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REVIEW: Queensryche – Road to Promised Land (1995 EMI promo)

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QUEENSRŸCHE – Road to Promised Land (1995 EMI promotional “best of” CD)

20 years ago, good buddy T-Rev let me know this little treasure had arrived in his store (first discussed in Record Store Tales part 120).  Released to promote the 1995 Promised Land tour, Queensryche’s Road to Promised Land AKA Arrived! was a neat little greatest hits package released well before their actual Greatest Hits several years later.  This is a promo CD released by EMI in the United States, and it covers every Queensryche release to date.

From the original EP is not “Queen of the Reich”, but “The Lady Wore Black”.  The ballad starting the set is an odd but explainable choice.  Queensryche were playing “The Lady Wore Black” on tour, but Geoff Tate didn’t enjoy singing “Queen of the Reich” and tried to avoid doing so.  Being so full of powerful metal drama, even as a ballad, “The Lady Wore Black” can work as an opener.  Then “Take Hold of the Flame” follows, one of the best Queensryche songs of all time (from the first LP The Warning).  Unfortunately that is the only inclusion from The Warning, although it is certainly a must.  Geoff Tate used screams as a art form on this song like no other.  You want metal drama?  They opening tracks are Metal Drama 101.

Two tracks are selected from Rage For Order, and they are fairly obvious choices:  “Walk in the Shadows” [“WALK WITH MEAT!“] and “I Will Remember”.  It is a given that both are high quality songs, from an album that can be difficult to pick individual hits.  The opening part of the CD feels rushed, with the critical first EP and two albums giving up only four songs.  Keep in mind that these albums now make up a large bulk of Queenryche 2015’s set, although that wasn’t the case in 1995 with their original singer.

From the brilliant landmark concept album Operation: Mindcrime are three selections:  “I Don’t Believe in Love”, “Eyes of a Stranger” and “Revolution Calling”.  Once again these are fairly obvious choices, being the three singles from the album.  Strangely, “Eyes of a Stranger” was not edited down and is the full 6:39 cut, complete with album outro.  Their most successful LP yet, Empire, was also give three inclusions.  “Best I Can”, “Jet City Woman” and “Silent Lucidity” were three great singles.  I wonder why the title track “Empire” wasn’t used?  I think it’s more identifiable than “Best I Can”.

Rolling into Promised Land for the final three tracks, it is plain sailing to hear the evolution of the band over their first decade.  Although the metal got tuned down in favour of more drama and radio-friendly elements, one thing that never changed was their urge to experiment.  Indeed, the first Promised Land single “I Am I” features plenty of daring sounds.  (This version of “I Am I” fades out rather than skipping directly into “Damaged”.)  From cello (by Chris DeGarmo) to tribal percussion to innovative vocal effects, “I Am I” proved that Queensryche could rock progressively in the increasingly alternative 1990’s.  Lyrically, they were as serious as ever but more personal.  The ballad “Bridge” was about DeGarmo’s relationship with his father.  Finally, the heavy-as-plutonium “Damaged” closes the CD abruptly.  That’s the problem with these record company assembled promo CDs.  They are not designed to play as an album.  They are designed for radio use and store play.  In other words the only real consideration is including all the individual tracks you want to plug.  Like “I Am I”, “Damaged” too was edited for radio.  They shaved three seconds off in fades, because normally these songs flow together on album.

Rating a CD like this is kind of pointless, because it was never meant to be sold.  But let’s say you don’t own any Queensryche, and you saw this used while wandering the shops.  Would it be a good Queensryche purchase for somebody looking for a good overview of the classic years?

Yes.  Absolutely.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Queensryche – Take Cover (2007)


Scan_20150801 (4)QUEENSRYCHE – Take Cover (2007 Rhino)

As bad as things got at the end of the Tate era for Queensryche (cabaret, anyone?), Take Cover was a musical low.  Queensryche were busy in 2007, with a double live performance of both Mindcrime albums (Mindcrime at the Moore),  a double best-of (Sign of the Times featuring a new song called “Justified”), and Take Cover, a covers album.  Considering the number of releases in 2007 (double CDs no less), Take Cover looks all the less necessary.

The five members of Queensryche each chose some songs for the album, and you have to admit that most of these choices are pretty cool.  Where things go sideways is in the recording of them, and it usually comes down to Geoff Tate’s voice.  Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine”, which opens the album, should have been a slam dunk.  The dark musical backbone is there, but Geoff’s shaky multi-layered vocals do not send shivers up the spine the way Gilmour’s did.  It’s nice that Geoff threw some of his trademark sax in here, and the solos (Michael Wilton and Mike Stone) are great.  The problem is the vocal and that’s a big problem.

“Heaven on Their Minds”, from Jesus Chris Superstar, was chosen by Mike Stone, who left the band after this album.  Musically this works, and I never would have guessed its origin just from its metallic riff.  Thumbs up for this one, no complaints about the singing.  CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair” is a dud though, and they should have left well enough alone. Following that is a flat “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield), a double whammy of stinky renditions of hippy anthems.  Thanks Geoff, for picking those two….

When I spoke to Eddie “edbass” Jackson back in 2001, he told me “I love funk, I really like a really hard driving sound. I tend to focus more on the sonic end of it than the performance end.” That’s a great way to describe his take on the O’Jays “For the Love of Money”. Even Geoff’s sour singing fails to sink it, such is the relentless groove. Queen’s “Innuendo” is another brave choice. Long I have loved this Zeppelin-esque Queen classic. This masterwork of beauty, elegance and strength is rendered limp as a noodle by the vocal chords of Mr. Jeffrey Wayne Tate. This is painfully bad. It reminds me of Bad News’ version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Now my head hurts, and I must now do an ear-cleanse by playing the immaculate original as sung by Freddie Mercury. [Note: I’m not kidding, that’s exactly what I did! Here you go.]

From Freddie Mercury to Ronnie James Dio, there are some difficult vocalists here to cover. Right there are two of the greatest of all time, without question. Geoff struggles a little less with the Dio approach on “Neon Nights”. But he’s absolutely screwed on “Syncronicity II” by The Police. Scott Rockenfield, who I have always thought must have been a Stewart Copeland fan, picked this song. One of the things about the original was how effortlessly Sting sang it. He hit each note perfect and cleanly. Geoff is wavering all over the place, and it robs the song of all its biggest hooks.

Geoff Tate recovers on “Red Rain” by Peter Gabriel…oh man, what a song! Edbass shines on this one, as does Scotty Rock. “Red Rain” is one of the album highlights. Tate then indulges his every fantasy on “Odissea”, part of an Italian opera. It’s up to you whether you hit the skip button or not. Just keep in mind what Geoff Tate did to poor defenceless Freddie Mercury. He sings in Italian, so kudos for him for doing this, but the end result is an experiment that doesn’t need repeating. Finally, the live take of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” is by far the best song. This is a recording from the Q2k era featuring Kelly Gray on guitar before he was replaced by Mike Stone. It’s a 10 minute extended workout complete with an epic Tate rant.  “Don’t step outside of that box!  Don’t step outside of that box!  It’s dangerous there…outside that box.”

As much as Take Cover is a slog to get through, “Bullet the Blue Sky” is arguably enough to make it worth it.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Queensryche – Dedicated to Chaos (2011 special edition)

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QUEENSRYCHE – Dedicated to Chaos (2011 Roadrunner special edition)

Dedicated to Chaos will probably go down in history as the album that broke up Geoff Tate and Queensryche. The ironic thing was that Tate and the band hyped this album as a collaborative effort, with songwriting efforts from the whole band.  It seemed from the early press releases that there was a conscious effort to have the original members contributing as equal members.  Even Scott Rockenfield sounded genuinely psyched:

“It’s huge rock but with a great dance vibe to it, real modern dance. It’s kind of like Rage through a time tunnel, bringing it into the now. There are a lot of electronic elements to it. It’s a big rock thing that is going to have a lot of color to it — it’s good and really intense.”

Hearing that, I was excited. Not for the idea of “modern dance”, but for the Rage For Order vibe through a time tunnel. That could have been good. Unfortunately those are just words. Dedicated to Chaos may have elements from Rage and Promised Land (samples) but it is lightyears away from anything “rock”…certainly not “a big rock thing” as Rockenfield claimed.

Is it progressive rock? Who cares. It’s not good enough for a band of Queensryche’s stature. Tate’s friends Kelly Gray, Randy Gane, and Jason Slater also collaborated, watering down the attempt at re-integrating the band members. The impact of Jackson, Wilton and Rockenfield can barely be felt, even on the songs they co-wrote.

So here we are with Dedicated To Chaos, supposedly a rebirth but actually a funeral. It could have been my favourite album since Promised Land, had they delivered what they promised. The guitar patterns are more drony than riffy. There are electronic effects, as indicated. There is a huge emphasis on rhythm, but not necessarily groove. To its credit, much like Promised Land and Rage, there are unfamiliar sounds coming from everywhere. Some are percussive, others are more musical, but this is another true headphones album from Queensryche. If you actually wanted to hear what they were up to. Which I do not, I’ve given it a chance. I listened intently when it came out, and initially gave the album a rough grade of a 4/5, assuming it would grow on me. It did the opposite, and I liked it less with each listen.

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This layout annoys me to no end.

My biggest complaint with Queensryche was Geoff Tate’s aging voice. It seems to have lost so much range and power over the years to the point where I can’t listen to Take Cover at all. The voice isn’t getting any better. At least it was recorded better than Take Cover. He’s using more of his own voices too. This is done particularly well on “Got It Bad”.

The positives: “Get Started” which sounds almost Empire-lite.  Melodically strong was “Around The World”, which also has a nice positive message. You’ll hear more of Tate’s sax on “Higher” which is a modern sounding song with just a pinch of funk, yet with dual guitar solos. Lyrically, we’re all over the map. “Retail Therapy” is just pissed off at the world. “Around The World” has a kum-bay-a peace and love message. We’ve even got some civil disobedience and the hint of a conspiracy theory in “At the Edge”: “Time to look at what’s behind closed doors, Got gasoline, ammunition, like 911, a controlled demolition.” It also happens to be one of the best and longest songs on the album.

The negatives:  Most of the bulk of the album.  It’s just forgettable.  Go ahead — tell me how “Luvnu” goes.  Can’t remember, can ya?  This piece of crap was written by Tate with his buddies Randy Gane and Kelly Gray.  Surprised?

The “special edition” had three bonus tracks. They are mellow and atmospheric, but worth having only to the fan and collector.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Queensryche – Promised Land (Japanese import)

QUEENSRYCHE – Promised Land (1994 EMI, Japanese import)

I’m sure the pressure was on to top Empire, so what did Queensryche do? They retreated to an isolated but luxurious cabin on an island, and wrote & recorded an introspective atmospheric masterpiece of a record.  Far from record companies and hangers-on, the band focused on the art. By their own admission, the isolation (plus smoking pot and drinking wine) were catalysts for this great album.

I spoke to bassist Eddie Jackson about 13 years ago regarding this album, and I told him I thought it had a lot in common with Rage For Order. He didn’t see it at first, but both albums feature loads of sound effects and atmospherics. Neither album is a true concept album, but both have recurring themes and ideas that run the course of the CD. Promised Land is a deeply personal CD, mostly slower-paced, and one that must be listened to with headphones on.

Drummer Scott Rockenfield came up with the opening piece, “9:28 a.m.”, which is a collage of tones and sounds, ending with some shattering chimes and a baby’s birth. This melds into the first song, “I Am I”, not a typical Queensryche rocker by any stretch but certainly one of the most brilliant things they’ve ever composed. Tate’s lyrics begin the introspective theme of the album, backed by odd percussion instruments, voices, sitar, cello (by guitarist Chris DeGarmo) and droning power chords. There is so much going on beneath the surface of this song; that is why I say that headphones are required.

A skipping CD sound leads straight into the next song, the heavy and dark “Damaged”. “Damaged” is about psychological damage, the effect that bad relationships and experiences have on the self. At various times, Tate’s voice doubles and triples and quadruples, seemingly indicating multiple personalities, or perhaps voices in head. At one point it sounds like his voice has short circuited. Eddie Jackson told me that effect was a total accident in the studio that they couldn’t duplicate.

DeGarmo’s “Out Of Mind” follows, an acoustic piece regarding mental illness. It is a nice quiet composition with spare drumming and a beautiful DeGarmo guitar solo. This break in the pace continues with the next acoustic song, “Bridge”. DeGarmo’s shattered relationship with his father is the theme here. He has hinted before at issues with his father, (“Are you my father? The one that was promised?” from “Screaming In Digital”) but here we get more of the story. His father wishes to mend bridges, but DeGarmo tells him, “You never built it, dad.” A sad tale, and an odd choice for a single, but a single it was.

Side one ended with the powerful epic title track which is nearly 9 minutes long. Anchored by Eddie Jackson’s rumbling bass and Geoff Tate’s atmospheric sax, this is a mindblowing song. The lyrics deal with the fact that as youths, we are told that the world is our oyster, and a promised land is waiting for us. But it doesn’t pan out that way for everybody. There are many voices and sound effects in the background of this song, and Tate’s vocal is wracked with feeling. You can hear that this is taking place in a bar (“Drinks for all my friends!) Again, use headphones!

RYCHE FULLYou hear a person leaving the bar, walking across a gravel lot. This melds into industrial city sounds. Soon the next track has begun, “Disconnected” (writted as “Dis con nec ted” in the lyric sheet). Tate’s vocal is spoken, to great effect. When he speaks in a staggered manner (“I must…release…my…rage…”) it is so understated; yet another mindblowing moment. Again, this song is anchored by Eddie Jackson’s deep bass lines, underscoring.  Due to the odd staggered vocal, this song will not be for everybody. On the surface, it sort of resembles “Della Brown” from Empire. This song seems to be about feeling disconnected from the world around us, despite the technology that supposedly brings us together.

“Lady Jane” follows, revisting the mental illness theme. This is a dramatic piano-based song; the piano is played by Chris DeGarmo. The next track is the most straightforward song on the album, “My Global Mind”. A rocker with few frills, this is perhaps the most Empire-sounding of all the tracks. The plaintive “One More Time” comes next, with some amazing melodies and a fairly standard song structure.

All this leads into one epic final song, “Someone Else?” which is simply piano and voice. The lyrics, as with all of Promised Land, are incredible and Tate’s vocal is among the best he’s ever sung. Looking back, the person he is seems to have been someone else all along. This look back ends the album, which of course started with the birth sequence. Very nice bookends.

LASTThe Japanese got bonus tracks (of course), one of which is “Real World” from the Last Action Hero soundtrack. Strings are the main feature here, by the late Michael Kamen. The arrangement is a little too saccharine for me, but that’s Kamen for you. Then we also have the “full band” version of “Someone Else?” which adds an entire verse, but loses the piano arrangement that made the song special in the first place.

The remastered edition of Promised Land (which I don’t have and don’t need) has two additional live tracks, which were “Damaged” and “Real World” recorded in ’94. There were, of course, lots more live tracks available on singles at the time, but for those you will have to track down the actual singles. Some of them, such as “Dirty Lil’ Secret” which was issued with the Empire remaster, for whatever reason.  And of course there was the ultimate rarity, an acoustic song called “Two Mile High” which was recorded specifically for the Queensryche’s Promised Land video game.  This too is not included on the remastered CD, leaving the song frustratingly unavailable today.

On a final note, when I saw ‘Ryche live in Toronto on the final date of the Promised Land tour, they played the entire album live (albeit not in order), a good 10-15 years before doing so was in vogue. That’s how strong this album is, and that’s how good this band is.

Headphones are a must. Multiple listens are a must. Queensryche have never been deeper or more trippy. A masterpiece.

5/5 stars

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Gallery of CD singles below!

REVIEW: Queensryche – Hear in the Now Frontier

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HITNF_0001QUEENSRYCHE – Hear in the Now Frontier (1997, 2003 EMI remaster)

I remember when this album came out in the spring of ’97. There was anticipation and a certain amount of fear: How could Queensryche possibly top Promised Land? The band, as always chose to do something different. In this case they dropped the production, sound effects, and themes, and created a stripped down album of individual unrelated songs. That’s the nice way of putting it. Critics of the album say “Queensryche went grunge,” or “Queensryche went alternative.”

Whatever you call it, this is not a great album. There are some truly great songs, but they are in the minority, swimming through a sea of padding. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo wrote the music for almost every song here, and about half of the lyrics. He even got his first lead vocal (“All I Want”).  Even though Hear in the Now Frontier (God I hate that title) isn’t a great album, Queensryche has missed DeGarmo’s presence.  This was his last album with the band.

As I said, there are some great songs.  They include:

  • “Get A Life” – Not very Ryche, but it’s a heavy rocker based on the riff and Geoff Tate’s shredding vocal melody.
  • “All I Want” – A piano-based ballad with a nice rhythm, very different from anything Queensryche have done before or since.
  • “Hit The Black” – Grungy, distorted lead vocals drive this heavy riff-oriented groove rocker.  I like it.
  • “Anytime/Anywhere” – Another heavy rocker that would have fit right in on the Q2k album.
  • “sp00l” – The only song that I might describe as progressive, and the one that sounds the most like Queensryche.  Powerful vocal and melody. Sonically interesting, and centered on the bass guitar much like “Della Brown” or “Promised Land”.

But that’s pretty much it for me. The other 9 tracks I would describe as dry, flat, not memorable, melodically poor and homogenous. It is clear that the vision for this record was to make something that sounded stripped down, and even with odd flourishes such as violin and piano, it’s just too boring. Even the cover art (by Hugh Syme again) stinks.

There are four bonus tracks, all of which are decent. Three songs come from the “Sign Of The Times” CD single; “Chasing Blue Skies” is a studio track, and had it been on the album, it would have been one of the best songs. Why it was left for a B-side, I don’t know. Maybe because they didn’t want another ballad on the record, which was already bogged down by slow numbers? Anyway it’s great, and sounds like something from Promised Land. Then there are three MTV Unplugged tracks, all fantastic. “Silent Lucidity” and “The Killing Words” were released as B-sides, but “I Will Remember” was completely unreleased in audio format until now. These songs are all considered rarities, as the singles have been out of print for over a decade.  They are at least worth having, even if you don’t like the album.

2/5 stars

More RYCHE:

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche (2013 Japanese edition with bonus tracks)

QUEENSRŸCHE – Queensrÿche (2013 Avalon Japanese import)

RYCHE2013_0004I purchased and reviewed the domestic “deluxe edition” of Queensryche (2013) in July of this year.  I initially gave it a 3.25/5 stars, but I have since revised that score to 3.5/5.  The album continues to appeal to me greatly months later, which is more than I can say for most Queensryche discs since Promised Land.  At the end of that review, I cryptically added, “Oh, and the live bonus tracks absolutely smoke.”

Since nobody likes a tease, I’ve decided to focus on all four live tracks for this review.  For the very reasonable price of $32 USD plus $3 shipping, I had a sealed copy of Queensryche sent to me from Japan, so I now have all four live tracks.  If you want the short report:  They’re good enough that Queensryche should consider releasing a full live CD/DVD.  I’d buy it based on these four tracks.  But nobody comes to mikeladano.com for the short version.

“Queen of the Reich” is the first song I ever heard from the original  Queensryche, as I suspect is true for most of the band’s fanbase.  Right from the opening scream, I feel that this is the band that represents Queensryche.  Every note is nailed, as is every scream.  On this song Todd La Torre can do no wrong, but not just that.  I would say that his versions are, in general, fresh sounding.  He is reverent to the originals, but I also hear his own voice.  I must also commend Scott Rockenfield.  His drums are heavy as fuck, and his bass drum precisely punctuates every beat.

“En Force” is a welcome surprise.  In 2001, Eddie Jackson told me that it was considered in the running for the Live Evolution album but did not make the cut.  The good news is the guys still know how to play it!  This has never been my absolute favourite track from The Warning, but to hear it live with all the screams intact?  That’s something I never thought would happen again.

“Prophecy” is a difficult song, and although Todd doesn’t sing it album-perfect, I have to ask myself, who else these days can sing these Queensryche songs like this?  Not too many singers.  I just hope Todd doesn’t blow out his voice.  I’m sure this kind of singing takes its toll.

Last is the classic “Eyes of a Stranger”.  This is the only bonus track not from the stone ages of the Ryche, the only representation of Operation: Mindcrime.  It is actually this track, in many respects, that shows off the talents of Todd La Torre.  It is another side of the spectrum, and Todd pulls this off as well.  Look, I know Geoff Tate’s the original, etc. etc.  I get that.  Focused on the here and now, this is how I’d like to hear Queensryche sound.  Heavy, slightly progressive rock music with shredding vocals.  That’s what I like, and Queensryche deliver on these four bonus tracks.

Lastly, a word about Parker Lundgren.  I remember when Kelly Gray joined the band, on Live Evolution he lent a different sound to the band.  It was good, just different.  Parker fits much more seamlessly.   He doesn’t attract attention to himself by playing things differently, he played it the way you remember it.

Yeah, so I bought the album twice.  You knew I was going to.  For the bonus tracks:

5/5 stars

More RYCHE:

REVIEW: Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche (deluxe edition 2013)

QUEENSRŸCHE – Queensrÿche (2013 deluxe edition)

So after all the hubbub and commotion and he-says she-says, both Queensryches have finally released their albums.  The consensus is pretty clear:  fans prefer the original band to the original singer.  The sales figures speak for themselves.  Queensryche has more than doubled the sales numbers of Frequency Unknown, and charted in the 20’s rather than the 80’s.  The judge that will settle the case of who gets the Queensryche name in November said that the market would decide.  If that’s indeed the case, Tate can look forward to a solo career.

In the meantime Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson carried on with Parker Lundgren and Todd La Torre, and basically did what fans have been asking:  revert to an earlier sound.

Instead of going through this album song-by-song, I thought I would try something different.  Instead I’d like to just talk about what I like and don’t like about Queensryche.  You can feel free if you disagree if you like.  Uncle Meat couldn’t bring himself to review the album.  He hated it so much he rated it 0/5 stars.  He said that the hiring of a Tate clone only makes Queensryche look like a bunch of douchebags.  His opinion was that this act alone put Tate on top, even if he did release the dreadful Frequency Unknown.  He asked me to say this on his behalf:

“This is like the winner of the Queensryche Karaoke contest.  Worst album of the year, of any genre.”

So there’s that.  I respect the criticism about the Karaoke contest.  But lemme tell you folks, even if La Torre’s Tate is uncanny, it’s also welcome to my weary ears.  I like hearing a Queensryche album where the singer is actually hitting the notes.  I’ve heard Tate fans talk about electronic processing on La Torre’s voice.  Well, that’s pretty much rooted in the 1986 Rage For Order sound.

If I had to nail Queensryche down to a specific era, it would be Warning-Rage-Empire in that order.  Not terribly original, no.  I’ll let it slide though, and for this reason:  when a band like Queensryche, who have musically been adrift at sea for a long time (barring the odd triumph like American Soldier), they need to re-ground themselves and regain the faith and trust of the fans.  Priest did something similar with their Angel of Retribution album.  Various songs sounded pretty bang-on for specific eras of the band.  And you know what?  That worked for me.  It was what I needed.  They saved the double concept album for the next record.

So, if Queensryche can progress from here, I’ll be happy and forgive them for the lack of originality.  I’ll let it slide for one album.  I’m also a little disappointed in the brief running time of 35 minutes: 9 short songs plus 2 intros.  None of the tracks are longer than 4 1/2 minutes.

QR2013 PICKI find pretty much all the songs to be of equal quality.  That is, all of them are good, some of them are better than good, none of them are poor.  I’ve waited to listen to this album 5 or 6 times before I tried to review it.  After that many listens, none of the songs are particularly jumping out at me more than others.  But none are turning me off.  All  have moments of greatness here and there, sometimes in the guitars, other times the drums, or the vocals.  La Torre is definitely stunning at times on this album.  It’s also fantasic to actually hear Scott Rockenfield playing the drums on a Queensryche album, and sounding like Scott Rockenfield.  He has a unique sound, one of his own, as does bassist Eddie Jackson.

As for the new boy Parker Lundgren?  Sure, he played on some of Dedicated to Chaos, but now you can actually hear him.  He meshes better with Michael Wilton than anybody else the band has had since Chris DeGarmo.

Which brings me to my final point.  I still miss DeGarmo.  This is nothing against Michael, Scott, Eddie, Parker or Todd.  DeGarmo had some kind of magic.  Look at all of Queensryche’s hits.  See who wrote most of them.  Queensryche absolutely miss DeGarmo, more than they do Tate.

In closing, I enjoy Queensryche a lot more than Frequency Unknown, or many albums since Promised Land.  Do I like it more than Rage?  Warning?  The EP?  No.  It’s good, no mistake, but it’s not at that level.  Whether they are capable of ever getting there again remains to be seen.  My attention is peaked; I’ll definitely check out the next album, which the band have already started writing.  In fact I’m looking forward to the next one, and hopefully the next one after that.

Oh, and the live bonus tracks absolutely smoke.

3.5/5 stars

FYI:  The Japanese edition contains an additional bonus track, which is “Eyes of a Stranger” performed live by the new lineup.  All four live tracks are taken from the same gig.  Reviewed separately.

Part 201: Warren

RECORD STORE TALES Part 201:  Warren

Trevor told me about Warren first.  “He’s a big guy,” he said, “With big, blonde Sammy Hagar hair and glasses.  Nice though.  He was friends with my mom when I was growing up.  I used to call him Wookiee!”

Warren was bringing in some promo CDs to sell, and Trevor was giving me a heads up and asked me to treat him right.  Warren is a fan of a lot of the same musicians I am (guys like Ritchie Blackmore and Steve Morse) but his passion was bass.  His favourite bassist was Chris Squire of Yes.  So obviously Warren and I were going to get along.  We did, and he frequently came to me as his first stop for selling music, buying music, and making conversation.

Warren was trying to do a few music magazines.  He originally worked on a country music mag, but that wasn’t his thing and soon he started up Global Bass Online.  Warren needed help with some of the interviews.  He was really excited to be speaking to Victor Wooten, but he needed someone to interview Eddie Jackson, from Queensryche.  Queensryche were promoting their new CD and DVD, Live Evolution.  Warren gave me copies of each, and asked if I wanted to write the Jackson piece.

“Are you kidding?” I said, stunned.  “You want me to talk to Edbass?”

A pause from Warren.  “Who?”

“Edbass,” I replied.  “That’s how Eddie Jackson credits himself on the album.”

“Oh!” said Warren.  “Yes, Eddie Jackson.  I know you can do it.  Here’s a cassette deck you can plug into your phone.  And here’s Eddie’s cell phone number.  He’s expecting your call, he knows what’s going on.”

Wow.  Eddie Jackson was expecting my call.  Cool.

Warren and I collaborated on some initial bass-related questions, but he left the rest up to me.  He gave me tips, but told me that I was a good conversationalist  and that I would be fine.

I called up Eddie that night, keeping in mind that Seattle was 3 hours behind us.  Eddie answered, we had a brief chat and set up an hour the following day to do the interview.

The results of my very first interview are still there in the November 2001 installment of Global Bass!

Warren ended up following his dream and moving to paradise (Switzerland).  And we still keep in touch.  And maybe I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for his confidence.

nov2001cover

EDDIE JACKSONThe full, transcribed text of the Eddie Jackson interview can be found by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Next time on Record Store Tales…

You meet the most interesting people!

REVIEW: Queensryche – “Redemption” (2013 single)

QUEENSRYCHE – “Redemption” (2013 single from the forthcoming new album Queensryche)

Ever since I first saw the video for “Queen of the Reich” back in, oh, ’84 or around there, I’ve been a fan of this band.  I’ve followed them through ups (Operation: Mindcrime) but pretty much abandoned them on the downs (Tribe).  As time went on it seemed that former singer Geoff Tate was in command, and his choices of direction or stage show hasn’t always been to my taste, nor that of many fans.

Hiring a new singer this late in the game is very rarely a good move.  But it seems fairly obvious that Tate was poisoning his relationship with the band and fans, and it was with relief to me when they finally fired him and moved on.  Todd La Torre is completely unknown to me, I had never heard his work with Crimson Glory.  The new Queensryche single “Redemption” from their untitled album due in June is the first time I’ve heard any of his original material.

The verdict?  It’s pretty much exactly what I expected.  It sounds like Queensryche circa Warning through to Mindcrime, but with modern touches.  There’s some solid riffing here, but not so much the audio collages of sound that Queensryche tend to do in the studio.  La Torre nails the vintage Tate vibe without adding a whole lot to it, right down to the multitracked backing vocals.  The track doesn’t expand the Queensryche sound, which is the opposite of what they used to do.  In this case I understand the reasons.  After a decade of more or less disappointing albums and wandering directions, now is not the time to experiment musically.  Queensryche had to return to a vintage sound, as demanded by their fans, and do so authentically.  I think they do this authentically by genuinely desiring to play that kind of music right now.

It’s hard to do a simple rating on a song I’ve been waiting for like this.  Am I underwhelmed?  Slightly.  Is that because I got exactly what I expected?  Probably.  Is it good?  Yes.  Am I looking forward to the album?  Big time.

3.5/5 stars

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV

REVIEW: Queensryche – Q2k (Expanded edition)

Q2K FRONT

QUEENSRYCHE – Q2k (1999, 2006 expanded edition, Atlantic/Rhino)

Disclaimer: I am in a very small minority of fans who love the Q2k album. Most don’t. Many consider it a continuation of the “grungy” sounds of Hear In The Now Frontier, but weaker. That’s not my point of view, so be forewarned. Read on.

Chris DeGarmo’s departure after Hear In The Now Frontier shattered the group, but they decided to soldier on with old friend Kelly Gray (ex-Geoff Tate’s old band Myth, producer of Dokken, Candlebox, Bob Rivers etc.). Gray was a strong writer, but had a completely different style from the melodic DeGarmo. Gray’s sound is more based in heavy riffing, groove, and lots of wah-wah solos. It’s a different Queensryche and change was exactly what this band needed after the terrible Hear In The Now.

Sure, the album title sucks. I wonder if they regret it now? I’m sure they must.  Thankfully, the music inside doesn’t suck. Heavy, grooving, riffy, powerful, well recorded…I love this album. The only flaw, and the only reason this doesn’t get five stars from me, is that there is a certain sameness to the songs. Almost all have a similar groove. Yet all are catchy and enjoyable. Truly this is Queenryche at their most “rock” and rock it does!

This remastered edition, like all previous Queensryche remasters, contains liner notes by Geoff Tate and bonus tracks. The liner notes reveal the strife that the band had experienced at the time, largely due to the change in guitar players. Clearly this was not a happy time for the band but the music is only stronger for it. The bonus tracks are cool, my favourite of them being the ballad “Until There Was You”. I was always quite pleased to finally get the live version of “Sacred Ground”, originally only on the Japanese version.

Q2K INNER

Fave songs:

  • “Falling Down” – tribal thumping opens this groovy riff rocker
  • “Sacred Ground” – a droney riff that somehow works within the Queensryche context
  • “Liquid Sky” – a little more old-school on the riff, but with that same groove
  • “Breakdown” – sounds a bit too much like “Falling Down”, but is no less powerful
  • “Burning Man” – the faster side of Queensryche, furious drumming from Rockenfield, simply awesome
  • “Wot Kinda Man” – the first of the dumb Tate titles conceals a wah-wah infested rocker
  • “The Right Side Of My Mind” – the most proggy and the most old-school ‘Ryche

Bad lyrical moment: “Like electrical shock-waves in the sky.” Yikes!

Dull song:  “When The Rain Comes”.  It’s not a terrible song, just a bit too slow without building into anything memorable.

I mentioned the bonus tracks.  “Howl” is the first song, very similar to the heavier rocking songs on Q2k.  You can see why it was left off initially, as the album is already loaded with songs like this.  “Howl” is just slightly inferior in terms of melody and heaviness.  “Until There Was You” is a much better song, and I think it should have been on the album.  Indeed, the band chose this song for their anthology, Sign of the Times.  It’s a ballad with a great chorus, memorable and strong.

“Sacred Ground”, as mentioned, was the live Japanese bonus track.  This is not the same version as the one on Live Evolution, this is an earlier recording.  Collectors will be happy that they don’t have to hunt down a Japanese copy.  Lastly there’s a single edit of “Breakdown”, chopping a minute out of the song.  I wasn’t too fussed to have this one, because I already own all three promo singles from this album, from my record store days.  I was given free copies of “Breakdown”, “Falling Down”, and “The Right Side of My Mind”.  (There was no edit version of “Falling Down”, but the edit version of “Right Side” is missing from this expanded edition.  I was actually given two sets of these, but I sold the other set.)

I’m quite fond of Q2k, and I can honestly say that I haven’t liked any of the albums since then quite as much, not even Mindcrime II which should have been a slam-dunk winner. I do hope that the new Queensryche (with La Torre) will return them to the rocking glory years.

4/5 stars

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV