Flying Colors

#458: The LeBrain 2015 Christmas Extraganza! – full report

GETTING MORE TALE #458: The LeBrain 2015 Christmas Extraganza! – full report

Scraps of turkey remain, wrapped in tinfoil, awaiting soup or sandwiches to be made.  The cranberry sauce, if not used up, has been thrown out along with a mountain of cardboard and paper packaging.  Bank balances are lower, but hearts are fuller.  Christmas has come and gone.

Here we sit on the Monday after, hopefully still on vacation, to enjoy the spoils.

The first thing I need to address personally is this:  Happy birthday to my sister Kathryn!  Kathryn requested a birthday review this year, but unfortunately I just have not had the time to do it.  I will review her request sometime in early 2016!

The first Christmas gift that I opened came in the mail from Aaron who sneakily did this even though he certainly didn’t have to!  And I know he has sent Christmas gifts to other folks in the community.  What a generous lad!  I know he loves to hear about how we react to his surprises, so I had Mrs. LeBrain record mine.  This was done on the evening of the 22nd. Thanks Aaron!

You can’t have too many Kiss shirts!  And that Flying Colors blu-ray is going to be amazing.  In fact I’m already arranging a group screening for review purposes!

On the 23rd, we had a half day at work, and a huge Christmas feast for lunch. This was catered in by a company called Platters that we’d never tried before. It was easily the best catered meal we have had in my eight Christmases at the company. Lots of laughs and handshakes, and then by 1:00, most people had taken off for the Christmas break. For some of us though, a long day was still ahead! We had taken on a job that was new to us only a week before. The job had to be completed and shipped on the 23rd, so we had a skeleton crew left, working hard to get this accomplished. I was responsible for coordinating the customs paperwork, and so I was among the stragglers. Around 5:00, the job was finally completed and I crawled home exhausted to begin my holiday. It sure felt amazing to walk in that door!

Mail had arrived, and in the box was Marillion’s latest fan club-only Christmas CD!  Free gifts given only to fan club members, I collect these things which are true rarities. I’m only missing the first two (1998 and 1999). This year is a double live called A Monstrously Festive(al) Christmas.

On December 24th, Christmas Eve, it was so warm outside that I was wearing shorts. In all my years I have never seen a Christmas without any snow. This was the first. We’ve had blizzards and mild weather but nothing like this!

Christmas in shorts

Christmas in shorts

Over the course of the next 24 hours, there were some pretty damn cool gifts given and received.  Here are the musical highlights.  All are still sealed, so as to savour every delightful moment.  As usual, I have some intensive listening to do in the weeks and months to come.  Do you see something here you’d like reviewed?

It’s a very Purple Christmas this year!  Hard Road is a 5 disc box set containing the first three Purple albums with bonus tracks, and also the rare original mono mixes, which I have never heard before.  This renders even the best remastered versions of the early Purple CDs obsolete.  I need someone to gift them to!  As for the Rainbow, and Wacken sets…this is a lot of hours of music.  Include that Flying Colors double live as part of my Purple Christmas!

The live rock continues:

Two new releases and one classic.  Many more hours of incredible musicianship to be had right here.  But what’s Christmas without some kind of crazy deluxe edition boxed set?

I originally acquired Too Old to Rock ‘N’ Roll in 2012, so I don’t know it very intimately.  I do like it though, so why not go for the whole hog?  This box set contains: the original album, the previous bonus tracks with a bunch more on top, the original quadrophonic mix transferred to DVD for the 4.0 quad experience, a TV special, bonus video features such as a tribute to the late bassist John Glascock, and lots more.  Go big or go home!

Then we have this massive Led Zeppelin book set, The Ultimate Collection by Chris Welch, including a DVD and an enormous amount of reproduction memorabilia:

Sheer overload!  When am I going to have time to go through all this?  I only have a week off!

Fortunately, I have already enjoyed these two movies, Ted 2 and Ant-Man.  Great way to enjoy Boxing Day.

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New Transformers and nerd-stuffs also arrived chez LeBrain.  My mom even bought me a selfie stick Nerd Stick.  Look at the aerial photo I took of her Christmas village!  In fact, the only snow in town could be found in her Christmas village.

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Nerd stuffs:

Finally, I needed a new coffee mug.  I need a cup that can comfortably hold 12 oz.  Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom delivered, with my brand new Vader mug.  Dark side or not, that’s just a light roast inside him.  This is actually quite a nice mug, with silver paint applications on Vader’s mask.  It’s odd to see the Disney logo on anything I own, but there it was on the box.  I believe that Lord Vader will be accompanying me as I journey through the light and dark sides of live music sets!

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I hope everyone had a merry, merry Christmas.  Next up:  the new year.  And you know what that means!  Year end lists!  Next time on Getting More Tale.

LeBrain

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Tom and Meat’s Top Whatever of 2014

For my Top Five of 2014, click here.

For Dr. Dave’s Top Ten of 2014, click here.

For the Top Whatever of No Pre-Determined Amount from two of Canada’s most knowledgeable rock gods, stay tuned right here.  From Meaford Ontario, weighing in at XXX lbs, it’s Iron Tom Sharpe, who turns it up to 11.

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Tom’s Top Eleven of 2014

BEN WARD11. Various ArtistsRONNIE JAMES DIO: This Is Your Life
10. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Single Mothers
9. MASTODON Once More ‘Round the Sun
8. EARLY MAN – Thank God You’ve Got the Answers For Us All
7. OPETH – Pale Communion
6. JOHN GARCIA – John Garcia
5. ST. PAUL & the BROKEN BONES – Half the City
4. sHEAVY – The Best Of sHeavy – A Misleading Collection
3. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans
2. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss


Saving the best for last, here’s Uncle Meat.  For added rocket sauce he’s also given me his top movies of 2014.

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Meat’s Top Eight of 2014

Copy of IMG_20140706_0857128. MASTODONOnce More ‘Round the Sun
7. ECHO AND THE BUNNYMENMeteorites
6. FOO FIGHTERSSonic Highways
5. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC – Mandatory Fun
4. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
3. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
2. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS English Oceans
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From the Abyss

Meat’s Top Twelve Movies of 2014

WHIPLASH12. Lucy
11. X Men : Days of Future Past
10. St. Vincent
9. Interstellar
8. The Lego Movie
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Get On Up
2. Birdman
1. Whiplash


#350 The Year in Review / Top Five of 2014 (and 2004)

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#350 The Year in Review / Top Five of 2014

Another year come and gone!  Am I older and wiser?  I think so, musically speaking anyway!  It was a great year for music (and a baffling year too, hello Scott Stapp and Phil Rudd)!  Narrowing down my favourites to a Top Five wasn’t all that difficult once I thought about it.  There were some clear contenders so it was more about sorting out the order.  I’ll save the Top Five(s) for last.

I lost two friends this year, both of whom went way too soon.  Both had moved out of town long ago (one out of the country), but we recently reconnected via social media.  Warren was the guy who helped get me started on this crazy journey of writing, being the first to publish me.  George, an old friend from childhood, helped me discover Kiss.  Both left this earth in 2014, and the world is sadder for it.  Rest in peace boys.

That aside, my proudest writing achievement was finally finishing the Record Store Tales.  I had so much fun sharing those stories over the years.  I took my time ending it; I was having a good time.  But I knew there were people who wouldn’t like it; that’s happened before.   Again I’ll apologize to the two who complained, for any offence I caused them.  These two guys were friends from the store, but neither had really expressed any support for what I was doing, and I don’t think they particularly liked it.  I never had anything bad to say about either of them, but I get that they might not like things I had to say about their friends; I totally get that.  I also get that they had different experiences at the Record Store than I did.  That’s fine.  I want to be clear that my experience was mine alone.  I cannot speak for anyone but myself.  (Interesting footnote though:  Back in Part 170, I mentioned that our accountant Jonathan used to talk about who he trusted at the store, and who he didn’t.  One of the people he never trusted was one of those two guys, because of his personal friendship with the higher-ups.  Just a footnote.)

Anyway, I don’t want to focus on the negative.  I did some rough calculations and by reckoning, the number of Record Store Tales that were negative towards the store was only about 16%.

So!  Onto the lists!  My Top Ten Favourite Record Store Tales of 2014:

Part 258: Uncle Meat
Part 264: Garbage Removal Machine
Part 265: A Nightmare on Cocknuckles Street Redux: Special Edition
Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev
Part 270: Star Trek vs. Star Wars
Part 281: People of Walmart
Part 285: Chinese Democracy
Part 289: Tom’s Frozen Beater
Part 319: The Musical Crimes of LeBrain (by Mrs. LeBrain)
Part 320: End of the Line #2 (The Last Straw)

And my of course Top Five Abums of 2014:

5. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
4. PINK FLOYDThe Endless River
3. HELIXBastard of the Blues
2. ACE FREHLEYSpace Invader
1. JUDAS PRIESTRedeemer of Souls

As an added bonus, I also found my Top Five Albums of 2004 among my journals!  For shits n’ giggles, here is a “bonus” installment of Record Store Tales for you!  And Happy New Year to ya!

BONUS RECORD STORE TALES Part 350:
Top Five of 2004

5. BRANT BJORKLocal Angel
4. PEARL JAMLive at Benaroya Hall: October 22, 2003
3. THE KILLERSHot Fuss
2. THE HIVES – Tyrannosaurus Hives
1. MARILLIONMarbles

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Stay tuned for more Top Lists of 2014 in the days ahead!

 

TOMORROW: Toronto Record Store Excursion 2014

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Yes it’s that time again folks.  For the third year in a row, Aaron and myself will be venturing to Toronto…the T-Dot…Hogtown, the Big Smoke!  Once again we will be going looking for music and other sundry scores.  Aaron will be bringing the KMA community “Holy Grail List” of rarities, so we can hunt for YOUR music, too!

Admittedly though, my goals focus on me, myself, and I.  There are several items I’d like to bring home with me, including the new Flying Colors album.  I’m also going to look for some cheap, used Helix CDs for my friends overseas who don’t have easy access to such things.  Other than that, my own plan is simply to see what I can find and make my purchasing decisions accordingly!  We did very, very well last year, as you can see by the videos below.

Oh!  The videos.  Yes, I also plan to make another video, this year.  However I won’t be rushing myself, so don’t expect it right away.  It’s hard work!

Wish us luck.  Tomorrow is a day I look forward to every year, and I expect many treasures to be found!

2013: PART 1

2013: PART 2

2012:

REVIEW: Flying Colors – Live In Europe (2013)

FLYING COLORS – Live In Europe (2013 Mascot Music)

There hasn’t been a new band that got me going like Flying Colors did in a dog’s age.  Their 2012 debut is a fantastic album, and it’s only grown on me more since I first reviewed it.  Songs like “Kayla”, “The Storm”, and “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” had me hooked on repeat — in the car, at home, it didn’t matter.  Flying Colors has been on constantly for months.

That’s why I decided to get the double Live In Europe CD.  I had to have more.  Who cares that it’s a double live album immediately following a debut!  All 11 songs from that album are here, plus covers and songs from each member’s past.  I am glad to report that Live In Europe is as stunning as the debut, even over its long running time.  When you have a band made up of guys like Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Dave LaRue, Neal Morse and Casey McPherson, you can count on a live show full of explosive instrumental pyrotechnics.  And that is present.  But it’s the quality of the songs and the humour of the band that makes it special.

The band open the set with three album tracks in a row, each different from the last.  “Blue Ocean” is the long, breezy opener, which is followed by the pummeling “Shoulda Coulda Woulda”.  Then, “Love Is What I’m Waiting For” is more soulful.  All three are outstanding songs with stunning playing.

Portnoy does most of the talking, but Casey McPherson gets the first solo outing.  “Can’t Find a Way” is from his former band Endochine, but played by Flying Colors, it fits seemlessly in the set.  Its soft vibe is similar to some of the quieter material on Flying Colors, and McPherson’s emotive vocals set it apart.  Steve Morse throws down one of his classic solos and seals the deal.  This powerful number could have been on the album easily.   They follow this one with my favourite song, “The Storm,” and the whole place ignites.

From 1978’s What If album comes the Dixie Dregs’ “Oddyssey”.  Since Flying Colors don’t have a violin player, it’s very different, but every bit as jumpy and complicated.  Coming back to something a little more straightforward, the band rock out to “Forever In A Daze.”  Then McPherson stuns the crowd with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.  Yeah, it’s been a trendy song to cover lately, but when you pull it off as well as MacPherson does, why not?

The first CD ends with a mellow “Better Than Walking Away,” and by now a Flying Colors concert already feels like an emotionally uplifting experience.  It is a song like this that underlines not just the chops, but the melodic tendencies of this band.  It’s always fun to listen to a bunch of guys shred for 90 minutes, but it’s even better when they play a bunch of great songs, too.

The second CD commences with “Kayla,” which to me is already a classic.  The vocal harmonies of Neal Morse and Casey McPherson really dance.  After this, Mike Portnoy takes over, at the request of Neal Morse, sings lead on his “Fool In My Heart.”  I quite this swinging little ballad, and there’s nothing wrong with Portnoy’s vocal.  Dave LaRue’s solo piece, “Spur of the Moment,” leads into a Dream Theater classic.  “Repentance,” from 2007’s excellent Systematic Chaos, is part of Mike’s “12 Step Suite.”  As such it’s only fitting that he sings it himself.  It’s not the whole 10 minute version, it’s pretty much just the first half, “Regret.”  But it is every bit as powerful as Dream Theater’s original, yet very different.

From 1998’s The Kindness Of Strangers, Neal Morse performs “June” by Spock’s Beard.  This bright ballad enables McPherson and Portnoy to harmonize very nicely with Morse.   It’s certainly a nice respite before the slamming “All Falls Down.”  After the band lays waste with that tune, it’s only epics from there forward.  From the album, 8 minutes of “Everything Changes” is only topped by 12 minutes of “Infinite Fire”.  While these two are still “songs,” the shredders get their wishes granted with some long-bomb jams.

In a band like Flying Colors, you can’t single out any one player as an MVP.  It seems like a band powered by all five members equally.  Having said that, Steve’s Morse’s guitar solos are always a treat, and it also a pleasure to hear the rhythm section of LaRue and Portnoy gel like this.  They give the whole album a tremendous pulse.  Turn up your bass and see what I mean.

5/5 stars

GUEST REVIEW: Dream Theater – The Number of the Beast (by Uncle Meat)

GUEST REVIEW by:  Uncle Meat

ST NUMBER BEAST_0003DREAM THEATER: The Number of the Beast (2002 Ytsejam Records, Covers Series)

For the most part, Dream Theater is a band you either love or you hate. Some Metal fans are put off by the keyboards perhaps, while many others find Dream Theater hard to listen to because of the effeminate tone to the voice of singer James LaBrie. On the other hand, music fans who are not into the sensibilities of progressive music would label Dream Theater as “pretentious,” or which have you. Most music fans though can appreciate the musical talent of everyone involved. They are also a very busy unit, often branching out into different projects between DT albums and tours.

While still in the band, and then after his departure from DT in 2010, Mike Portnoy has been the busiest of all the DT members. So much so, that while researching to do this review of Dream Theater’s Official Bootleg: The Number of the Beast, I was blown away with how many projects Portnoy has been a part of that I truly love. Simply said, Mike Portnoy comes off as the biggest music fan in the music business. On top of his resume of original music, his obsessively accurate tribute projects can only be pulled off by someone who is an authentic “music geek super fan”. Sound familiar, LeBrain? So yes, this review has morphed itself into a bit of a Mike Portnoy love fest. Check out this list of his accomplishments outside of Dream Theater.

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT – The two studio albums with John Petrucci, Jordan Rudess and Tony Levin are fantastic albums. Their self-titled CD is one of my favorite progressive rock albums. With three subsequent live albums with that lineup and two albums with a name change to Liquid Trio Experiment, that makes seven albums with the great Tony Levin alone.

TRANSATLANTIC – Four studio albums and four live albums with this Prog super group along with Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), Neal Morse(Spock’s Beard, Flying Colors) and the bassist from one of my favorite bands…Marillion…Pete Trewavas.

AVENGED SEVENFOLD – After the death of their drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, during the writing of a new album, Mike Portnoy stepped in and played drums on their 2010 CD titled Nightmare. He also joined them for a few shows over in Iran and Kuwait for American troops overseas.

ADRENALINE MOB – Two albums with this band consisting of members from Symphony X and Fozzy. I honestly do not think I have heard it so can’t say much really.

FLYING COLORS – One studio album and one live album playing with my favorite musician of all time… Steve Morse. Consisting of Neal Morse again and others, including the incredible Steve Morse Band bassist Dave LaRue. Maybe you should just read LeBrain’s review of this band right “here”.

WINERY DOGS – With a more straight ahead rock and roll approach, the Winery Dogs is his current gig with bassist Billy Sheehan and guitarist Richie Kotzen.  [Check out Jon Wilmenius’ excellent review hereLeBrain]

And that’s just the original music he has been a part of. He has gone to great lengths to put together live shows recreating the concerts of, and playing the music of, his favorite drummers. He has arranged one for Led Zeppelin called Hammer of the Gods. He has also done one for Rush called Cygnus & the Sea Monsters. I actually learned about these while researching the review that I haven’t even got around to yet (yes this has become a much larger project than initially thought), so I am curious to search these out. You should be as well. The one I can comment on is his Beatles tribute called Yellow Matter Custard, named from a lyric within the song “I Am the Walrus”.

Consisting of Matt Bissonette, Paul Gilbert and Neal Morse and himself, this unit recreates what it would have been like to see The Beatles live. A lot of the songs were never played by the Beatles live. I listened to this with a good friend of mine who himself is a great musician and huge Beatles fan. Listening to it brought the Beatles super-fan out of him, most especially loving the somewhat obscure tracks performed live by the band. I highly recommend checking this out if you are a Beatles fan. So that pretty much means everyone.

 

 

ST NUMBER BEAST_0002I can’t believe I am now just starting the intended review, but here goes. In 2002, while touring for the album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, Dream Theater went on a short club tour in Europe where they played a different album in its entirety, track for track. Among the albums covered in this tour were Master of Puppets – Metallica, Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd and Made in Japan – Deep Purple. (Who covers a live album? And one of my favorite live albums of all time? Dream Theater does, that’s who).

On October 24, 2002 DT played a small club called La Mutualite in Paris, France. The album on the menu that night was The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden. From the sound of the enthusiastic crowd you can clearly hear throughout the album, this was a well-appreciated re-creation of one of the greatest Metal albums of all time.

The show starts off with album opener “Invaders”. My first impression was how great it sounded. Lively version and a thick guitar sound. Another thing I quickly realized is this: say what you want about James LaBrie and his effeminate style. Not many singers, including Bruce Dickinson himself can sing these songs live. I have seen Iron Maiden play several of these songs live, and even in a reduced key it is a struggle for Dickinson to sing the songs how they are recorded on the album. The opening track just left me looking forward to the rest of the set.

“Children of the Damned” was a joy to listen to, again mostly because of the vocals. This is probably his best singing on the album. Bruce Dickinson would have to get himself on a Lance Armstrong-like drug program to ever have a chance of singing this song in this key again. This song is also where I first really noted one of the truly great and original things about this album. Iron Maiden is a classic two-guitar fueled machine. DT is doing this with one guitar and a keyboard. Check out the twin guitar/keyboard solo in this song and hear throughout as the guitar and keyboard trade solos. A magnificent treat for the ears and surprisingly seamlessly done.

The crowd revs up as the classic Patrick McGoohan intro to “The Prisoner” plays as it is on the album. Chanting along with the intro just before Portnoy launches into the classic Clive Burr drum beat, this makes for a great listen, hearing the energy of the crowd and their appreciation of this show. Awesome version as well I must say.

“22 Acacia Avenue” is another track that is a treat to hear live. Live favorites “The Number of the Beast” and “Run to the Hills” follow. These two Heavy Metal anthems go over with the crowd extremely well as you would think they would. A case could be made that these back to back songs are the two most popular Iron Maiden songs of all time. Agreed? Discuss….

Coming next is their amazing version of “Gangland”. This is easily the most ambitious moment of the show. Kind of making the song their own, they begin the song off as a piano ballad and then make a left turn and turn it into a progressive, almost jazz fusion-ish groove as the song closes out. Absolutely brilliant and is probably my favorite track on the album. The show ends with a perfect version of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, and the performance is over.

This is not just re-hashing of a great album. This was a well thought out and rehearsed celebration of this album, allowing true Maiden fans to hear what these songs may have sounded like when the album was toured in the 80’s. A friend of mine scoffed at the idea of DT covering this album and I may have shared some of his trepidation before I heard this recording. After listening to it now several times it has become obvious that this is not only a very relevant capturing of Number of the Beast, but it makes a very simple statement. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the players in Dream Theater have a higher level of musicianship than really any of their peers in popular music. And as listed earlier, it seems that everything Mike Portnoy does comes from the heart of just another music fan like you and I. So who is gonna come along and play one of Dream Theater’s albums track for track? Well Dream Theater of course. Who else possibly could? Good luck with that, Three Days Grace.

5/5 stars

Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 1

No bullshit, let’s just get to the lists!  Yes, lists!  This year I asked some past contributors & readers to give me their Top Five Albums of 2013.  Some have left comments with their lists.  So let’s get to the lists — I also threw my hat into the ring!

Lemon Kurri Klopek

5. OST- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Mostly for the Alan Partridge banter between tracks. Insanely funny stuff from Steve Coogan. Some decent music too. Featuring an eclectic playlist featuring the likes of; The Human League, Glen Campbell, Carly Simon, Sting and OMD.
STEVE4. TravisWhere You Stand
Quietly released in August. Solid record from the Glasgow quartet.
3. David BowieThe Next Day
I’m one of the people who like all eras of Bowie. That’s it.
2. Sigur RósKveikur
Love this band. Everything they’ve done.
1. Steve Earle and The DukesThe Low Highway
Some of the best songs Steve has written. This record is up there for me with I Feel Alright and El Corazon.

Seb

Black_Sabbath_13Sebastien, whom I first met at Sausagefest is a talented guy and you will be hearing from him in the future!  He’s a musician/ producer/ filmmaker/ Star Trek fan and we’ll be collaborating on something in 2014 for sure.   Consider this Seb’s first guest shot.

5. Killswitch Engage –  Disarm the Descent
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Philip H. Anselmo & The IllegalsWalk Through Exits Only
2. Avenged SevenfoldHail to the King
1. Protest the HeroVolition

Tom

Tom is our host at Sausagefest, and one of the Jedi Masters who helped instruct me in the ways of Rock.  Top Five was simply not possible for this rock warrior.

GHOST11. Vista Chino Peace
10. MotorheadAftershock
9. Deep PurpleNOW What?!
8. Charles BradleyVictim of Love
7. AnthraxAnthems
6. VoivodTarget Earth
5. Steve EarleThe Low Highway
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Orange GoblinA Eulogy For The Fans
2. Clutch Earth Rocker
1. Ghost Infestissumam

Meat


You guys already know Uncle Meat from his numerous lists in the past.  Please welcome back the one, the only, the man the myth the legend, Uncle Meat.  He’s submitted a Top 8 this year.  That’s cool with me.

8. MotorheadAftershock
7. EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP 2MEAT
6. Vista ChinoPeace
5. GhostInfestissumam
4. The SadiesInternal Sounds
3. Black Sabbath13
2. Sound City PlayersReal to Reel
1. Steve EarleThe Low Highway

LeBrain

NOW WHAT_0003I thought I had my Top Five nailed down weeks ago.  Then, Aaron threw a spanner in the works by giving me the new Pearl Jam for Christmas.  Instantly enamored with this sure-to-be classic, I had to re-think my Top Five.

Then, just two days ago I realized that one of my albums is a 2012 release.  But I felt so strongly about it, that I can’t take it out.  So here’s a Top Six.


6. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
5. Pearl JamLightning Bolt
4. Alice In ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
3. Flying ColorsFlying Colors 2012 release
2. Black Sabbath13
1. Deep PurpleNOW What?!

I would also like to give credit to the new self-titled Dream Theater for putting out an album that caused me to rethink this list over and over and over again!

2013 was an interesting and exciting enough year that I’ve decided to do another buncha lists tomorrow!  We’ll be looking at movies, television and more.  Come back then for some bonus Top 5’s of 2013.

Oh…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  See you in 2014!

FURTHER READING:  Check out Aaron’s 2013 lists at the KeepsMeAlive.

 

REVIEW: Flying Colors – Flying Colors (2012)

 

FLYING COLORS – Flying Colors (2012 Mascot Music)

How many bands is Mike Portnoy in anyway?  I have no idea, but I’ve bought many of them over the years.  Flying Colors is another, a supergroup featuring Steve Morse, the unrelated Neal Morse of Spock’s Beard, Dave LaRue from Steve Morse Band, and Casey McPherson of Alpha Rev.  McPherson is the only one I’m not familiar with from elsewhere, and he handles lead vocals as well as keyboards and guitar.  Peter Collins (Rush) produces, a man who knows plenty about progressive rock that gets played on the radio.

FLYING COLORS_0004Together they created an accessible album of jaw-dropping chops but also something melodically engrossing.  While these guys are all primarily renowned as musician’s musicians, together it seems they know how to write a song or two.  The 7-minute opener “Blue Ocean” is a great example.  It’s very hard to describe because it’s not any one thing.  It has a hypnotically cool lead vocal, but backed by a neat shuffle and Morse’s trademark hybrid style.

“Shoulda Coulda Woulda” is a heavy one, again with a hypnotic vocal.  It’s unforgettable and one of the most powerful tunes.  Steve Morse lays yet another awesome guitar solo on top of it.  It’s not how many notes he plays or how fast he plays them.  It’s what he wrenches out of them.  Then like a 180, “Kayla” opens with some gorgeous classical guitar, as if we switched to a Blackmore’s Night album!  But this is temporary; “Kayla” is a sparse mid-tempo rock song, with an anthemic chorus.  “Kayla” is one of the most instantly catchy moments on Flying Colors.  The vocal harmonies in the middle section are killer.

This is followed by my favourite tune, the radio-ready “The Storm”.  The chorus here is the best one on the album, powerful and layered.  The verses are soft and melodic; commercial rock goodness.  Portnoy perfectly compliments the song without overplaying.  Only a classic Steve Morse solo could further elevate “The Storm” to the heavens, and that’s exactly what happens.

LaRue funks it up a bit on “Forever in a Daze” which thumps along nicely.  “Love is What I’m Waiting For” has a Beatles vibe, which is interesting enough.  It’s probably worthy of radio play in a perfect world.  “Everything Changes” is another 7 minute long-bomber, and I don’t want to call it a ballad, so I’ll call it “quiet”.  It’s an epic.  It has acoustic guitars and strings and all kinds of cool stuff, including plenty of electric Morse.  Once again, I hear Beatles.

The introspective “Better Than Walking Away” is another really good song, soft and pretty but lyrically intense.  Then like a cold slap in the face comes “All Falls Down”.  This the most “metal” moment on the album, a blazing blitzkrieg of guitars and drums.  It’s over in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, but it’ll leave you knocked out.  I really love the vocals on this song too.

Approaching the end, “Fool in My Heart” is a slow dance.  Its melodies are warm and classic sounding.  This serves to cleanse the palette  before the final 12 minute feast of “Infinite Fire”.  It’s one of my favourites, and it’s over more quickly than it seems it should be.  It doesn’t wear out its welcome; it has a bit of everything in it including melody and spellbinding playing.

How the hell have Portnoy and Morse managed to put out multiple great albums in 2013 is beyond me.  Why are guys like these not the biggest rock stars on the planet?  Thankfully, a live album and second studio record are on their way.

4/5 stars

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