Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


A Minute Jack Forum - Traction Blip

A Minute Jack Forum - Traction Blip

A Minute Jack Forum

Album title: Traction Blip
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: self-release
(2034) Page Views

Neatly assembled among bickering riffs, crackling beats and enigmatic lyrics, “Traction Blip,” swings from old school guitar duels to post-ironic wordplay to serve up richly literate, alt-rock honky-tonk decked out in strangled twang, syncopated jangle and barbed harmonies. A fairly recent band bolstered by years of collective experience, gallant mavericks A Minute Jack Forum beautifully brew a broiling stew of bronco blues and rousing frontier rock, shape-shifting earnest uncertainty and insatiable hungers between surfing turbulence, ballerina ballistics and cunning, coyote counsel. Motoring through finely-tuned grooves intercepting scrambled frequencies, the coiled quartet straddle savvy maps; charting cagey chords, howling catharsis and casual swagger in a welcome storm of contemplative complications, piecing together jigsaw dialectics and redneck intellect gathered from weighty fates, redemptive tensions and restless messages.

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The New Czars - Doomsday Revolution

The New Czars - Doomsday Revolution

The New Czars

Album title: Doomsday Revolution
By Sal Serio
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Samson Records
(2836) Page Views

The New Czars are a heavy prog Euro-American rock group assembling the talents of singer/songwriter/guitarist Greg Hampton and drummer David Moreno, with former Pink and Juliette & The Licks bass player Paul Ill. Rounding out the sound are sonic contributions by sax/keyboardist Steffen Presley, and King Crimson guitar whiz Adrian Belew.

Doomsday Revolution loosely resembles a Todd Rundgren project, with it’s multi-layered big studio sound offset by a mixture of basic pop rock sensibilities. The songs are quite a lot to absorb in a single sitting. To say there’s a ton of ideas at play in these 16 tracks would be a massive understatement.

To illustrate this point: “Don’t Watch Me” features a modern processed guitar workout and intense vocal delivery. It’s beautiful contradiction is the marriage of technological studio sounds with raw primitive emotion. “Brush With The Devil” etches a gothic metal streak into a club-style dance beat.

Some of my favorite moments are the instrumentals colored by Hampton and Belew’s stylistic soloing. “Abstract Prague” may have the most overt Crimson influence, via Belew’s signature overdriven free-flight guitar genius. The “Funky Detour”/”Crotch Critters” opus displays stretched out jamming, with the two guitarists intertwining their effects laden fretwork.

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Various Artists - Mister Bolin’s Late Night Revival

Various Artists - Mister Bolin’s Late Night Revival

Various Artists

Album title: Mister Bolin’s Late Night Revival
By Sal Serio
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Rainbow Foundation
(3704) Page Views

At the time of Tommy Bolin’s tragic late 1976 drug overdose, the musician had a large cache of new songs recorded as demos. The new “Mister Bolin’s Late Night Revival” compilation asks “What If”… The concept is: “What if the guitar hotshot sought help for his addictions, and lived to release this material in full ensemble album form?” Not coincidentally, some of the proceeds from this project will go to Jackson Recovery Center, a rehab facility in Bolin’s hometown of Sioux City, Iowa.

An overwhelming early 80’s poppy metal sound hangs on many of the performances, which perhaps is appropriate. Had Bolin lived to complete a couple more album releases, he’d have been staring at a musical future in the 80s decade, when metal poofed up it’s hair, added synthesizers, and huge pop choruses. Considering that vocalists from Rainbow, Foreigner, and Mr. Big are featured on the CD, the 80s connection is apparent. However, appearances by several Christian rock artists is not as obvious an association.

One standout track is “Evening Rain” by Christina Sanchez, featuring a flamenco sounding guitar solo reminiscent of Bolin’s own “Savannah Woman” or “Gypsy Soul”. Another is “Slow Driver” with smokin’ hot lead guitar provided by Bolin’s contemporary John Bartle, and sung with conviction by Boston’s Kimberley Dahme.

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition - Special Edition

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition - Special Edition

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Album title: Pictures At An Exhibition - Special Edition
By Gregory Harutunian
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Eagle Rock Entertainment
(1739) Page Views

With a debut at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, ELP (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) cemented the start of their legacy and disposition for adapting classical pieces, with a dizzying version of Mussorgsy’s “Pictures At an Exhibition.” A live album was quickly released, along with a video filmed at London’s Lyceum in December 1970. The film has gone through several incarnations including a road show movie “Rock n’ Roll Your Eyes” as part of a drive-in double bill in the 1980’s.

This special edition of “Pictures at an Exhibition” brings to DVD the most complete version of the concert possible, a tremendous upgrade from collectors’ version, which have been floating around for years. although, it does lack the opening tune, “The Barbarian,” the rest is mint picture and sound. Eagle rock entertainment has been releasing ELP material over the last year, and this is truly an exception for classic rock history. The picture of “Pictures” is stunning.but the original 1970’s special effects does distract with its cartoon superheroes pages and effects from whatever was being smoked in the control room that was felt to add to the music…(it’s minimal, though.)

These guys were at the dawn of their career and this captures the time perfectly (look at Emerson’s outfit…eek.)  The Lyceum film also includes a raging version of “Rondo,” complete with the knife-throwing emerson plunging daggers into the keyboard, showing he was the Hendrix of the ivories. As an aside, Hendrix and ELP actually rehearsed together initially when ELP formed, to perform as a group (HELP), but emerson wasn’t keen to work with a guitar player—-so he stuck with Lake.

As a bonus, the band’s appearance on Belgium’s “Pop Shop” from early 1971 is also included here, for the first time, in complete form with all the songs. “Nutrocker,” “Knife Edge” and another “Rondo” are the highlights. All in all, a satisfying package, if you are inclined to hear these guys in their prime.

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The Sword - Warp Riders

The Sword - Warp Riders

The Sword

Album title: Warp Riders
By Kaleb Bronson
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Kemado Records
(1672) Page Views

The epic journey through space, time and musically scientific consciousness has been released by one of the most rock solid metal bands to land on the planet Earth. The tale began in Austin, TX in 2003 with the most powerful four horsemen of the metal-apocalypse known as The Sword and has gained unrestrained momentum ever since. After creating two completely solid records of vengeance, fury and might, the men of The Sword have landing their spaceship on the goldmine of concept albums titled “Warp Riders.” Gather an old pile of science fiction novels from the 1970s and combine the mystical metal sounds of what sounds like a full orchestra of rhapsody and you have “Warp Riders,” a truly defining album of 2010 if not of the decade.

The album is packed solid with intrigue split into two slabs of sound; the first half of the record being “Part I: The Archer & the Orb” ending with “Part II: The Android & the Sword,” both pieces holding a tightly knit flow throughout the entire 48-minutes. Entering the gate from the title track, “Acheron/Unearthing the Orb,” the non-lyrical blast summons the Three Witches which appear on the second track “Tres Brujas.”

The tale throughout the record told is of Ereth, a warrior/ archer, which has been banished from his tribe. He must battle himself and the rest of the universe through his travels finding that the gloom and doom are not always easy to defeat, but through the darkness he fights with the sounds of The Sword guiding him. Think, “The NeverEnding Story” combined with “Heavy Metal” and a dash of “Star Wars.” The “Warp Riders” story itself was written by The Sword front-man J. D. Cronise, and was entitled “The Night The Sky Cried Tears Of Fire.” Cronise explains on the band’s web-site that the title character of the record Ereth, after being banished, is directed on a mission by the Chronomancer (“The Chronomancer I: Hubris” [track 4]) to restore the planet’s balance. He battles and encounters many creatures along his journey, which makes “Warp Riders.”

The album carries the listener into each track offering an advanced sound, a dissimilar place to transfer imagery through music. Entering the “Lawless Lands” (track 5), the raw sound gallops across a wasteland of unknown beings and creatures.“Warp Riders” is the first record by The Sword where they pulled in an exterior producer; in this case they used Matt Bayles, known for his work with Pearl Jam, Mastodon, Norma Jean and many others. It is easily heard that the band had more focus on this record than the previous “Age of Winters” in 2006 and “Gods of the Earth” in 2008, Bayles offered the band more freedom to focus on the tale.

Entering “Part II: The Android & the Sword” the band turns on the hyper-boosters and soars into metal obligatory-doused freedom. The skills of each member of the band are shown within the sound pages; J. D. Cronise’s vocals and guitars gather heat and speed, Kyle Shutt’s guitars are the flame to the fire, Bryan Richie’s bass thunders each track and Trivett Wingo’s drums dish out the needed solar backdrop.

As The Sword guides through each passageway they gather speed and sound waves that surpass previous engineering. As they reach the “Night City,” the eighth track, the album’s structure is nearly complete. Another dose of the Chronomancer in “The Chronomancer II: Nemesis,” splattering the mental fluid all over the floor, opening up the brain to absorb each ounce of The Sword’s fury of fast-paced yet controlled debauchery. The final stretch leaves the listener with “(The Night the Sky Cried) Tears of Fire” a triumphant ending to an absolute story.

The Sword has proved themselves one more time with “Warp Riders,” offering a tale to follow, a concept to consume and a level of technical ability that surpasses countless acts within this planetary realm.

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Murderdolls - Women and Children Last

Murderdolls - Women and Children Last

Murderdolls

Album title: Women and Children Last
By Aaron Manogue
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Roadrunner Records
(4228) Page Views

Imagine yourself stuck in the middle of a fiery hell on earth. The zombie apocalypse is upon us and the world has lost all its order. Your friends and family are no where to be found, so you can only assume they’re one of the infected thousands that are chasing you, trying to make you into their next delectable treat. There is no way out. There is no hope. And you love every minute of it. This, in a rotten nutshell, is exactly the type of twisted, guilty pleasure that Murderdolls brings to you in their latest release Women and Children Last.

The Death Valley Superstars kick your ass from the hellish opening “Chapel of Blood” to the appropriately titled closer “Hell, Goodbye, Die”, and you find yourself asking the infamous question, “Thank you sir, may I have another?” As if the title didn’t raise a big enough red flag, screaming at you to run and hide, you can’t help but find yourself listening to every last catchy riff, every last dark lyric, every inch of musical ass kicking packed inside Women and Children Last.

Vocalist Wednesday 13 (also lead for Frankenstein Drag Queens of Planet 13 and Bourbon Crow) and Joey Jordison (drummer of the legendary Slipknot ) lead the way in the band’s greatly improved second album. With the addition of rhythm guitarist Roman Surman, bassist Jack Tankersley and drummer Racci Shay, the band has a much more unified sound then their debut album. Secluding themselves in a Hollywood Hills mansion to avoid being influenced by any other music of the time, the Murderdolls have achieved their goal to create their own sic sound.

Joey Jordison (drummer of the legendary Slipknot) shows the world that his musical talents go much, much further than his double-bass, insanely furious beats he has shown us all over the past years with Slipknot. Leading the way on guitar, Jordison has produced his own addictive vibe and sound, which is extremely evident in the entire album, and is no clearer in the riff he has brought to previously released single “My Dark Place Alone.” Just try to listen to the song and not catch yourself humming it for hours.

Wednesday 13 puts his infamous stamp on the band’s new trademark sound with his dark, violent lyrics. Spacing himself from his previous self-proclaimed “campy horror” lyrics and creating a new style, all the while still bringing the twisted, violent punch fans have come to love from the Murderdolls. Wednesday 13’s performance on Women and Children Last gives listeners a whole new perspective and respect for his heralded vocal and writing talents.

So do your best to run and hide from the Murderdolls and their new poison that is Women and Children Last. In the end they will find you and kick your eardrums in with their new addictive sound. And when they’re done with you, you’ll find yourself asking for more. 

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New Medicine - Race You To The Bottom

New Medicine - Race You To The Bottom

New Medicine

Album title: Race You To The Bottom
By Angela Villand
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Photo Finish Records/ATLANTIC
(1497) Page Views

A walk down memory lane with Tommy Petty on one arm and Bad Religion on the other, New Medicine’s “Race You To The Bottom” saunters through and is on the way to the Top. At times, the music stops, but the singing keeps going…which is catchy. I don’t like “catchy.” I’m a hard rock & heavy metal fan. This album has put the boot down my own idea of what I do and don’t like.

With lyrics like that bring back decidedly my best Beastie Boys-fueled memories, their eclectic beats, hard-hitting bass lines that are easy to tap your foot to, and a few fast, funny, clear (easy to understand) verses, New Medicine is in the FTW column. This band’s debut CD from Photo Finish Records/Atlantic brings out a fresh new dynamic mix of hard rock with a punk flavor that delivers fun and positive messages that all ages can enjoy. For instance, I am 38, my daughter is 12; we both enjoy the crap out of this CD from start to finish! There is no doubt, either that they are having fun with this. Special sound effects in the place of profanity on “Rich Kids,” a few crazy sounding boings and tings and crazy guitar techniques in addition to the lyrics in general on most of the CD are unmistakably fun for these guys to perform! I recently saw them perform on the Jagermeister stage at the Rockstar Energy Uproar Tour show in Chitown. I don’t remember seeing a band obviously have so much stinkin’ fun playing music since 311. They’re heading to Madison on October 4th to join the Uproar Tour show here at the Alliant Energy Center Memorial Colliseum. If you’re going, please don’t miss their set! You will be able to pick up the CD at the show for a mere $10, not a bad price!

If you’re like me and have dismissed Punk Rock as something you can’t wrap your head around, this album may sneak in and take you by surprise. “American Wasted,” full of profanity and truth about sex, drugs and the ecstasy of losing control, will throw you into fits of head banging AND laughter. Music is fun, but this is ridiculously funny and fun. The last time I had THIS much fun playing an entire album from front to back without skipping songs was Zebrahead and 311.

It’s not all fun and games; the band isn’t afraid of sharing songs about the pain that life brings. “Little Sister,” a heart breaking tribute to singer Jake Scherer’s infant sister, which displays their more hypnotizing and softer side but is still an upbeat tune. “My little sister died of infant death syndrome at age one. When I wrote that song, I was thinking about what she’d be like today if she were alive. How would my life be different? It’s a sad song, but the chorus is very positive. Even if she’s an angel now, she’ll always be my sister and no matter what, I’m here for her.”

From the first song “Laid,” to the last “Sun Goes Down,” this album is stocked from top to bottom with introspective, thoughtful and often funny lyrics, Race You To The Bottom brings honesty and good old fashioned fun music!. Jake Scherer says “We never worried about fitting into a scene. I don’t care how my hair looks; I just want to write good songs. We’re proud of the music we created, and it’s the best feeling ever.”

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Nonpoint - Nonpoint

Nonpoint - Nonpoint

Nonpoint

Album title: Nonpoint
By Aaron Manogue
Posted: Sep 2010
Label: Rocket Science
(18346) Page Views

Anyone who’s ever been to a Nonpoint concert can agree that their “in your face, knock you out” stage presence is something every self titled concert enthusiast or rocker needs to experience.  This is the energy most Nonpoint fans have been begging of the band to bring to their albums. And with their latest album release Miracle, they bring their ass kicking off the stage and into your home.  The former nu metallers have transitioned into a hard rock feel, which serves as a perfect new weapon for them to launch their music into listener’s eardrums.

From the opening song “Shadow,” guitarist Zach Broderick, who replaced Andrew Goldman as the bands lead guitarist, brings a much thicker hard rock sound to Nonpoint in comparison to Goldman’s previous recordings with the band.  The gritty riffs accompany vocalist Elias Soriano’s smooth-as-silk chords perfectly and drummer Robb Rivera’s beats carry the heart beat of the album triumphantly throughout. The energy stays in orbit with the title track “Miracle” which features guest vocals by Mudvayne/Hellyeah frontman Chad Gray who produced the album along with guitarist Greg Tribett. 

The next few songs tap the breaks a bit on the train that is Miracle transitioning into a middle of the tracks pace with “Crazy” and a song most likely written for our beloved troops “Frontlines.”  One of the bright spots along the way in this album is the inclusion of Nonpoint’s cover of the mighty Pantera’s “5 Minues Alone” which the band originally recorded as an online bonus track for legendary shredder “Dimebag” Darrel Abbott’s Tribute Album.

The absolute epitome of Nonpoint’s new hard rock sound is the intensity they portray in the song “Dangerous Waters.” Warning: Head banging is required when listening to this song. There’s even a short yet extremely addictive solo in the song which just adds to the hard rock feel, something that is for the most part non-existent in pre-Broderick Nonpoint music. The song seems to serve as Broderick’s introduction to us all and his stamp on the band is heard loud and clear.

Having followed Nonpoint throughout their careers, this is possibly their best album, deservedly right up there with my personal favorite To the Pain.  Traditional Nonpoint fans won’t be begging for their old Nonpoint back, because it’s still clearly evident in the new album.  Self proclaimed Nonpoint critics will have to do their best to resist the burning urge to tip their caps to the band for their new efforts and ass kicking they’ll experience once they hear Miracle.  It’ll be a Miracle if the same critics can also resist the urge to go buy the album.

DON’T MISS NONPOINT SUNDAY ON THE JJO STAGE AT TASTE OF MADISON!

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Street Sweeper Social Club - Ghetto Blaster EP

Street Sweeper Social Club - Ghetto Blaster EP

Street Sweeper Social Club

Album title: Ghetto Blaster EP
By Troy Johnson
Posted: Aug 2010
Label: Cooking Vinyl
(3964) Page Views

Street Sweeper Social Club, the rock/rap group featuring former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and vocalist Boots Riley from controversial California hip-hop group The Coup released their second studio album, a seven track EP, featuring covers of songs by LL Cool J, M.I.A., and The Coup on August 10, 2010.

Morello’s Rage Against The Machine style riffs are unhampered by too much distortion making Riley’s quick lyrics easy to distinguish. If you were a fan of Rage Against The Machine and like the rock/rap genre then you will probably enjoy this album. However, at times, Morello’s riffs sound derivative without much to distinguish them from Rage’s fierce instrumentals. On vocals, Boots Riley adds a tangent of creative, socially conscious lyrics that give the Street Sweeper Social Club more of a hip-hop sound than Rage Against The Machine had. Still, even Morello fans may take issue with his lack of creativity on this new album. His riffs on the EP are less explorations of his personal style and more like identical riffs from past Rage albums like Evil Empire and The Battle of Los Angeles.

The EP is available on vinyl and cd. For all its flaws, it’s still good party music and you can stream most of the tracks for free on their facebook page.

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Heart-Set Self-Destruct - Bridges To Burn

Heart-Set Self-Destruct - Bridges To Burn

Heart-Set Self-Destruct

Album title: Bridges To Burn
By Sal Serio
Posted: Aug 2010
Label: self-released
(1756) Page Views

Ready, set… self destruct! These aggressive hard rockers come out of the gate red-hot blazing on their new six song mini album. Based out of Chicago, the quartet of Heart-Set Self-Destruct are taking no prisoners, and leaving nothing but rubble in their wake. In less colorful lingo, I mean to say that this CD is the real deal, and sears the ears from start to finish.

Which is not to say this is super heavy pound-your-brain-into-pulp music. While it definitely is brutal at times, there’s a solid pop sensibility in the core of their catchy yet doom-grooved compositions. Comparisons to Tool and Chevelle are inevitable, and for an up-and-coming band, there’s certainly worse associations that could be made.

I’m drawn mostly to the tempo of these tunes, which are unrelenting in their driving power. The strength of lead singer Dave’s vocal delivery, which shows many different manifestations and moods, is always ripe with intrigue, captivating and holding the listener’s attention.

This disc is a good argument for more bands to release shorter CDs earlier in their career. There’s something to be said for a quick introduction, a major ass kicking, and then leaving ‘em wanting more. I’m sold.

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The Rolling Stones - Stones In Exile

The Rolling Stones - Stones In Exile

The Rolling Stones

Album title: Stones In Exile
By Gregory Harutunian
Posted: Jul 2010
Label: Eagle Records
(1768) Page Views

In 1971, the Rolling Stones faced massive tax problems and left England to live in France as a shelter. Their landmark album, Exile On Main Street, came out of this period and was recorded all over the the insides of Keith Richard’s rented villa in a maelstrom of chaos.

Eagle Rock Entertainment has released “Stones In Exile,” a documentary chock full of rare footage and music that chronicles the making of the project. It’s part of a deal with the Stones’ management that will see the long-lost “Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s the Rolling Stones” concert film released later this year.

This DVD is loaded with interviews, and it’s odd to see how people have fared in 40 years, along with their recollections coupled with footage of the recording process. One surprise is a well know TV actor, a child at the time, whose job it was to roll joints for everyone. The sex, drugs, and of course, rock and roll, are well represented—-so it’s a wonder anything got done.
   
Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts are also shown returning to the scene of the crime at Olympic Studios, where the overdubs to flesh out the tracks for “Exile” were done. The music is the main thing, and rehearsal takes are included in the soundtrack.
   
The album was initially panned upon its release, and not until a decade later was it considered a masterpiece. The documentary is well done, no filler, and a wild ride, if you’re interested in how this thing came together through all the financial and drug-induced problems. A nice keeper to whet the appetite for the concert film later this year, which featured many of the songs on the album.

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John Prine - Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine

John Prine - Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine

John Prine

Album title: Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine
By Troy Johnson
Posted: Jul 2010
Label: Oh Boy Records
(1898) Page Views

On June 22, 2010, ‘Oh Boy’ records released the tribute album “Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine.” Twelve of the album’s tracks were recorded by well?known musicians who love Prine’s music. These artists have collaborated and tweaked some of the classic folk artist’s songs on “Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows,” and although the man himself doesn’t make an appearance on the album it was his label that put it out. The vinyl was in my mailbox on June 21st and it just goes to show the lengths that Prine??always known for his generosity to fans??is willing to go for music lovers to hear his songs.

Though Prine’s songs are folky, silly, sing?songy, lyrical masterpieces, the collaborators on this album often turn his originals into new and exciting arrangements that rock a little harder. Songs like “Daddy’s Little Pumpkin” by the ‘Drive By Truckers’ and a version of “All The Best” by ‘My Morning Jacket’ in particular really give Prine’s laid?back style a more upbeat spin. “All The Best” is from Prine’s “The Missing Years” album which is in my top three Prine albums of all time and ‘My Morning Jacket’ turns in a worthy rendition of that great album cut.

Other outstanding artists on this album such as The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and Old Crow Medicine Show also turn in interesting renditions of Prine’s classic music. The best way to experience Prine’s classic folk stylings is to listen to the original songs. But for those of you who can’t get enough of John Prine, “Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows” is a great tribute to a fantastic artist.

You can find official press releases on www.johnprine.net/news.html and take time to search www.ohboy.com which is John Prine’s current label. Since 1984 Prine has done 11 studio albums with ‘Oh Boy Records” and one live Album, “In Person and on Stage” which is also a recent release that is only on cd or downloadable, it was released May 25, 2010.

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