Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rated X Album Review

It used to be artists, with few exceptions, were identified primarily for one specific band. Rarely, if ever, did they stray from that band. Occasionally, artists, for any number of reasons, would step outside to do a solo record or come together with other established musicians outside the bands for which they were known. These groups were often called supergroups due to each of the members’ high level of individual accomplishment. Today, the musical landscape has changed dramatically in this regard. It’s not uncommon for artists to be involved in two or more projects or bands at the same time. Many of these projects come and go so quickly that they never even do a live date together. No sooner does the album drop than some of the members are off to promoting the next project. This is not only a quantity issue. Quality suffers as well. These albums are commonly feel rushed and limited production-wise by tight budgets. They result is often a few gems lost within a whole lot of mediocre. Among all this confusion and dilution, there is occasionally a band that comes a long that is a reminder of an earlier time, a time when supergroup meant something. Rated X is one of those bands.

The idea for Rated X was born with Frontiers Records President, Serefino Perugino, who approached Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple, Yngwie Malmsteen) about creating a group of A-list musicians to create a top notch hard rock record. Frontiers label-mate Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne, Blue Murder, King Kobra) was the first to come aboard, followed by fretless bassist extraordinaire, Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Kenny Wayne Shepherd). Turner and the reunited classic Blue Murder rhythm section, was rounded out by Joe Lynn Turner's guitarist and KISS collaborator, Karl Cochran. KISS fans know Cochran as the guy who co-wrote Into the Void with Ace Frehley for the Psycho Circus album and also served as Ace's touring bassist for a time. The sound of Rated X can be best described as what you'd get if Joe Lynn Turner were to have joined Blue Murder. Catchy melodies, huge choruses, pounding drums and killer guitar riffs. There's also plenty of opportunity for Tony Franklin to lay down plenty of tasty fretless bass melodies. Use of keyboards and more complex instrumental sections, at times, give the songs a classic Deep Purple/Rainbow feel.

Rated X track listing:

"Get Back My Crown": Strong opener. Great riff. Classic Turner sound with very Deep Purple/Rainbow keyboard solo. A tip of he hat to the great Jon Lord. Cochran shines right out of the gate.

"This Is Who I Am": One of two songs released with the pre-order. The chorus makes this song. Dare you to not be singing along before it's over. The rhythm sections, particularly Appice, drives this one.

"Fire And Ice": Franking shines on this one, The fretless bass takes the lead on the intro. Another classic Joe Lynn Turner chorus. Hook for days. Cool Zeppelin-like interlude leading to the guitar solo.

"I Don’t Cry No More": Turner's Malmsteen meets Rainbow. The solo section stands out on this one. The keyboard and guitar trade licks before kicking into a harmony solo.

"Lhasa": 7 minutes long and Blue Murder all the way. Could have been called Valley of the Kings Part II". At least it would appear intentional as "Valley of the Kings" is referenced in the first line of the song. The interlude section which features Franklin and Appice is the highlight on this one.

"Devil In Disguise": This track is just okay. Not a terrible song, but average relative to the high bar set by the rest of the record. To me nothing really stands out above the rest here. Maybe it will grow on me over time.

"You Are The Music": If there's a weak point on the record, this is it. I have high expectations for a Joe Lynn Turner ballad and this one just falls short. Musically, it's not all that bad, but lyrically it's lost on me.

"Peace Of Mind": The record starts to get back on track after somewhat lackluster offerings in tracks 6 and 7. Definitely better than "Devil In Disguise" and a hint of things to come. This track features a cool bass solo.

"Maybe Tonight": Strong mid-tempo rocker. Turner's melodic AOR rock side is on full display on this one, especially the chorus. Closest to a Turner solo track as anything on the record. Nice use of piano on the intro.

"On The Way To Paradise": Straight ahead  rocker. Great track. Main riff and extended solo/bridge section reminds of Turner's Rainbow days. Cochran drives this one.

"Our Love Is Not Over": Finally! The classic Joe Lynn Turner ballad I was hoping for with track 7. Worth the wait. Cochran channels his inner Gary Moore on this one. Get that lighter out.

"Stranger In Us All": The second song released early with the pre-order. Strong finish to the record. Franklin's fretless shines again in the solo section. Another reminder of what a monster Tony Franklin is.

For those unaware, Karl Cochran suffered a serious stroke in April, 2014. He beat the odds and is now facing a long road to recovery. Please help support Karl by checking out this record and, if you dig it, please purchase up a copy. Its available on CD and digitally from Amazon and iTunes.

Below is the video for "This is Who I Am"

A Tour of Mike Tramp's Museum

Museum is the latest solo release from former White Lion vocalist and songwriter, Mike Tramp. Tramp may be best known for his years in White Lion, but he has remained consistently active since the original White Lion last roared in 1991. In the years since White Lion’s last record, Mane Attraction was released, Tramp has delivered over 15 albums, including 3 from the highly underrated Freak of Nature, 6 solo albums, multiple live albums, an album as Tramps White Lion, 2 albums from his Rock “N” Roll Circuz project, and a career-spanning box set of rarities and demos. While Tramp continued to enjoy success in many parts of the world, the changing musical landscape of the 90’s rendered his post-White Lion work unsupported by the record company machine and virtually all but lost in the United States. The good news is that now, after many years, much of this extensive catalog is now available online through Tramp’s own online store and other online outlets. If you are fan of White Lion, I encourage you to explore Tramps post-White Lion work. Begin by checking out his first post-White Lion band, Freak of Nature followed by his first two solo records, Capricorn and Recovering the Wasted Years. 

Now off to the “Museum”. Museum is a collection of largely acoustic driven songs that picks up where his last record, 2013’s Cobblestone Street left off and is stronger overall than its predecessor. Typical of Tramp’s style, the songs are well-written with catchy melodies and driven by Tramps unmistakable voice, which is as strong as ever. Lyrically, He again dives head first into deeply personal, political, and social issues without restraint. Even with White Lion, Tramp has never been a one to crank out a bunch of party songs, A reason why much of the White Lion material holds up extraordinarily well some 30 years later.
From the opening track, Museum comes out of the gate swinging. “Trust in Yourself”, “New World Coming” and “Commitment” are stripped down and classic Tramp all the way. All three of these songs could have fit right in on Recovering the Wasted Years. “Freedom” finds Tramp looking for some space among the chaos and might be the best track on the record. “Better” “Time for Me to Go” and “Mother” are a change of pace as piano takes the center stage over the guitars. The latter, a heartfelt tribute to his mother, is a beautifully arranged.  Museum does differ from its predecessor by adding more electric guitars and percussion on “Down South”, “And You Were Gone” and “Slave”. These songs find Tramp experimenting with sounds and rhythms that almost give the record a worldlier feel. No surprise Tramp has spent the last year on the road supporting Cobblestone Street. 

Mike Tramp, more than most artists from the 80's, plays straight from the heart. Forever a troubadour, his Bob Dylan influence always shining through. For better or worse and, his emotions reside plainly on his sleeve. Seemingly more comfortable behind an acoustic guitar than in front of a wall of Marshalls. If you want to know Mike Tramp, all you have to do is listen to his records and go see him live. Like an open book, his story is right there.

In the song Looking into You, Jackson Browne wrote the line " The Great Song Traveler passed though here and he opened my eyes to the view".  I'm not sure who Browne was referring to back in 1972, but it very well could have been written present day about Mike Tramp.

Museum and many other releases from Mike Tramp's catalog can be purchased from his web store, or digitally from iTunes and Amazon. As always, if you use Amazon to shop, please use the link from the Decibel Geek site.

Winger: Better Days Comin’

Winger is back. Better Days Comin’, the new album from Winger is their first since 2009’s Karma and their third since reforming (sans Paul Taylor) in 2006.
The dynamic between primary songwriters Kip Winger and guitarist Reb Beach gets stronger with each record. Winger’s songwriting continues to combine the perfect balance of Beach’s straightforward monster rock riffs and Winger’s progressively influenced arrangements and chord progressions. In addition to Winger and Beach, drummer Rod Morgenstein is a monster as usual and John Roth is solid as a rock.
This record hits hard right out of gate. The opening three tracks, “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”, “Queen Babylon”, and “Rat Race” continue where their last record, Karma left off, simple, straight ahead riff-driven rock. The 60’s influenced title track is a surprise change of direction. The progressive vibe of “Tin Soldier” would have fit right in on the band’s 2006 release, “IV”. The ballads, “Ever Wonder“, “Be Who You Are, Now”, and “Out of this World” are beautifully arranged and are more reminiscent of Kip Winger’s solo work than 80’s Winger. Rounding out the record is “Storm in Me” another riff-driven rock song and “So Long China”, far and away the strongest track on the record. Awesome riff and a hook that will have you singing along after one listen whether you want to or not.
Better Days Comin’ shows Winger, like many bands these days, are making the records they want to make without the pressure of sales expectations. They are not forcing themselves into a style or formula to hit sales numbers or score a hit single.
Bottom line: Highly recommended. Top notch songs and musicianship. No filler songs whatsoever. Whether you’re die hard, fringe fan, or just rediscovering Winger is still making records, you won’t be disappointed
Better Day’s Comin’ is available as a digital download, CD/DVD and CD/DVD Deluxe Edition with bonus track and DVD containing two music videos and a “making of” documentary.

Raiding the Rock Vault – A Must-See Vegas Experience For Any Rock Fan

Its summer and many rock fans will be heading to Las Vegas for a little R&R. With many choices for entertainment, there’s really only one choice for fans of rock and that’s Raiding the Rock Vault. I've personally seen the show 3 times and can't wait to go back. Recently voted the #1 show in Vegas. Rock Vault is the brainchild of John Payne (Asia) and producer, David Kershenbaum, the show launched in 2013 and quickly became one of the top rated shows in town. Rock Vault takes the audience on a live chronological journey through the history or rock. Only this is not your ordinary cover band. Posters around town and in the casino advertise “Classic Rock by Those Who Rocked it” and that’s not an understatement or marketing ploy. The talent and pedigrees that makes up this band is just awesome. The two hour show flies by as there is non-stop entertainment. Era-specific mini-skits bridge the musical decades and enable the band to change clothes and take a quick breather.

From the opening chords of The Who’s “My Generation”  to final bow following  Van Halen’s “Jump” complete with a few lucky ladies getting invited to the stage to sing and dance with the band, the energy is awesome. Some of the highlights include Paul Shortino’s cranking out The Doors “Light my Fire” and The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Women”, Robin McAuley killing it on Queen’s “We are the Champions” and Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven” and Doug Aldrich and Howard Leese trading solos on Hotel California. Other songs in the set included,” “Jukebox Hero,” “Smoke On The Water,” “Livin’ On A Prayer,” “Separate Ways,” “All Along The Watchtower,” “Here I Go Again,” “Highway To Hell,” “Alone,” “Addicted To Love,” “Dream On,” “Stayin’ Alive,” and “Another Brick In The Wall,”. It’s obvious the band loves what they do and is truly having a blast.

If you are reading this, then you know these names. The musicians that make up this show no doubt wrote and recorded some of your favorite records. Here’s a rundown of the band and just some of their credits.

Robin McAuley: Vocals (Grand Prix, Suvivor, McAuley-Schenker Group) 
Paul Shortino: Vocals (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot) 

Doug Aldrich: Guitar (Lion, Whitesnake, Dio, Burning Rain,  Hurricane, House of Lords) 

Howard Leese: Guitar (Heart, Bad Company, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) 

Jay Schellen: Drums (Badfinger, Hurricane, Asia) 

Andrew Freeman: Vocals/Bass (Lynch Mob, Offspring)

Michael T. Ross: Keyboards (Lita Ford, Hardline, Missing Persons, Angel)

Hugh McDonald: Bass (Bon Jovi, Cher, Alice Cooper)

Carol Lyn-Liddle: Vocals (Masters of Rock)           

There’s also the occasional special guest. Past special guests have included, Bobby Kimball, Joe Lynn Turner, Jon Anderson, and Lou Gramm.

A VIP option is available which gives you a chance to go backstage for a meet and greet with the band prior to the show. The guys will even hangout after for autographs and photos with the audience.

As of the writing of this review, the band released a second volume of studio versions of some of the songs from the show. Songs from Raiding the Rock Vault volumes one and now two are available at the show and digitally through iTunes and

Raiding the Rock play 5 nights a week (dark Wednesdays and Thursdays) at the Westgate Hotel and Casino, formally the LVH. More information and tickets visit: