15 January 2012

Review: The Weber Brothers - Baddest Band In The Land

When I first listened to The Weber Brothers new CD Baddest Band in the Land, I pictured a bunch of guys in their late fifties who spent the last 30 years paying their dues playing in a Classic Rock cover band. Boy was I wrong.

Brothers Ryan Weber (vocals, guitar) and Sam Weber (bass) were born in 1980-83 in Baltimore, MD. They started playing in 1992. By the time Sam was 15 he was playing in bars at night and then getting up to go to school the next morning.

In 2001 Ryan emailed Ronnie Hawkins and through that email Ryan and Sam ended up working his farm in the day and being schooled by him at night. They eventually became official members of his band before breaking out on their own.

In the line-up for the Baddest Band in the Land the Weber Brothers are joined by: Emmet Van Etten (Drums), Shai Peer (Keyboards) and Tim Bracken (Multi-Instrumentalist).

Baddest Band in the Land gets off to a strong start with a hard rocking song “Stay in the Game.” It has a groove that reminds me of something Zeppelin would play. It’s littered with excerpts of American political activist, Mario Savio’s “Bodies upon the gears” speech. The vocals and keys remind me of the Doors. It’s probably my favorite track on the CD.

“Can’t Help Feeling Bad,” is like a cross between Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie. “Nothing We Can’t Get Through” reminds me a little of the Flaming Lips. Then the band switches it up with a classic Rockabilly style song, “Sell, Sell, Sell”.

The track “Who Ever Would Have Thought” is the low point of the CD for me; it’s a less catchy rip off of “Whiter Shade of Pale”. Things look up though with, “Things Are Looking Up For You.” It’s a cross between Tom Petty and The Who. The song “Panic Attack” could easily be an AC/DC song with a little REM thrown in. Baddest Band in the Land Ends with “Different Day” which reminds me of “Trampled Under Foot,” by Zeppelin with some REO Speedwagon and Kansas thrown in. The whole album seems to be sprinkled with a bit of the Beatles.

If you took all the best recordings from classic rock, diced them into little pieces and glued them back together in different places you would have this CD. It was recorded live over two days live. It feels nice and raw. The vocals and musicianship are great and the band really lives up to its claim of being the “Baddest Band in the Land”.

I would recommend this CD to anyone who likes Classic Rock, Heavy Rock or Album Oriented Rock.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks:
Stay in the Game, Can’t Help Feeling Bad, Different Day

Kirk Bullough


1.     Stay In The Game

2.     Can’t Help Feeling Bad

3.     Nothing We Can’t Get Through

4.     Sell, Sell, Sell

5.     Who Ever Would’ve Thought

6.     Things Are Looking Up For You

7.     Windbag

8.     Origami Rose

9.     Move Over The Mountain

10.  Panic Attack

11.  I Still Believe

12.  Miles Away

13.  Different Day

Artists: The Weber Brothers
Title: Baddest Band In The Land
Genre: Classic Rock
Label: Last Jack Productions
Website: http://www.weberbrothers.com

Review: Thin Lizzy - Live at the BBC

Thin Lizzy was founded in late 1969 when guitarist Eric Bell and organist Eric Wrixon went to see the band Orphanage, which featured vocalist Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey. They formed with Lynott taking on bass as well as singing. Eric Wrixon left shortly after.

The band put out several records that charted in their homeland of Ireland, but failed to do much outside of their own country. At the time the band was playing Celtic music infused with spatterings of Hard Rock.

In 1973 Thin Lizzy made it to number 6 on the UK charts with their version of a Celtic folk song “Whiskey in the Jar”.

The following album failed to chart and Eric Bell left the band. After playing with a few temporay replacements including Gary Moore, the band settled on 18 year old Scottish guitarist Brian Robertson, and Californian Scott Gorham. In 1976 this lineup of the band recorded the album Jailbreak which contained the tracks “Jailbreak” and “The Boys are Back in Town”.

The band went through several changes from 1978 – 1983 when the band finally broke up. Phil Lynott focused on his solo career. In 1986 there were whispers of getting the band back together, but Lynott died that year at the age of 36.

Universal released a 2 CD and 6 CD version of Live at the BBC, which cover the different eras of Thin Lizzy and the BBC. The Live at the BBC 2 CD set is like a greatest hits of the 6 CD box set.

Disc one contains material from 1971-1974 which gives you a great feel for what the band was like in its original form. Songs like “Showdown” and “Slow Blues” showcase some great bluesy guitar solos. “Suicide” shows off some great slide guitar playing. Lynott’s ability to sing gruff vocals on songs like “The Rocker” and then sing equally as well on a quiet song like, “Randolph’s Tango” is proof of his amazing versatility.

Disc two covers 1974-1983. This CD covers more of the hit songs from the band. It has songs like “The Boys are Back in Town” with their signature sound of two guitars playing leads in harmony and “Jailbreak” among others.

I was also impressed to find a Reggae song, “Half Castle” and more of a Jazz sound on the song, “Dancing in the Moonlight” in this collection. They save the best for last with the final track being “The Boys are Back in Town” from a concert in 1983 at the Regal Theatre.

It’s a shame that Lynott didn’t get to see his music on the big screen in Toy Story. Or the new generation of fans that are discovering Thin Lizzy’s music now. I still hear a few Thin Lizzy songs regularly on the radio and there are still incarnations of the band that still tour, but without Lynott it just doesn’t seem like Thin Lizzy.

I probably wouldn’t suggest this collection as your first introduction to Thin Lizzy, but for fans of the band these CDs are a goldmine. I also think Universal should get a pat on the back for making Live at the BBC available as a 2 CD or 6 CD collections.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Whiskey in the Jar, Jailbreak, The Boys are Back in Town

Kirk Bullough


Disc 1:

1. Look What The Wind Just Blew In

2. Whiskey In The Jar

3. Saga Of The Ageing Orphan

4. Things Ain't Working Out Down At The Farm

5. Suicide

6. Vagabond Of The Western World

7. Gonna Creep Up On You

8. Randolph’s Tango

9. Slow Blues

10. The Rocker

11. Little Girl In Bloom

12. Showdown

13. Little Darling

14. Black Boys On The Corner

15. Sitamoia

16. It's Only Money


Disc 2:

1. She Knows

2. Sha La La

3. Philomena

4. Still In Love With You

5. Baby Drives Me Crazy

6. Rosalie

7. Half Caste

8. Jailbreak

9. Cowboy Song

10. Don't Believe A Word

11. Johnny

12. Bad Reputation

13. Dancing In The Moonlight 

14. Renegade

15. Killer On The Loose

16. Cold Sweat

17. The Boys Are Back In Town

Artists: Thin Lizzy
Title: Live at the BBC [Import]
Genre: Classic Rock
Label: Universal UK
Website: http://www.thinlizzy.org/

Review: Bobby Kimball and Jimi Jamison - Kimball Jamison

When I saw that Frontier Records was putting together an album with Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Jimi Jamison (Survivor) I was thrilled. The song “Rosanna” was the soundtrack for my Jr. High School days. Kimball’s moustache was in style back then too.

Bobby Kimball played in Toto from the beginning in 1977 until 1984 and then came back in 1997. He played with many different bands in-between his engagements with Toto. Toto broke up in 2008.

Survivor was also formed in 1977. Jimi Jamison joined Survivor in 1983 when singer Dave Bickler suffered voice problems that caused him to leave. Jamison stayed with the band until 1993. He also played with many different bands in-between his breaks from Survivor. On November 15, 2011, Jimi Jamison announced he is returning to Survivor.

On this CD you have two extremely experienced singers and a band of top-notch musicians: Alex Beyrodt (Guitars & Lead Guitar), Mat Sinner (Bass), Jimmy Kresic (Keyboards), Martin Schmidt (Drums & Percussion). The production is very clean which makes it very enjoyable to listen to.

The very first song, “Worth Fighting For” on Kimball Jamison is exactly what I was hoping to hear on this CD. It reminds me a lot of the early Toto sound off their first couple of albums. The melody is very catchy with Kimball singing the highs and Jamison singing the lows. Their voices complement each other very well. It reminds me a little of the Toto song “English Eyes”.

My favorite song on Kimball Jamison is “Get Back in the Game”. It starts out with a capella vocals and then a wall of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards kick in. After a little guitar solo everything drops out and you hear a guitar playing something that sounds very similar to the riff in David Lee Roth’s “Going Crazy”. This song has some great opportunities for Kimball and Jamison to show off their vocal ranges. They both rise to the challenge. The lyrics, “Time to get up and get back in the game, little by little ‘til you’re out of the rain, oh get back in the game,” could very well apply to the careers that each of them have had.

Looking for something that sounds more like Survivor? “I did Everything Wrong” will satisfy that craving. This song is a nice power ballad. The melody is very catchy and the guitars are hypnotic. It feels like you are being teleported to the 80’s when you hear the lyric, “How I wish that I could turn back time, so that I could make it right”.

Kimball and Jamison seem to have tried to put some songs on Kimball Jamison that don’t sound like Toto or Survivor. They still sound like Toto and Survivor anyway, but who cares? Why start from scratch trying to get a new following? People will buy this album because they love Toto and Survivor. If they are lucky they may get some new fans that aren’t familiar with their work. I applaud Kimball for keeping his moustache too. John Oates looks so weird without his. It’s your look, own it! Most people who buy this album will be happy that it contains songs that sound like their former bands.

For me this is the album that should have been Toto VI. If you liked Toto or Survivor you will love Kimball Jamison.

4/5 Stars
Key Tracks: Worth Waiting For, Get Back in the Game, I Did Everything Wrong
Kirk Bullough


1. Worth Fighting For

2. Can't Wait For Love

3. Sail Away

4. Chasing Euphoria

5. Find Another Way

6. Get Back In The Game

7. I Did Everything Wrong

8. Shadows Of Love

9. Hearts Beat Again

10. We Gotta Believe

11. Kicking And Screaming

12. Your Photograph

Artists: Bobby Kimball and Jimi Jamison
Kimball Jamison
Genre: Melodic Rock
Label: Frontiers Records
Website: http://www.frontiers.it/album/4936/

Review: Fergie Fredericksen - Happiness is the Road

When I was 15 years old my brother took me to see Toto. It was the Isolation tour and the singer just happened to be Fergie Frederiksen. I hadn’t stayed up on what happened to Frederiksen after his stint in Toto, but a few of the songs on that CD are still some of my favorites.
I was curious as to what Frederiksen had been up to so I did a few Google searches. It seems that Frederiksen has had a few ups and downs since his Toto days. He even retired for a while to run a restaurant with his father, but quickly realized there was no life for him without music.
I was saddened to learn that he had been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer earlier this year. It turns out, to the surprise of his doctors he is now almost cancer free. This is the backdrop for Happiness Is The Road. This is an album that is steeped in emotion. Happiness is the Road is just about enjoying being alive, enjoying the journey without worrying about the destination too much.
There are some great musicians on this album: Dennis Ward (Bass Guitar, Guitars, Keyboards, Background Vocals and Producer), Dirk Bruinenberg (Drums), Nathan Eshman (Guitars) and Eric Ragno (Keyboards).
“Angel (Mirror to your Soul)” is a nice way to start this album. It’s has a really catchy chorus and it rocks pretty good. The sound reminds me of Asia or Survivor. “Follow Your Heart” seems to be the show piece of the album. It has great lyrics and Frederiksen knows just how squeeze every last drop of emotion out of the vocals. It starts quiet with just piano and vocals and then builds into nice power ballad.
The catchy keyboards and guitars in “Lyin Eyes” remind me of a cross between The Cars and Journey. “Writing On The Wall” has a nice instrumental break at the end that reminds me of Toto quite a bit.
My favorite track on Happiness is the Road is “The One”. It starts out with just keyboard and then the other instruments come in in-between the rest to accent the beat. The guitar starts to play a muted lick that reminds me of the guitar part during the verses of Toto’s “Hold the Line”. “The One” is a very catchy song. There is a nice guitar solo doubled by the bass in parts and all the keyboards create a nice ambience for the song.
The album ends strong with a song in a similar style to the previous one. “The Savior,” has a keyboard part that is ridiculously catchy. It’s so happy it could put an ogre into a good mood. The call and answer solos between the guitar and keyboard keep up the quick momentum of the song. The song ends with Frederiksen singing, “No need to worry, I will stay around whenever you need.” It is all the reassurance I need to know that he’s gonna stick around and rock us for many years to come.
I really enjoyed listening to Happiness Is The Road. I secretly hoped there would be some members from Toto playing on it. But the same pleasure centers in my brain were satisfied by the talented musicians that did play on this CD. If you liked Toto, Asia, Survivor, Kansas or Journey you will like this album.
4/5 Stars
Key Tracks: Follow Your Heart, The One, The Savior
Kirk Bullough

1 Angel (Mirror To Your Soul)
2 Elaine
3 First To Cry
4 Follow Your Heart
5 Happiness Is The Road
6 I Still Believe In Love
7 Lyin' Eyes
8 Love Waits For No One
9 Writing On The Wall
10 The Future Ain't What It Used To Be
11 The One
12 The Savior

Artists: Fergie Frederiksen
Title: Happiness Is the Road
Genre: AOR
Label: Frontier Records

Review: Evan Cobb – Falling Up

There is this old joke that goes like this: One musician asks another, “Do you read music?”  The other replies, “Not enough to hurt my playing.”
With a master’s degree in Jazz studies Evan Cobb lays this old adage to rest. Not only is he well educated in Jazz he also teaches college.  On this album Falling Up professor Cobb schools us in the subject of how to make a great Jazz CD.

Evan Cobb leads the monthly jam sessions at the Nashville Jazz Workshop and many of these songs were born from his preparations for that.

There is a great lineup of musicians on this album: Matt White (trumpet), Bruce Dudley (piano), Jonathan Wires (bass), Joshua Hunt (drums) & special guest Jeff Coffin (tenor saxophone). 

My favorite track on Falling Up is “Tip Tap Toe”. It starts with a nice piano roll into some Bossa Nova style  comping, in come the drums and the upright bass walking all over the planet. After the mood is laid out, the sax and trumpet duet begins. They play some catchy riffs in harmony and then branch off into some amazing solos.  First sax, then piano, trumpet, bass and then back into the main riff and clean finish.

“Eastern Bell Feel” has a great start with sparse cymbal, upright bass and left hand piano in half time. The trumpet and sax come in playing a lick that I would hesitate to call melodic and yet, it is in its own outside way. The piece kicks into full tempo and sounds like your traditional Jazz song with walking bass and catchy melody. The piece switches in and out of the two styles with various solos over the top, ending with quick stabs by the rhythm section, littered with sax and trumpet runs in-between and finally a drum roll and a crash cymbal to end.

I won’t question a college professor’s misspelling of “modernism”; because “Mahdernism” seems to be the way you spell exquisite in Jazz speak. This number starts with a tenor sax/baritone sax duet followed by some great piano doubled by the bass. It sounds like the perfect back drop to a spy movie. Cobb mixes it up a bit and then starts the solos. First we hear from the piano which is a pretty straight forward bebop style solo, followed by tenor sax, baritone sax, then the tenor and baritone trade of riffs, and then start playing over each other. Madness ensues when the trumpet decides to weigh in to the already cacophonous fight between the baritone and tenor saxophones. The horns hit their peak, trail off and then things get really quiet with an upright bass solo. The drummer plays behind him quietly hitting rim shots and cymbals.  All the instruments come back in to play the original theme, change it up a few times and end with a nice sting.

Falling Up
combines classic bebop style Jazz with more modern Avant Garde style solos. The tone that Cobb’s get with his sax is very rich and soothing. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes Be-bop style Jazz.

4.5/5 Stars
Key Tracks: Tip Tap Toe, Eastern Bell Feel, Mahdernism

Kirk Bullough

1. Tip Tap Toe
2. None.Half.All
3. Eastern Bell Feel
4. The Cosmonaut
5. In Ran Roy
6. Mahdernism
7. Crescent City Ditty
8. Don't Hold Your Breath


Artists: Evan Cobb
Title: Falling Up
Label: CDBY
Website: http://www.evancobbjazz.com