Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Living Colour is a hard rock band formed in New York City in 1983 by Vernon Reid. They signed to Epic Records in 1987 and released their first album Vivid in 1988. Stylistically their music is a creative fusion influenced by guitar-based rock, funk, heavy metal, free jazz, hardcore punk and hip hop.
They are best remembered for the hits "Cult of Personality", which won a Grammy Award for best hard rock performance in 1989, and "Type" - their highest charting single. They were also named Best New Artist at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.
Reid, British-born but a longtime New York resident, was well known on the downtown New York jazz scenes courtesy of his tenure in Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society. A guitarist of unnerving technique and speed, he assembled a number of bands under the name Living Colour from 1983 to 1986
In 1986, the lineup became bassist Muzz Skillings, drummer Will Calhoun, who had graduated with honors from Berklee College of Music, and vocalist Corey Glover (who Reid met at a birthday party and was suitably impressed with a rendition of "Happy Birthday"). In Calhoun and particularly Skillings, Reid had a rhythm section with the ability to express themselves in dozens of forms, and in Glover he had a vocalist who could produce depths of soul or rage upon demand. Soon after they became regulars on the touring circuit, including regular gigs at the seminal club CBGB's.
Aided by a demo produced by fan Mick Jagger, they scored a record deal with Epic Records, and released Vividin the middle of 1988, reaching #6 on the Billboard 200. The album gathered sales momentum only when in late 1988 MTV began playing the video for "Cult of Personality." They gained further exposure as an opening act (with Guns N' Roses) for the 1989 Rolling Stones tour of stadiums throughout the USA.
Their second effort, Time's Up, was a sprawling affair that capitalized on the ability of its members to work in numerous musical contexts; thrash metal, punk, jazz fusion, delta blues, hip hop (cameos by Queen Latifah and Doug E. Fresh), funk, jive, and hints of electronica were all represented. The album reached #13 on the Billboard chart and won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Album.
Bass player Muzz Skillings left the group soon after due to creative differences and was replaced by Doug Wimbish. This new incarnation released the album Stain in 1993, revealing an emotionally darker, more personal side of the group. The album only reached #26 on the chart. Despite retaining their strong fan base, the band split on January 1995 after failing to settle on a common musical goal during sessions for their fourth full-length album. Four of these tracks were included on the compilation Pride.
Individual members released a variety of solo efforts until the band finally reformed for good on December 22, 2000. The reunion was followed by the release of another dark record, Collideøscope, in 2003.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Tesla is the name of an American rock band originating in Sacramento, California. The band formed in 1984 on the island of Guam as City Kidd, and was renamed Tesla during the recording of their first album on the advice of their manager. The band derived their name, certain album and song titles, and some song content from events relating to Nikola Tesla, a Serbian inventor (born in Croatia) and electrical engineer born in the 19th century.
The band's original line-up consisted of vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarists Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch, bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta.
Tesla's music was often referred to as heavy metal, but is better described as hard rock with a bluesy feel. The band's lyrics also strayed from the themes popular in heavy metal, particularly in the 1980s. A further distinction from their comtemporaries was their T-shirt-and-jeans image which was in strong contrast to Glam Metal bands of the time, which were characterized by big hair, leather pants and flashy-make up.
After playing several showcases in Los Angeles, Tesla quickly scored a deal with Geffen and released their debut album, Mechanical Resonance, in 1986; it produced a minor hard rock hit in "Modern Day Cowboy," reached the Top 40 on the album charts, and eventually went platinum.
However, it was the follow-up, 1989's The Great Radio Controversy, that truly broke the band. The first single, "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)," was another hit with hard rock audiences, setting the stage for the second single, a warm, comforting ballad called "Love Song" which substituted a dash of hippie utopianism for the usual power ballad histrionics. "Love Song" hit the pop Top Ten and made the band stars, pushing The Great Radio Controversy into the Top 20 and double-platinum sales figures; the follow-up single, "The Way It Is," was also something of a hit.
In keeping with their unpretentious, blue-collar roots, Tesla responded to stardom not by aping the glam theatrics of their tourmates, but by stripping things down. The idea behind 1990's Five Man Acoustical Jam was virtually unheard of — a pop-metal band playing loose, informal acoustic versions of their best-known songs in concert, plus a few favorite covers ('60s classics by the Beatles, Stones, CCR, and others).
The studio follow-up to The Great Radio Controversy, Psychotic Supper, was released in 1991 and quickly became another platinum hit. It didn't produce any singles quite as successful as "Love Song" or "Signs," but it did spin off the greatest number of singles of any Tesla album: "Edison's Medicine," "Call It What You Want," "What You Give," "Song and Emotion."
Bust A Nut followed in 1994 but tensions within the band caused their breakup in 1996. The band staged a small-scale reunion in 2000, which quickly became full-fledged. In the fall of 2001, the group released a two-disc live album, Replugged Live, which documented their reunion tour. Into the Now, which was co-produced by Michael Rosen (Testament, AFI), appeared in March 2004. A collection of '70s covers called Real to Reel arrived in 2007.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Twisted Sister is an American heavy metal band from New York City. Their work fuses the shock tactics of Alice Cooper, the rebellious mood of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the style of the New York Dolls, and the extravagant makeup of KISS. The group has a glam-like image and implements musically elements of classic heavy metal bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden as did some of the earlier glam metal bands.
Although the band was formed by guitarist Jay Jay French in 1973, all of their songs were written by lead singer Dee Snider. He describes Twisted Sister as "Slade meets Sex Pistols". The group's hits include "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock", both popularized by regular airplay on MTV in the 1980s. Many of the band's songs explore themes of parent vs. child conflicts and criticisms of the educational system.
Twisted Sister began on February 14, 1973, when guitarist Jay Jay French joined a band called Silverstar. In those days, French was using the stage name Johnny Heartbreaker. He had previously played in some local bands and had auditioned for Wicked Lester, the band that would eventually become KISS. On the suggestion of Silverstar's lead singer Michael Valentine , the band changed its name to Twisted Sister. Valentine and the other guitarist, Billy Diamond, soon left, prompting French to assume vocal duties as well.
In 1975, Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda, a former high school friend of French, joined as co-lead singer and second guitarist. He had previously recorded with a New York City band called SPV. Kevin John Grace replaced Mel "Starr" Anderson on drums. Bass guitarist Kenny Neill (Kenneth Harrisson-Neill) completed the lineup. The band followed a glam rock direction, influenced by David Bowie, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Humble Pie, and New York Dolls. They played at local clubs without much success until 1976.
In 1976, Dee Snider joined the band as lead singer and principal songwriter. After replacing drummer Grace with Tony Petri, the group took a heavier musical direction, influenced by Motörhead, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper, but without abandoning their glam image.
Although glam was out of fashion in those days, Snider's phenomenal abilities as frontman propelled the band to considerable local success. They broke attendance records at large halls in the Tri-State Region and their growing fan base began to take the name "S.M.F.F.O.T.S.", for Sick Motherfucking Friends Of Twisted Sister. Later shortened to "S.M.F." for "Sick Mother Fuckers."
In this period, the group suffered some member traffic. On October 31, 1978, Neill left to be a born again Christian, according to an interview with Snider. The band's roadie and friend, Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, formerly bassist for The Dictators, replaced him. In December 1980, Petri also left for Plasmatics and was replaced briefly by Ritchie Teeter. Teeter, also formerly of The Dictators, was replaced in that band by Mel Anderson. In April 1981, Teeter was replaced by "Fast" Joey Brighton, who was in turn replaced by A.J. Pero from Cities, another unsigned band with local fame.
This lineup—Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and A.J. Pero—is considered the band's classic lineup, with which they would record four studio albums and perform numerous live shows around the world.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Molly Hatchet is an American Southern rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1974, known primarily for their hit song "Flirtin' with Disaster" from the album of the same title. The band, founded by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland, took its name from a legendary Southern prostitute who supposedly mutilated and decapitated her clients.
The original group included vocalist Danny Joe Brown, three guitarists Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, and Duane Roland, bassist Banner Thomas, and drummer Bruce Crump.
Prior to the band's signing with Epic Records, they often toured the Florida roadhouse and bar circuit. Originating from the same city as the most well-known act in the Southern rock genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet shared influences and inspiration with them as well as another up-and-coming Southern Rock act, .38 Special. The brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant on lead vocals (Donnie Van Zant). Because of this, .38 Special enjoyed some influential connections in the music business, referring Molly Hatchet to manager Pat Armstrong. His interest in Molly Hatchet led to a record deal with Epic Records and bringing in Tom Werman as a producer. Werman was already well-known in the industry for working with other popular acts of the period, including Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent.
The result of this teaming of a producer known for working with straight hard-rock acts with a Southern-influenced band led to a new development in the Southern rock genre. Combining boogie, blues and hard rock, Molly Hatchet's sound was differentiated from more country-influenced acts such as The Outlaws.
In 1978 the band recorded and released its first album eponymously titled Molly Hatchet. Then in 1979, Flirtin' with Disaster was released. Molly Hatchet proceeded to tour behind the record and gained an increasing fan base. Some observers note that certain "success syndrome" problems led singer Danny Joe Brown, whose voice and persona had defined the act to that point, to leave the band at the end of the 1970s.
In 1980 Brown left the group to form The Danny Joe Brown Band (with future Molly Hatchet guitarist Bobby Ingram) and was replaced by vocalist Jimmy Farrar. Along with Farrar came a new approach to the band's sound. The earlier albums are said to feature more variation in guitar tone and style, along with a more overt southern influence, which changed with the addition of Farrar on vocals.
With the success of a more, harder-rocking "Beatin The Odds" release, the band ventured even farther away from their original sound. By 1981, Molly Hatchet had almost completely abandoned their original style of 1978 for a straight ahead rock style exhibited on the Take No Prisoners release of the same year. This album had a less-than-warm reception from many of the fans of the original sound and while the band was still successful on the touring circuit, Farrar left the act in 1981.
Brown rejoined the band in 1982 and Banner Thomas left and was replaced by Riff West. B.B. Bordan (also known as B.B. Queen, playing drums for Mother´s Finest) replaced Crump on Drums. In 1983, a new album was released titled No Guts... No Glory. Steve Holland left and was replaced by keyboardist John Galvin. This period saw the band return to its more overt southern style it had displayed on its debut record in 1978.
However, with the addition of keyboards into the mix, the band managed to take this sound to an even more orchestrated approach on some songs such as "Fall of the Peacemakers". Critics hailed the "No Guts....No Glory" album as the band's true return to form, but southern rock no longer enjoyed the widespread appeal it had previously. As a result, the record went largely unnoticed, in contrast to the glory years of 1979's "Flirtin' With Disaster", but did rejuvenate interest from the band's fan base, who had started to drift after the uncharacteristic "Take No Prisoners" album of 1981.
Despite the numerous lineup changes, the group still records and tours on a consistent basis.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Krokus was founded in Solothurn in 1974 by Chris von Rohr, bassist (and original lead vocalist) and guitarist Tommy Kiefer. Originally playing the bar circuit with hit cover versions, they changed to metal because the rise of bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden made them realize that the genre was catching up with people.
The change was emphasized by Marc Storace joining the band as front-man. They enjoyed huge popularity in the 1980s in parts of Europe and the USA through heavy touring, MTV exposure and videos. In Europe, they toured with Nazareth and in the United States with AC/DC, Motörhead, Rush, Def Leppard and Judas Priest. Their album Headhunter was a platinum album in the United States, while One Vice at A Time, The Blitz and Change of Address. So far, all Krokus albums have gone platinum in Switzerland.
Posted by Brian Carson at 8:58 PM
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Kansas is an American progressive/hard rock band who became a popular arena rock group in the late 1970s, with hit singles such as "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind." Kansas has remained a classic rock radio staple and a popular touring act in North America and Europe.
Dave Hope (bass), Phil Ehart (drums), and Kerry Livgren (guitar, and later keyboards) formed the progressive rock group named Kansas in 1970 in their hometown of Topeka, Kansas, along with vocalist Lynn Meredith from Manhattan, Kansas, keyboardist Don Montre, keyboardist Dan Wright, and saxophonist Larry Baker.
In the meantime, Ehart and Hope formed a group called White Clover with Robby Steinhardt (violin, vocals), Steve Walsh (keyboards, vocals) and Rich Williams (guitar). They changed their name to Kansas when they recruited Livgren from the second Kansas group, which then folded. The third line-up of the band, called Kansas III, received a record deal with Don Kirshner's eponymous label, and they recorded the first Kansas album shortly thereafter.
The debut album, Kansas (#174), which was released in 1974, showcased Kansas' signature mix of guitars, keyboards, vocals, and Steinhardt's violin style, which merged American-style boogie-rock with complex, symphonic arrangements and changing time signatures. Their sound bore the marks of late-1960s, early 1970s progressive rock, such as Genesis and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Promotion by Kirshner and touring behind the debut album and its two follow ups, Song for America (#57) and Masque (#70), increased awareness of Kansas'.
On the strength of the major hit single "Carry On Wayward Son" (#11) the band's fourth album, Leftoverture, released in 1976, on which Steinhardt added viola and Walsh added vibraphone to their work, (#5), was a hit which garnered a lot of airplay on the burgeoning AOR radio format. The follow up Point of Know Return (#4), released in 1977, featured the title track (#28) and "Dust in the Wind" (#6), both hit singles.
Both albums had unique album covers, with Leftoverture featuring a DaVinci-like old man on the cover, and Point of Know Return depicting a ship teetering over the edge of the world. Both albums have sold over 4 million copies in the USA alone. Both Carry On Wayward Son and Dust in the Wind were certified Gold singles, selling over one million units each.
Kansas self-produced their follow-up to Point Of Know Return. The 1979 album Monolith (#10) featured lyrics influenced by The Urantia Book and Native American themes. "Kansas" itself is a toponym derived from the Kansa tribe, whose name is widely believed to mean "People of the South Wind." The starkly expressive album cover depicts Plains Indians in traditional dress and space suit helmets living in a settlement under the ruins of highway overpasses. While the album produced a top 40 single in "People of the South Wind" (#23), both the band and the label were disappointed in Monolith's failure to produce sales or radio airplay close to its two predecessors.
Kansas has continued to tour and release albums with various lineups.