Edward Van Halen died this week from throat cancer.
His journey from Netherlands to Pasadena, California enabled him to prosper in a culture that became the LA heavy metal scene.
The first Van Halen record features real photos of each member during a gig at the famous Whiskey–A–Go–Go on the Sunset strip.
In 1978 Punk and Disco were exploding in popularity.
With its opening power chords the VH album was a fresh audio blast of serious but joyful rock.
Runnin’ with the Devil, the guitar solo Eruption, and the rest would change music forever.
The members of this group were great looking too. Eddie’s brother Alex, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth would rise to become the model for all the rock music to come flooding into the hearts and minds of young people all over the world.
Now called Hair Metal, the bands that bought Van Halen’s records are legion.
Eddie was an ingenious player. He could not read music but was able to play spot on by watching other musicians.
There were wonderful collaborations with Michael Jackson on the smash hit Beat It and his appearance on Brian May’s first solo effort Starfleet Project.
1984 is one of my favorite albums of all time. Featuring hits Jump, Hot For Teacher, Panama, and I’ll Wait. They were MTV’s most played act that year.
The changes to Sammy Hagar then Gary Cherone of Extreme yielded 8 years in which they released several #1 records including 5150, OU812, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Kiss were the band that VH opened for on their first national tour. Both bands would headline Britain’s Monsters of Rock festival.
Eddie Van Halen’s music still makes me feel great. I believe it’s timeless.
Although I only saw him in concert on their 2007 Tour, he went shirtless and played like the headliner he had always been.
The rockers of the 1980’s made their mark. Many of the bands from that era are still here recording and performing. Do not take them for granted.
Van Halen music is hard, heavy, melodic, harmonious, and the definition of great rock n roll.
I will miss Eddie Van Halen. He was such a huge presence in my life. Happy Trails…
Funny how the discovery of new music never fails to recharge my excitement for heavy metal.
Until recently I was beginning to think there were few truly great American metal bands.
That is until I realized that Five Finger Death Punch was that great band.
Sure, the success built over their first seven releases has made some in the metal community scoff at them.
You see every album they released has gone gold or platinum. And metal fans are sticklers about being too commercial.
I just think if the music works well just be satisfied they are one of ours! The bands’ influences are evident on every track.
Pantera, Metallica, Exodus, and Venom all inspired their ferocious sound.
Now comes the arrival of a pivotal album in this band’s career.
Dispensing their cover art of a skull pressing down on brass knuckles, their mascot called Knucklehead, we receive a red/orange coin. A snake eating itself in profile/ an infinity symbol.
Minted by any other group I might not have noticed such a new approach. The Latin, Novus Ordo which plainly states a new kind of order.
Throwing down a gauntlet of epic proportions with protest lyrics challenging our extreme apathy.
Is it FFDP’s ‘Fate’ to become an infinite metal beast that will self-destruct?
This is not a test. ‘Full Circle’ is a snide backbiter of a track. While “Bottom of the Top” screams can I become the best of the losers?
FFDP is proud of their defiance. Hate them or love them the band will not depart from a sound that is derived from their earlier efforts.
The band has such a consistent sound even after 8 records it still has all of the chops of their earlier material. Like AC/DC they will not change what works. Their sound remains the same.
Vocalist Ivan Moody’s battle against alcohol addiction is heard in songs like ‘To Be Alone’ and ‘Mother May I (Tic Toc)’.
Tearing into the artifice of a culture with a clock that is running out, addicts need hard truth.
And help from people who are willing to do the best they can for their loved ones.
Mr. Moody sings more here than on any of the band’s previous seven. On this album this approach pays off.
FFDP has delivered bruising and banging records for over 15 years.
Always mixing up spoken word sound with growling metal howls and melodic vocals, F8 is full throated melodic. This will probably get a mixed reaction from hardcore ‘Knuckleheads’ (also the nickname of their fanbase).
Perhaps unfair, but they can get away with this much more than Metallica did on “Load”.
FFDP was never just a thrash band. Their mix of traditional metal with alternative nu-metal set them apart. Mr. Moody states Mike Patton (Faith No More) influenced his vocals. I admit he sounds similar. I feel this is a great asset.
The second half unloads that banging ferocious growl we love. “This is War” sprays riffs all over the villains of life although never specified. A Pantera inspired killing joke of a track.
The collection concludes with ‘Brighter Side of Grey’. This is the most unusual song in their canon. A living eulogy for Ivan Moody, in case his rehab for alcoholism fails.
Too many have perished in this world, especially rock/metal musicians from addiction.
F8 should be played on 10.
Current Line-Up of FFDP:
Zoltan Bathory…..rhythm guitar, lead guitar
Ivan Moody…lead vocals, piano
Jason Hook…lead guitar, backing vocals
Chris Kael…bass, backing vocals
Charlie Engen….drums, percussion
Every title in their discography uses the graphics of Kung Fu cinema where the band derived its name.
Zoltan Bathory is the only remaining original member. He is also a martial artist.
With the release of their sixth album since Joel Grind founded the group, “Primal Future: 2019”, is a thrash doom showcase.
Along with Tyler Becker on drums and Robert Gray on guitars the trio from Portland, Oregon is taking the metal community by force of creative music that delivers.
Black Out The Code
New World Beyond
Deafened By The Roar
Controlled By Fear
Think Motorhead, Metallica, and Megadeth in describing this band’s sound. Pretty high praise that is earned. In just 39 minutes the 10 tracks represent what doom thrash is all about.
Raising questions concerning a future where tech undermines basic humanity. Is a future where society decays into oblivion an inevitability?
Our thermonuclear age has been in the planning for a long time. Cybernetic warfare is our fate. The horror is fuel for this branch of heavy metal. Toxic Holocaust has a lot to say. Check this one out.
Cities are turned to ash in a primal age of deceptive politics in the hellscape imagined.
Facing our worst fears through heavy music is why I love discovering bands like Toxic Holocaust.
Their catalog features “Evil Never Dies”. An epic of thrash fury. Doomy riffs aplenty in ‘Enemy of Jesus’. ‘Exxxecutioner’ is a feast of drumming and Lemmy like vocals with enough gravel to empty a quarry.
“An Overdose Of Death” & “Hell On Earth” are also worthy listens.
Neil Young’s 38th album, “Colorado”, released on October 25, 2019.
This is the first studio offering from Crazy Horse since 2012’s “Psychedelic Pill”.
The sounds you get these days are often produced so meticulously it’s miraculous there are any musicians left with real soul.
Crazy Horse have soul in spades. This latest offering is about climate change.
More to the point it’s a raw jammy statement of love for the planet; a pro-immigration, pluralistic mission from perhaps rock’s last angry man.
Crazy Horse are:
Neil Young (guitars, vocals, piano, vibes, harmonica), Nils Lofgren (guitars, vocals, pump organ), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), and Billy Talbot (bass, vocals). They recorded Colorado mostly live in studio in the titular state. Neil Young produced the album with John Hanlon.
01 Think of Me
02 She Showed Me Love
03 Olden Days
04 Help Me Lose My Mind
05 Green Is Blue
06 Shut It Down
07 Milky Way
09 Rainbow of Colors
10 I Do
While none of these new compositions will strike a novice listener as anything hip or catchy they are not meant to be commercial.
These are brilliant musicians laying down jams that are recorded well.
In each piece is expressed wishes, hopes, and dreams of a world that cares about the eternal.
“She Showed Me Love” is an epic jam of 13:36 mins secs in duration.
On vinyl this album is a 3 record set. There is a 7 inch single of ‘Milky Way’ included.
Mr. Young wanted to make an album of lasting value; high quality playback was key.
The musicianship on display here is superlative. “Milky Way” is the first single; “Rainbow Of Colors” will be the second.
Frustration over the lack of universal understanding of the epic problems we face with a climate in decline is resolved in the scorching anger of “Shut It Down”.
The song’s second verse:
Have to shut the whole system down All around the planet There’s a blindness that just can’t see Have to shut the whole system down They’re all wearing climate change As cool as they can be
The arrangements are not heavy handed. The delivery is what longtime listeners of this band would expect. A slow churn of political dissent that threatens to boil over.
By the record’s end you want more. In reality you must do your part so there can be more. An eternity of more.
Mr. Young has been recording since 1969. Now in his 50th year as a recording artist he shows no sign of slowing down; not giving in to an apathetic status quo.
He cares deeply for the songs he creates as an artist. His contributions to groups like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are untouchable rock milestones.
Sometimes his solo works have been difficult to translate on first listen. Regardless, you must listen with a close ear, expecting to not get all the meaning within right away.
This album has those qualities. If you do the work you will get the picture. Much more transparent than some of his other works with insightful poetic lyrics in every song.
“Milky Way” is a poem. Universal themes of lost love, longing for connection, and cockeyed optimism are long held hallmarks of musical art. This track embodies all of it.
The repeating verse:
I was sailing in the Milky Way Losing track of memories That weren’t that day Right by her side As the stars flew by I did collide With memory but somehow I survived And became free
A transient moment in time. Getting lost in the daze of lost/recalled memories and somehow able to move forward stronger.
As the lead single I felt strongly this track represented what the album as a whole says of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s work.
When a legendary artist releases new music there is a huge weight attached—memory of past glory.
“Colorado” just plainly states that we cannot collide with our past because we risk negating the present; become blind to our future.
According to SPIN magazine there will not be a concert tour this Fall to support the new record. Mr. Young is finishing up editing 15 films!
For thousands of years humanity has been seeking methods to restore a sense of peace among peoples.
Despite my non-belief, I think religion is still the source of our greatest imagined narrative. Despite the reality of suffering on a terrible scale people still strive for universal peace.
I think to understand why Woodstock is important today we must look at the culture that preceded the hippie youth movement.
Let’s begin with a rough review of the 1950’s and 1960’s as they relate to the rise of a New Left and Hippie rebellion in America.
The American Experiment
The seeds of a new nation were planted on soil enriched by slaves. A democratic system evolved to include, to assimilate, and to uplift.
The democratic model of Ancient Greece led the founders to forge a centralized government. There was immense suffering and bloodshed to make this happen. Many were excluded from the possibilities of America.
North America’s native population was decimated. Minority peoples were outsiders. Women could not vote; seek higher education.
A fractured society led to our civil war. Following the Lincoln Era, the newly freed slaves were murdered on a regular basis. Cultural resentment continued in America through WWII.
Americans of every race, creed, and class fought alongside their allies to defeat anti-democratic forces. Unfortunately, the strains of hateful ideology that threatened the world continued to infect our democracy.
The aftermath would bring an era of conservative value making. Discrimination was visible in segregation. Queers of any type were invisible. Any deviation from the straight and narrow was mocked and punished.
If you were white there were many rewards. Good jobs, new homes, and college educations were granted to this newly minted modern middle-class.
Father Knows Best
The 1950’s reinforced a culture where straight white males were the dominant cultural force.
Children were to be seen and not heard. Adults were the authority. Obey rules. Listen to your parents, go to school, and always work hard.
This separate and unequal society had a post-war baby boom that produced 70 million teenagers.
The new technology of TV provided people with a new way of viewing the world .
Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley reflected a new musical expression.
A strata of white middle-class kids rejected the materialistic path they were educated to value. The silver screen rebel arrived in the form of Marlon Brando & James Dean.
White kids started to hang with black kids outside of the Jim Crow Codes. Black leather jackets, rock n roll music, and drugs punched a hole in the wall of conservative white male hierarchy.
Then the 1960’s dawned with America at a cultural divide. The Korean War was followed by Vietnam.
Our politicians put the Cold War with Russia above our domestic problems. Communism was cast as the great threat.
Then a new generation helped elect our youngest President. The Civil Rights movement pressured elected officials to take apart systemic racism.
Amidst all of this cultural change came a youth quake seen and heard around the world.
The Beatles arrival in America in 1964 changed everything. Teenagers wanted to gather in large numbers. The message was heard in stereophonic sound: All You Need Is Love.
Tune In. Turn On. Drop Out.
In contrast to the previous decade in which the teenage rebel was portrayed as aimless, the Vietnam War gave the kids a cause.
The great disillusionment arrived with young people organizing against registering for war. Vietnam was televised every night.
American teenagers did not want to obey. The war was immoral. Racism was immoral. Promoting hate was immoral.
The Woodstock Festival became the visible embodiment of what the kids had fought for all decade long. This generation had a style, moral code, and vision that rejected the path of inequality, racism, and war their elders had enacted.
Harvard Prof Timothy Leary told kids to tune in, turn on and drop out. Forget the crap you were told; a new way is needed.
Kids dressed in jeans, colorful vests, and sandals. They took drugs to open their minds and dropped out of straight society to protest the government.
Boys grew their hair long, went shirtless and/or barefoot. Girls went bra less and joined with boys to form new communities beyond the white picket fence.
Many burned draft cards. They marched in solidarity with blacks. The authorities were quite shaken by the rebellion. Then at decade’s end came the big event.
Billed as 3 days of Peace, Music…and Love. On farm land in upstate New York where the Bethel Woods concert pavilion now stands, the festival took place.
The organizers of the Woodstock Festival were four young men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Mike Lang. The oldest of the four was only 27 years old at the time of the Woodstock Festival.
The concert was envisioned to be a fundraiser for a proposed recording studio in Woodstock where many musicians lived at the time. Mr. Roberts was heir to the Polydent fortune. He bankrolled Woodstock.
The original proposed site in Watkill, NY was rejected. The town’s people passed a law against mass concerts. The hippies were not desirable to their town.
The hippie movement was influenced by Eastern religion, rock music, and experimentation with drugs. The youth of this era rose up in mass to protest the Vietnam War.
Those American values formed in the 1950’s resulted in Michael Lang scrambling to find a new place for his festival. The township of the first proposal did not want hippies overtaking their community. Several towns declined to host.
He discovered a tract of land on the farm of Max Yasgur that had the right sort of shape for his concert vision.
The logistics got messy.
Tickets were $7 for one day and $18 for 3 days ($26 today) per day.
Fences surrounding the concert were not completed in time.
The promoters expected around 30,000 people. Over 400,000 came on the day closing down the NY state Thruway.
Instead of charging people the festival turned into a free “be in” the size and scale nobody could have predicted. Attendees created a community including makeshift playgrounds and camping areas.
On Day 2 of the festival thunderstorms shut down the music for hours. Chip Monck, the master of ceremonies for the fest, told people to come down from the towers. The monsoon like rains that came forced people to improvise sheltering in place.
Some of the concert goers stripped down, placing their clothes under tarps, and made the best of a tough situation. The temperature dropped quite a bit after the storms. Keeping clothes dry was essential to prevent hypothermia.
Goldmine magazine’s coverage of Woodstock provided an excerpt from Chapter 8 of the book “Back To Yasgur’s Farm” by Mike Greenblatt (Krause Books). Local police made a statement about the festival. Sullivan County Sheriff Louis Ratner said “I never met a nicer bunch of kids in my life.”
Ritchie Havens performed his song, “Freedom”, to open the show. On Monday morning, with only about 30,000 people left, Jimi Hendrix took the stage with his new band, Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. His rendition of our National Anthem is now rock culture’s preferred version.
In between there were The Who, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Country Joe MacDonald, and Sha Na Na.
The concert on a hill became an expression of hope for millions of people around the US and the world. Unfortunately the backlash against freedom (free love) followed.
When I was a kid people used to say if you remember Woodstock then you were not there. The wink and nod was due to the use of drugs.
However, in 1969 only 4% of Americans were smoking marijuana. Today more than 50% of people support legalization of the drug.
Woodstock’s organizers had debt of $1 million and faced many lawsuits following the festival.
The documentary film released by Warner Brothers was a hit. The box office receipts helped pay their debts down.
1969 was an exceptional year. Stonewall, The Moon Landing, Civil Rights Law, and nearly half a million teenagers/young adults gathered on a farm upstate to express their joys, sorrows, and hopes for a peaceful tomorrow.
50 Year Anniversary
Here in New York City a photographic exhibition will celebrate this milestone at The Morrison Hotel gallery.
To commemorate the performances at the festival there are some notable records being issued. The original triple LP Woodstock soundtrack album has been re-issued on vinyl.
Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner, will release Woodstock 50: Back To The Garden in separate vinyl and CD box sets.
Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jefferson Airplane’s Woodstock sets have been released on vinyl.
History should not repeat. The proposed Anniversary Festival was cancelled. I think people need to live in the present. Dwelling too much in the past is not only depressing but bears no fruit.
What I do know about the 1969 festival and the culture that fostered it is you cannot copy the past.
We can remember why this event became important to us; there is no repeating it. The emergence of the hippie movement for peace was a flash point in America’s story.
In Mike Greenblatt’s book “Woodstock” he notes a press conference following the festival in which Max Yasgur stated:
“The kids were wonderful, honest, sincere, good kids who said, ‘here we are. This is what we are. This is the way we dress. These are our morals.’ There wasn’t one incident the whole time. The kids were polite, shared everything with everyone, and they forced me to open my eyes.
In my opinion, we must remember that Woodstock remains in the social fabric because it was a successful event.
Nobody was patted down to enter the grounds. The promise of music, peace, and love was fulfilled.
In the ensuing 50 years we have grown militant, selfish, and distracted.
Uncertainty is the word we hear a lot today to describe how people are feeling about society.
The five decades since the Aquarian cultural awakening of free love has seen horrors we could not have imagined.
Cultural shifts have moved our society far away from those of the counterculture. We lost the surplus; Gained record debt.
The ruling political class has been more representative of a shrinking geographical minority than of the actual new demographic reality of 21st century America.
Without a military draft the country has become disconnected in the face of unending wars in Syria and Afghanistan.
Advanced technology allows our government to strike targets a world away. The population suffers under crumbling infrastructure; the military gets billions.
Smart phones enable never ending surveillance. We have become more paranoid as a people. Heads are bent down to the perpetual glow of a portable screen.
I know it all sounds dire. Today we face a lot of adversity. We must overcome…again.
Several movements have started to respond to this litany of potential disaster. The issues today include: Gun Reform, Women’s Equality, Prison Reform, LGBTQ Rights, and Election Reforms.
We serve each other. The people are more powerful than any group or political party. We can assemble and make something positive happen.
Always keep in mind that something special blossomed over 3 days in those grassroots on a farm in upstate New York.
This blog is dedicated to all of the people who made Woodstock happen in 1969.
Bad Religion, a band formed in 1980 in the midst of Southern California’s punk rock movement, has put forth a humanist view in the ever increasing hostile climate of organized religion, politics, and our greedy anti-intellectual establishment.
Punk rock is perhaps the best truth-teller music has to offer. I will talk about my other favorites of this genre in future blogs.
For now I want to discuss the new album from Bad Religion. 14 tracks brimming with melody, harmony, and brilliant dissent.
Going against the grain is at the heart of punk music. It can enlighten us, shake us, and bring energy into the deepening void of apathy and ignorance that engulfs most of our world.
After decades of listening to groups that are apolitical or have no critical point of view I decided to seek out more thoughtful groups. I found Bad Religion with their new record, “Age Of Unreason”.
The songs were inspired by America’s revival of nativism. The current attempts at governing are weakening our best intentions towards a more democratic society.
Below is the line-up that recorded this new record.
One of the qualities I love in punk is the ability to communicate directly with its audience. There are 14 tracks that clock in at 33 minutes. During the late 20th century the punks knew that attention spans were falling. They never faltered in the chords that made rock roll.
The band has a logo that shows a cross with a slash of prohibition through it. Greg Graffin explained: “we don’t like to subscribe to dogmatic ways of life and dogmatic views on life and that religion, in general, is founded in dogma and in restriction of ideas, restriction of thought and it’s these things that I feel are bad about religion, it’s also very bad about nationalistic views, it’s very bad … it’s something that mankind, as a group, is not going to benefit from; it’s only something that mankind will … it’s something mankind will … I’m sorry, it’s something that will instill violence, and it will instill fighting, and it will instill non-cooperation of different groups of humans.”
Chaos From Within opens with a quick tempo that reminds us that our current state results from the constant churning of madness within our body politic. The chorus goes like this:
Threat is urgent, existential With patience wearing thin But the danger’s elemental It’s chaos from within
In this mad country our cockeyed optimism is always on display. The track “My Sanity” is a plea to hold on to this misguided belief system. At song’s end the following is declared: Sometimes there’s no sane reason for optimism.
Oh my sanity, my sanity I’ve nothing to lose, so please let me be My life is a song, a short melody Harmonizing with reality I’ve got it real bad, there’s no remedy My world picture is exemplary I won’t let you go, what else can there be You’re all I have, my dear sanity
Do The Paranoid Style smartly mocks disposable dance crazes that have reinforced our march towards ignorance over reason. Make up your own truth without a care.
Hey kids on the right and left Do you feel dispossessed If you’re on the left or right I feel your pain tonight So shake off reality It’s easy as you please Soon everyone is dancing Con-spir-a-tor-i-a-lly
It’s the paranoid style in American politics Casey Jones you better watch your apocalypse All kinds of wild interpretation Are open to the paranoid imagination
Do The Paranoid Style is the catchiest track here. Then a galloping melody kicks in with ‘The Approach’. A reminder that despite the nonsense people are fed via social media we are still approaching the end. Be optimistic if you wish. The seeming rush to our destruction is ongoing.
There’s a moral and intellectual vacuum and you’re right to be lookin’ askance Philosophically moribund, revolution hasn’t a chance
As the light fades, the shadows dance in silhouette .
Then a beautiful respite in “Lose Your Head”. A real punk statement of not going off the deep end because of our stupid system. My favorite lyric is: There’s an accident waiting to happen at all times anyway And maybe we’d all benefit from some epistemic humility .
Without this humility how will any of us be remembered? The sixth track, “End Of History” asks the most of us. Are we really okay with letting maniacs lead us to our demise?
Halcyon days are not a thing Nostalgia is no excuse for stupidity I don’t believe in golden ages Or presidents that put kids in cages America awaits on bended knee Can’t you see
Sweet children, Locke’s burden Why did mother draw the curtains Free will is your dilemma, (what will the dust remember) Tell me where do you really want to be? At the end of history?
At the midpoint we receive the title track. The song pleads with us that many cannot see the country’s heart is bleeding because of the man who brought back tyranny.
The mass is unrepentant in this age of unreason. The environment is being poisoned. Dogmatic systems are promoting over population, consumerism, and waste.
I feel strongly this record is one of the finest of 2019. A remarkable dissent in a culture that retreats from empathy.
The second half has good tracks. I will not go deep into them like I did with the first 7 tracks. Listeners should have their own thoughts about this work.
What follows is a brief description of the second half of the record:
'The Candidate' denounces our current clown. He is a fraud. A Pied Piper type demanding that you (rats like you) should follow his populist tune. Nothing but a conjurer of violence and despair. Yet still promises to make all your worries disappear.
"Faces of Grief" is a short, sweet punk riff about the dangerous tribalism religion bestows upon all.
"Old Regime" shreds with protest fury. The track reminds us that today's aristocracy is just the old non-democratic regime with a different name.
"Big Black Dog" is one of my favorite songs. Calling out the President as a traitor in chief. The song is groove driven.
"Downfall" has a new wave thread that allows the hook to take hold of the listener. The lyrics describe a society that has turned away from science in favor of dogma. The wave that is surely to come will destroy us.
"Since Now" poses that we are living in the upside down. Our new bizarre reality is that everything we thought was true is being ripped apart. The punkish answer is to say since when... Structured as a list of grievances sure to wake up the apathetic hordes.
The closing track is "What Tomorrow Brings". A note of hopeful finality to the proceedings, more than sociological or technological, it's what tomorrow brings. The changes we need are what may come.
Punk is protest. Punk is relevant. Punk is open. The form embraces the misfit in all of us. Please give this record a listen. You may just find you are not alone in the crucible of our current mad state.