRIES around the world sell Happy Socks!
The perfect way to add just the right dash of color to any wardrobe with premium comfort.
In recent years the company has collaborated with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Queen. Now they are presenting David Bowie inspired designs!
I bought my first Iron Maiden record in 1982. “The Number of the Beast” garnered great reviews from the heavy metal community.
Here in America it also received threats from church officials as being an agent of satanism. Heavy metal music does a lot of satanic material. It just fits the genre so well. This kind of music is a tonic for many fans. I love complex guitar based music. Soaring vocals are a huge component as well.
Circus magazine wrote a response to the controversy. The article explained Iron Maiden are not devil worshippers, just devil-may-care.
I was a fan for life after that era. Their mascot Eddie, a re-animated ghoul, appears on every album cover. Created by Derek Riggs, he assumes different types and styles that fit each album’s themes and concepts.
From their eponymous debut in album to their first double studio album in 2015, the band’s music has evolved from traditional metal to a more progressive groove.
Their line-up changed several times. Original vocalist Paul DiAnno quit due to substance abuse. His replacement was Samson singer Bruce Dickinson who turned out to be their ticket to global stardom.
For two albums, Bruce was replaced by Blayze Bayley. Their 10th and 11th albums were as good as anything they had done before but fans did not like this change.
In the year 2000 the band made a huge comeback with Bruce’s return. Guitarist Adrian Smith also came back. This current line-up of the group proved to be their best.
Since the year 2000 Iron Maiden are Bruce Dickinson (Vocals), Steve Harris (Bass), Adrian Smith (Guitar), Dave Murray (Guitar), Janick Jers (Guitar), Nicko McBrain (Drums).
The past 20 years of a nearly 50 year career have produced critically acclaimed records like “Brave New World”, “A Matter of Life and Death”, “The Final Frontier”, and “The Book of Souls”.
This followed their now classic albums of the 1980’s: “Killers”, “The Number of the Beast”, “Piece of Mind”, “Powerslave”, “Somewhere in Time”, and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son “.
A documentary film, “Flight 666”, follows Maiden on a record setting world tour in which lead singer Bruce Dickinson piloted the band’s plane called Ed Force One.
Around the world Maiden’s fan base grew not only larger but younger too. In my opinion Iron Maiden have the best fans.
In the past four decades you will have seen people wearing Iron Maiden shirts or patches or bracelets or hats.
In 1982, Eddie was a demon spawn. Then in 1983 he was condemned to the rubber room. In 1984 he was an entombed pharaoh. In 1986 he became a cyborg. In 1988 he became the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Now in their fifth decade, Iron Maiden are nominated to the Rock Hall of Fame.
Not seeking this award, the band will continue to empower their massive audience that spans the globe with their upcoming seventeenth studio album.
Bassist Steve Harris founded the group on Christmas day 1975! He said at the end of each decade that Maiden had another ten albums in them. And their sixteen studio records all have songs that became big concert classics.
This is a snapshot song list of my favorites from the band’s ongoing career:
Murders In The Rue Morgue
Phantom of the Opera
Die With Your Boots On
The Number Of The Beast
Run To The Hills
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Flight Of Icarus
Where Eagles Dare
To Tame A Land (inspired by Dune)
Sun And Steel
Two Minutes To Midnight
Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
Sea Of Madness
Somewhere In Time
Stranger In A Strange Land
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
The Evil That Men Do
No Prayer For The Dying
Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter*
Public Enema Number One
Be Quick Or Be Dead
From Here To Eternity
Afraid To Shoot Strangers
Judas Be My Guide
Fear Of The Dark
Sign Of The Cross
Lord Of The Flies
Man On The Edge
Judgement Of Heaven
The Angel And The Gambler
The Educated Fool
Dance of Death
The Wicker Man
Brave New World
Out Of The Silent Planet
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
Lord Of Light
Satellite 15…The Final Frontier
Isle Of Avalon
The Man Who Would Be King
When The Wild Wind Blows
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed Of Light
The Book Of Souls
Death Or Glory
Tears Of A Clown
Empire Of The Clouds
*The only single to reach #1 on the chart.
Up the Irons!
The list of songs above reflects how well Iron Maiden have covered their horror, science fiction, fantasy, and historical literary interests.
Their songwriting is done now by each band member. Steve Harris is their lead songwriter who composed epic songs lasting a minimum of six minutes on every record. Frontman Bruce Dickinson wrote the longest track in their history so far. “Empire Of The Clouds” runs 18 minutes!
Arguably the most epic of bands, I hope Maiden get elected to the rock hall of fame this year. They deserve this honor.
Dearest readers I leave you with a few of my favorite versions of mascot Eddie:
Here is a book 40 years in the making. The Dino De Laurentiis production of “Flash Gordon” was released on December 8, 1980 in North America. It’s first weekend at the box office was on par with then recent blockbuster “The Empire Strikes Back” which was the first sequel in the Star Wars saga.
The Alex Raymond comic strip was a different cinematic animal. Flash Gordon’s universe had existed since the 1930’s. The makers of this film decided the project would be an update of the look and nature of a 1930’s comic hero into one that fit 1980. An approach that allowed shades of camp and fun to weave the fabric the production would build itself upon.
What makes this book special is that the love audiences have for it has increased over the decades. Among cult films this one stands pretty tall. For me this is my Rocky Horror or Escape From New York.
Bob Lindenmayer is a private collector of Flash Gordon props and memorabilia. His collection is considered the largest in the world. He contributed images of every prop weapon used in filming. The secrets of how to achieve on screen dimensions from the flat but colorful pages of illustrations is truly amazing to see unfold here.
Because Flash Gordon is a product of both English and Italian production teams the book delves into the process of casting, costuming, set design, storyboarding, construction, scoring, writing, editing, and directing such a challenging work.
You will learn a lot of names associated with the film who made crucial contributions to why it has endured for 40 years in the hearts of millions of film lovers around the world.
Lawrence Noble is the American sculptor who created the Flash Gordon logo that adorned Richard Amsel’s theatrical poster and the cover of Queen’s soundtrack album. We discover other notable work he did for film including the poster for “Time After Time”, a time travel fantasy about H.G. Wells attempt to capture Jack The Ripper. He also created the 10th Anniversary release poster for “The Empire Strikes Back”.
The memorable opening titles of the film set the mood, tone, and style for what was to come. Richard and Bob Greenberg created the animation for this sequence and the dazzling energy curtain that drapes Mingo City at the film’s climax. R/Greenberg associates based in New York had provided such animation mainly to commercials. The Flash Gordon team loved their work so much they were asked to work on Flash.
Filled with elements that were never used in the film you can enjoy the struggle of making such an epic scale film as a fan of the work. This book makes it possible. You get a close look at everything that went wrong as well as the fast pace of production. Time is money. Sets were built that went unused. There is a great section showing storyboarded scenes that were too costly to shoot.
Frank Van der Veer had worked on the DeLaurentiis production of “King Kong” so he was quite experienced as a special effects master. For Flash Gordon Van der Veer and his team had nine months to create 600 composite social effects shots ahead of their Christmas release date!
The book has many wonderful moments to share. The last one I will detail here involves the choice of Queen to score the film. Originally, Pink Floyd were chosen by Dino De Laurentiis. On the day Queen visited the set the music playing was Pink Floyd.
After seeing rough dailies of the film each member of the group decided what they wanted to compose. Guitarist/Vocalist/Songwriter Brian May was adamant about writing the films opening theme. And so it went with each member of Queen coming in separately to do their portion of the soundtrack. Their music was a total of 45 minutes of screen time. The rest would be composed by Howard Blake who had to come up with orchestrations in a period of just weeks.
The efforts and sacrifice of every artisan involved with this film has been embraced by millions of fans over the past 40 years. Cheers to Titan Books for publishing it.
You will indeed have as much fun reading through this book and taking in all of the eye-popping imagery as you did with the film itself. Flash, A-ahhh! Such a good time.
Taschen is an art book publisher founded in 1980 by Benedikt Taschen in Cologne, Germany. As of January 2017, Taschen is co-managed by Benedikt and his eldest daughter, Marlene Taschen.
This year the world renowned publisher celebrates 40 years of printing a library’s worth of art collections that span popular culture.
In The Star Wars book the original trilogy of films is deftly explored. Anything you ever wanted to know regarding the conception and production of these now classic titles are here. Despite the hefty page count the size is quite portable.
Within each section there are well over a hundred color and b&w photos. Storyboards, models, miniatures, sets, blueprints, and artists are exhibited.
This volume is like holding the best Star Wars museum in your hands. George Lucas tells his story from modest beginnings to become the creator of one of the most treasured brands in the world.
So this partnership with Taschen matches two of the great brands with spectacular results.
Turning each glossy page you get so much fascinating insights into the process of making films at the highest level.
I will reveal just a single bit I loved discovering here for the first time. The rest you can find for yourself.
The cost of Episode V The Empire Strikes Back was so great that if it had failed there would be no future for Lucasfilm nor the special effects company Industrial Light & Magic! Every dime from the first film went into making.
The details of this book are impressive. Casting decisions, the construction of sets on location and sound stages, conceptual art, and costume designs are examined.
You will come away with a complete understanding of the level of expertise required to make feature films. I think even lay people will appreciate perhaps for the first time that our greatest achievements do not just happen.
There are a vast group of dedicated artisans that make a potential audience think the results are effortless. In the case of Star Wars they made us all feel like we really did travel to a galaxy far, far, away in a time long ago.
Congratulations to the artisans at Taschen for producing such fine works. Here’s to your next 40 years!
A crown jewel in the library for any fan of classic rock comes this compendium of every single track recorded and released by Queen during their original reign with late lead vocalist Freddie Mercury.
A stunningly designed volume focusing on the main discography released between 1973 and 1991.
Each title gets a unique graphic art treatment using a similar font but adding a splash of custom color for each recording.
To give readers context there are added sections. A brief intro to each member of the band comes before the eponymous debut is discussed.
We are also given great background on the key players in the band’s story including producers Roy Thomas Baker, Rheinhold Mack, Sound Engineer Mike Stone, and photographer Mick Rock.
Every song in its proper order are given the entries subhead Genesis and Production. How the song was birthed then what technique was applied in the studio to bring the song to life.
There are many images in both color and b&w that have never been seen. One of my favorites was an image of guitarist Brian May holding a Linn-7 drum machine. This technology is mentioned as the band’s fifth member during the recording of Hot Space.
Highlighted throughout are revelations under the heading, For Queen Addicts. This illustrates just how vast the following has become for the band, especially after the success of the movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Everything about the band’s creative process is shared here. I found out a lot of things I did not know about the group. Since I am a Queen Addict I was quite impressed by this compendium.
The novice will probably be happy with their best-selling “Greatest Hits”. Long-time fans will need this book. Anyone who loves classic rock will also want to get a copy.
The band was not perfect. Refreshingly the book discusses the bad press received in the U.K. from the very start. Some of the biggest mistakes made took years to heal.
The four musicians who created this catalog of songs have become beloved by millions. Two of their famous fans, Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters co-curated a Queen compilation and Michael Jackson worked with Freddie.
This diverse mix of artistic points of view are in my opinion one of the components that make Queen so enduring in the canon of popular music.
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This latest effort from Australia’s legendary hard rock group is perhaps their best work since 1980’s “Back In Black”.
Decades ago, the loss of singer Bon Scott was thought to be their end. All the years in between AC/DC have proven nobody can ever count them out.
There have been solid outings like “Black Ice” and “Rock or Bust” in recent years.
This time round they once again had a lot to prove to themselves as well as fans. Singer Brian Johnson’s future was in doubt on the last tour which was completed by Guns N Roses vocalist/lyricist Axl Rose when he had hearing issues.
This release is the best news ever for any fan of the group. It brings most of the “Back In Black” line-up back together. On the inner sleeve above the band’s famous logo are the words “This One’s For Mal”. Angus’ dearly departed brother co—founded the group. His nephew Stevie now plays in the line-up.
Indeed all 12 tracks on PWR UP are written by Malcolm and Angus Young. I was blown away by the fact that there was not a single track I did not enjoy. The first single “Shot In The Dark” is third in the sequence on side 1.
Then get ready for a scorcher of a set. Perfecting their dirty blues style for over four decades you hear Malcolm Young’s rhythm work on every song.
Brian Johnson has never been better. Achieving gritty eighties style heavy rock that reminds me of “For Those About To Rock” and “Flick of the Switch”.
Opener “Realize” has understated harmonic thrust to get the adrenaline flowing in your ears. And then in perfect sequence each song stands alone as pure electric AC/DC power.
The album is on black vinyl; Yellow vinyl if ordered from the AC/DC online store; a deluxe CD light box that illuminates their logo and plays a portion of “Shot In The Dark” is also available.
This record will make you feel great during these dark times.