Steph Honde, the awesome singer/guitarist from France who has worked with Paul Di’Anno, Don Airey, Jim Crean, the Appice brothers and many more, is a man of varied musical tastes. You might recognize the names “Hollywood Monsters” or “Now Or Never”? In 2019 he recorded an acoustic album called Empire of Ashes that featured as its claim to fame, a full 23 minute version of “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis. It is a truly excellent album, intricately arranged and recorded with lots of space between the instruments. Honde made the album for himself, but in doing so, he created music for anyone.
Opener “Big Trouble” has a tropical acoustic vibe with breezy percussion. Honde’s baritone voice is inviting but his guitar playing is really impressive come solo time. You’ve heard him rip on electric before, but this is something completely different. Yet as good as “Big Trouble” is, the second track “The Only Way” is only better. It’s a passionate ballad based around a delicate piano line. Honde deserves credit for his vocals on this song. His French accent only adds to the aura.
Third, a different course is charted on “Gentle Shore”, which is a duet with Janita Jenny Haan from the band Babe Ruth. The contrast between the two voices is really sweet and effective. There’s a laid back, early Zeppelin vibe whether intentional or not.
One of the most inventive songs on the album is the acoustic cover of Deep Purple’s “Sail Away”, a complere 180 degree turn from the dark funky groove of the original. The rich voice of Honde is complemented by Jim Crean’s rasp. The two duet on a slowed down “Sail Away” in a completely different way from Coverdale/Hughes. Crean just kills it, singing Glenn Hughes’ lines but in his own instantly recognizable style.
“Sail Away” was a side closer for Deep Purple on Burn, and it feels like it holds that same role, even though Empire of Ashes is a digital release. That would make the title track “Empire of Ashes” the side two opener. It is another brilliant song, with a glint of piano offering some brightness. The chorus and solo are wonderful. There’s something warmly familiar about the chorus. Then, “Hearts Grown Cold” goes in a different direction. Musically soft but with powerful vocals. “You’re the one whose heart’s grown cold!” shouts Honde and it sounds like he means it. Soulful backing vocals join him partway through. The penultimate track “King For a Day” is a gentle climax (with a detour into Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse”)…before things get really crazy.
Faithfully covering all 23 minutes of “Supper’s Ready”? That is crazy! The electric guitars come out to play on this insane cover. Honde did the whole song, every little twist and turn, and every rhythmic challenge and labyrinthine lyric. The pure love of doing it comes through. It’s simply one of the most impressive cover tunes you’ll have the opportunity to hear, hands down!
Artist like Honde, who do it for the music and not the money on albums like Empire of Ashes, deserve the 52 minutes in your ears. If you consider yourself a fan of bands like Purple, Genesis and Floyd, then you owe it to yourself to check out Empire of Ashes.
JIM CREAN – The Book of Cryptids Volume II (2020 Dark Night Records)
Jim Crean, hard rock singer extraordinaire from Buffalo, New York, has issued another covers album called The Book of Cryptids Volume II. Many will shy away at the thought of a covers album, but Crean always picks interesting covers off the beaten track. The Book of Cryptids Volume II works because A) these are not songs you typically hear covered, and B) Jim kicks ass on them all.
It’s a varied album. “Medusa” by Anthrax opens heavily and melodically. You might wonder how a hard rock singer like Crean tackles Anthrax. Without difficulty! Jim has a bit more rasp, but where Joey Belladonna gets aggressive, Jim pays more attention to the notes. It’s a fine trade-off. Second in line is the seldom-covered Aerosmith classic “Kings and Queens”, which is right up Jim’s alley. Sounds like a banjo is thrown in for texture during the verses. For an even deeper cut, check out the flawless version of Def Leppard’s “Mirror Mirror”. It ticks all the boxes from dual guitars to throbbing bass. Old raspy Def Leppard is well suited to Jim, who wrenches some panache from the chorus. An ace performance.
Gowan’s “A Criminal Mind” is definitely an unexpected cover. The only band known for covering it is Styx — featuring Lawrence Gowan. Jim Crean could be the only other singer to dare tackle it? This song might be a bit of a sacred cow in some quarters, but Jim does an admirable job of it. Not vastly different, but with its own unique vocal colours.
Keeping with a synthy 80s plot twist, “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” is the old Mike + the Mechanics hit. Cool guitar solo on this track that stays pretty true to the original. Then “Cry For Freedom”, the White Lion slow burner from 1989, is another surprise. Crean has covered White Lion before, but “Cry For Freedom” is a special song. Not a ballad yet not a rocker, it leans heavily on the beat and the vocal. Then it has a guitar burn-up near the end, and this one sounds exactly like Vito Bratta.
A keyboardy piano ballad called “Love Is” (Vanessa Williams) …well, let’s just say it takes balls of steel to put it on the same album as an Anthrax song. Fortunately Jim makes it cool, but not as cool as the earlier “Criminal Mind”. But then it’s a whole different ball park: Mother Love Bone, and “Star Dog Champion”. Again, a song that might be considered sacred in some quarters. Jim’s voice is well suited to it, and this “Champion” is fully enjoyable.
We begin to draw to a close on the Scorpions early dark ballad, “When the Smoke is Going Down”. It’s another song that Crean is capable of bending to his will. Brilliant vocal on this one, especially considering that Klaus Meine has to be a top-five metal singer. Coming down from that climax, the final denoument is surprisingly authentic to the original: the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. This is one of those mountainous peaks that only fools dare to climb. Yet Crean’s winning streak continues unabated. The sonics are so close to the Stones, and everything sounds completely natural. How the hell do you replicate Charlie Watts’ drums on “Gimme Shelter”? Dunno, but it sounds really good!
All this said, you’re still skeptical, right? Covering “A Criminal Mind” and “Gimme Shelter”? A healthy dose of skepticism is warranted when reading a glowing review of a covers album. To me, covers are worth listening to when you enjoy the spin that another artist puts on the song. In this case it’s Jim’s voice, a classic hard rock voice that I like a lot. So I’m cool with hearing “A Criminal Mind”, because I like the way Jim sings.
Consider this. We’re 10 months into a worldwide pandemic and gigs have dried up. Some artists, like Jim Crean, are recording and releasing music, and we should be supporting that. He gives you good value for the money. This copy came signed, with a custom Jim Crean guitar pick and signed photo. Not to mention some quality covers of great songs off the beaten track. The Book of Cryptids Volume II comes with cool artwork of various cryptozoological specimens including a kraken, Bigfoot, some sirens and an alien. You can buy this package direct from the artist, so you know the money goes to the right people. Check it out — guaranteed a few of these tracks will put a smile on your face.
GETTING MORE TALE #805(.5): LeBrain’s Top List of 2019 n’ More
Preamble: The Year in Review (and Reviewing)
2019 was the seventh year of life for this site, and we do thank you for that! Getting tired with the same old way of doing things, I became bored. The solution was throwing some new content into the mix and seeing what happened!
The first thing I planned was an informal new series called Just Listening. Though people confused these writings with reviews, it’s essentially just my thoughts as I listened to an album. Sometimes I would revisit an old record I already reviewed and see if I felt any different. There were 10 instalments of Just Listening in 2019. I intend to continue doing this, as sometimes I just have a few ideas to jot down after playing an album. Reviews will remain as in-depth and intense as you’ve come to expect. I love writing reviews, and there are a few lined up for early January that I hope you’ll enjoy too. At the same time, it’s increasingly important for me to just listen to music. My collection has dusty corners that miss my attention.
Second, in 2019 I bought a bunch of new tech. Why not, right? It’s kind of funny. I grew up in the 70s and 80s; back when you debated for months or years over in which home video system to invest . Tech is far more disposable today. The worst thing that can happen is a relatively painless, postage-paid Amazon return.
So a waterproof camera was added to my arsenal. This enabled me to make a bunch of cool videos this past summer, including what I think is the best Sausagefest video yet. One of the immense joys of that summer gathering is the fresh, cool water of the Beaver river. For the first time this was captured for you up close and personal.
It’s easy to sit here tootin’ my own horn but I feel the 2019 video gets you closer to the feeling of actually attending a Sausagefest yourself. You can imagine sitting in the river with us, drinking or smoking whatever you fancy.
A new dashcam enabled me to start another video “series” called Dashcam Idiots. I honestly thought, living in Kitchener Ontario, that I’d have a lot more content to post by now. (I did get a cool late-night video of a deer on a country road that I thankfully didn’t hit.) I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t have a multitude of dashcam videos to upload.
The biggest and most important new series was a long time wish of mine: my VHS Archives.
The new tech this time was a cheap USB video capture device. This enabled me, after many years of promises, to share my personal Pepsi Power Hour videos with you from the late 80s and early 90s. It has been a culmination of a decades-long dream: taking this rather large VHS library and getting the rarest and most valuable content online. As of writing this, I’m 82 instalments deep.
And because this is supposed to be a list of lists, here are what I consider to be the Top Five Best/Most Significant of the 2019 VHS Archives. You’d be remiss not to play these.
1. Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1989
The best interview with Blackie that I’ve ever seen.
2.Bruce Dickinson and Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) interviewed by Erica Ehm – 1988
3.Bruce Kuclick and Gene Simmons (Kiss) interviewed by MuchMusic – 1992
Reposted by Bruce!
4.Rik Emmett of Triumph co-hosting the Pepsi Power Hour with Erica Ehm including two musical performances – 1988
5.MuchMusic Hear N’ Aid special featuring Ronnie James Dio (1986)
There’s lots left on these tapes so the VHS Archives will continue into 2020! I’ve left some “big guns” in reserve for future posts. As long as none of these tapes break! One or two of them are in very, very rough shape now. Others are still pristine.
Want a taste of what’s still to come? Here’s a preview.
Which of these interviews would you like to see first? Vote below!
The Movies I Saw: Don’t expect a comprehensive list!
1.The Avengers: Endgame
2.Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
5.Spider-Man: Far From Home
Nothing but sequels and spinoffs!
Top TV Shows of 2019: I don’t watch a lot of shows.
1.Stranger Things 3
2.Star Trek: Discovery season 2
3.American Dad! season 16
4.Rick and Morty season 4 (part one)
5.The Mandalorianseason 1
I’ve been talking The Mandalorian on social media quite a bit, and I’ve been quite critical of the show. It’s #5 by default.
The new Tom Keifer Band is really remarkable. With soul, roots n’ blues yet also a foot in classic Cinderella rock. The heart of the Keifer Band made it an easy #1. Whitesnake put out a strong effort; probably their best since Slip of the Tongue or even 1987. Marillion may have re-recorded old songs with an orchestra, but in doing so it’s possible that they have recorded the definitive versions. Tool is Tool is Tool is Tool. And Jim Crean deserves a shout-out for his guest-laden original album The London Fog, better than a lot of well known releases in 2019.
The Darkness – Easter is Cancelled
I have not been able to wrap my head around this album. I’ve steadfastly stood by this band through five albums, often in quick succession, but this time they’ve thrown a curve. Perhaps it’ll grow on me in 2020.
…And I haven’t even seen The Dirt. I just feel that strongly about it.
I hate the look of the guys playing The Crue, I hate the idea of a biopic, and I hope to make it through another year without seeing it. I’m happy with my copy of the book — the only Dirt you really need.
…A Look Ahead at 2020
Motley Crue will be a towering part of the 2020 tour scene, as they look ahead to their big “Stadium Tour” with Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett. Meanwhile the Robinson brothers Chris and Rich have formed a new version of The Black Crowes, who will be playing all of Shake Your Money Maker live. Far more interestingly, Mr. Bungle (now featuring Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo) will be reuniting and playing only three shows, featuring their cassette demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny played in full for the first time. Even the original BulletBoys have reunited.
The big news, so they say, is still to be announcd. Keep your ears to the ground for a full-on 2020 AC/DC tour with Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd back in the fold. Reliable sources have stated that the band are finishing up old Malcolm Young song ideas for album release.
Stay safe this New Year’s Eve and we’ll chat in 2020!
Jim Crean is steeped in hard rock tradition. He’s worked with some of the legends, and he’s covered the rest of ’em. Atypical covers. Not the usual “hits” but interesting tracks you might know and remember, or will be exposed to for the first time. In 2019, Crean’s come out with an original album The London Fog, and a covers CD called Gotcha Covered. Lets see what surprises there are in store.
Right out of the gates, it’s a shocker: “Hall of the Mountain King”. You don’t hear Savatage covers every day, and fortunately Crean has the necessary scream abilities. He sounds like a man possessed by lust for the Mountain King’s gold!
Unpredictability is the theme for this album. Up next: Melissa Etheridge. It’s an oldie from her landmark first debut, “Like the Way I Do”, and you’ve never heard it so heavy. It sounds as if it was written to be played this way because it’s completely natural. White Lion are a little more centerfield, and “Hungry” is a killer choice. Jim Crean can easily handle mid-80s Mike Tramp songs, as they are right in his pocket. John Corabi is another singer who Crean is naturally suited to cover. The Scream’s “Outlaw” is definitely an obscure but inspired choice. Tasty riff. Badlands get the next nod, with “The Last Time”, the first single from the second album Voodoo Highway. The high notes are no problem, and the chorus goes on for lightyears.
Then it’s back to left field, with Bryan Adams’ old (pre-Reckless) classic “Lonely Nights”. You don’t hear Adams covers very often, and usually they suck. Not this one. Crean transforms it into a hard rock anthem, something Sammy Hagar could have recorded. Another shocker is Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”, converted into a classy rock ballad, utterly different from the original. The Cars’ “Bye Bye Love” is another brilliant choice (not that you can go wrong with any Cars). It works well as hard rock. “Falling In Love”, a Scorpions oldie written by Herman Rarebell, adds a heavy kick at the right time.
“Saved By Zero” is the only track that doesn’t sound overly metalized. The Fixx cover reveals some more new wave roots, and a good song choice it is. The complex backing vocals sound fantastic. Crean does justice to his hometown boys The Goo Goo Dolls next with “Lazy Eye”. This non-album Goos song was on the soundtrack for the ill-fated Batman & Robin. As you’d expect, it boasts a strong chorus, but the chunky riff may surprise you. Another obscurity is “The Warning” by Victory, a strong 80s chug. Onto the 90s next: Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy and Cinderella’s Fred Coury had a band called Arcade. “Cry No More” is a ballad from their debut.
The last few songs include Dokken’s slow burning “When Heaven Comes Down”. Nothing wrong with some Back for the Attack era Dokken. The Sweet’s classic “Love Is Like Oxygen” brings that pop edge back. But it’s the closer, Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” that really slams it home. No horns, just guitars and heavy beats. The original arrangement is untouchable, but a heavy rock version? Sure, why not.
A good covers album is hard to come by. It all comes down to song selection. In this regard, Jim Crean knocked one out of the park.
Vocalist extraordinaire Jim Crean is back with two new solo albums. Not only is there a 16 track covers album called Gotcha Covered, but also The London Fog, a new original CD. As usual, Crean boasts a killer hitlist of special guests, including Carmine & Vinny Appice, Mike Tramp, Rudy Sarzo, Chris Holmes, Steph Honde and plenty more. Buckle up — it’s a heavy duty trip.
The London Fog goes wide open from the start, with the two new songs Crean released on last year’s Greatest Hits: the excellent “Scream Taker” (tribute to Ronnie James Dio) and the riffy “Conflicted”. “Scream Taker” features Dio alumni Vinny Appice and Rudy Sarzo. These tracks follow the traditional blueprints of classic 80s metal, particularly “Conflicted”. (The dexterous bassist that I initially mistook for Billy Sheehan is actually A.D. Zimmer.)
Want more riffs? Then get “Broken”! There’s a great chorus here: Melody and power, with some tasty licks from Steph Honde. “Aphrodisiac” takes things to a more nocturnal place, but more menacing. Still, there’s always room for some dirty rock, and that would be “Lady Beware”. If Dokken’s classic lineup released another song today, it would probably sound a lot like “Lady Beware”. This is the kind of rock we all miss, and have a hard time finding today.
Jim Crean is equally at home on rockers and ballads. “Let It Go” (with Honde on piano and keyboards) has an epic quality for a ballad. It might be a bit Scorpions, Whitesnake (circa 1987) or Guns N’ Roses…the comparisons are up to the listener. The keyboard solo is a cool touch. Then heavy sounds circulate on “Loaded” (more Zimmer on bass), but yet Crean maintains a knack for melody.
A familiar voice welcomes you on “Candle”, a Mike Tramp (Freaks of Nature) cover featuring Tramp in a duet. The song is new to these ears, and I like how the parts shift and change moods. A riff for the ages follows, on an original track called “1981”. Again I’m reminded of Dokken, the classic era. It’s hard to recapture a time period with such clarity, but Jim Crean has a talent for writing that way. Some of his originals could very well be from another time. (Drummer Colleen Mastrocovo gives “1981” a serious kick.)
Another obscure cover: Robin Zander’s 1993 solo track “Time Will Let You Know”, a classy ballad from an underrated album. Jim doesn’t try to sound like Robin Zander, but does it justice. Then it’s Rod Stewart’s dance classic “Passion”. Very few singers have the right rasp to do Rod Stewart justice, but Jim Crean is one of them. That’s the always slick Tony Franklin on bass. And get this! Franklin’s Blue Murder bandmate Carmine Appice, the same guy who played on the the original “Passion”, also plays on this cover. He approaches both versions very differently. Rod’s version is slick dance rock, and this is more like metal that you can dance to. Same song; familiar but a completely different arrangement. If John Sykes ever played with Rod Stewart, maybe this is what they could have sounded like.
“Passion” could have closed the album and you’d be completely satisfied, but there’s more. A funky “Fool” sounds like Aerosmith, and who’s that on guitar? Ray Tabano, the original Aerosmith guitarist before Brad Whitford joined the band! This song is more Aerosmith than anything that band has recorded since 1993! Then it’s another lesser-known cover and duet: Angel’s “Don’t Take Your Love” featuring original Angel singer Frank DiMino. Great melodic rock songs are always welcome, and this one is truly great.
Finally comes the metallic closer “Tears” featuring Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.). The contrast between the heavy riffs and Jim’s melodic vocals is what makes this style work so well for him. The riff has a W.A.S.P. vibe, but Crean takes it in a totally different direction.
Another fine album from Jim Crean and friends. Fans of hard rock “the way they used to make it” will thoroughly enjoy.
Check back for a look at Gotcha Covered, coming soon.
In a surprising turn of events, Jim Crean has been named the new singer for Vinnie Vincent! So it is a perfect time to review Jim Crean’s Greatest Hits.
JIM CREAN – Greatest Hits(2018 Visionary Noise)
Buffalo’s Jim Crean has four solo albums under his belt. That’s a good minimum before you release a greatest hits. There is enough material here for a solid listen, including two new songs from Crean’s forthcoming fifth album.
Several of the best tracks are hard rockers from Crean’s Insatiable. “Touch” remains a standout, a great song any rock songwriter would be envious of. Not to mention Crean’s power-pipes lay waste to the chorus. Check out the metal riffing on “Follow Your Heart”, too. These taffy-sweet tracks claw into your cranium via your ear canal. All you can do is surrender to it.
Crean’s also capable of standout ballads. “Make It” and “Can’t Find My Way” (a duet with Mike Tramp) are fantastic. Then he goes vintage Aerosmith on “She Goes Down”, a song that could have fit nicely on an album like Toys in the Attic.
There are a handful of covers on the 16 track album, and interesting choices too. “Caught in the Middle” is, of course, Dio, performed with Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice. “Over the Edge” is early 90s L.A. Guns, an excellent groove. Crean also covered fellow Buffalo band the Goo Goo Dolls with the acoustic “Cuz You’re Gone”, one of the Goo’s finest ballads.
What about the new songs? “Scream Taker” sounds like a Ronnie Dio tribute, with the lyrics cut and pasted from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio songs. “Scream Taker” indicates that Crean has gone heavier on his fifth record. The other new song, “Conflicted” has a strong traditional metal riffy vibe. (Is that Billy Sheehan on bass?) Both these new songs hint at a great album to come. Guitarist Steph Honde, who plays on both new songs says that while the new Crean album will be a bit heavier, there will also be some great ballads.
Don’t have any Jim Crean yet? Pick up his Greatest Hits to catch up.
Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Black Sabbath, Dio, Cactus, Blue Murder, King Kobra…those are just a handful of the bands who have boasted an Appice in their ranks. Drumming brothers Carmine and Vinny have been recognised by fans and critics alike for their rhythms and associations with amazing bands. Now they step out on their own, with a duo album called Sinister.
The musical directions are all alloys of good ol’ heavy metal. “Sabbath gave us metal!” goes one line (more on that later). You know what you’re getting. There’s even a Sabbath medley called “Sabbath Mash”. Joining the Appice brothers are familiar names such as: Craig Goldy (Dio), Tony Franklin (Blue Murder), Robin McAuley (MSG), Paul Shortino (Ruff Cutt), Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses) and Jim Crean (who regularly plays live with the brothers).
Many tracks have both drummers, with Vinny panned to the left and Carmine to the right. It’s not immediately obvious, but if you listen, the drums sound huge! Double drummers are not something we’re used to hearing, so pay attention and listen to the individuals and what they’re doing. You won’t be bored, even if you’re not a drummer.
Everything rocks — no ballads. You’ll find a sludgy Sabbath vibe on some tracks such as “Killing Floor” (lead vocals by Chas West). Jim Crean kicks ass on “Danger” which comes from the brisk Dio end of the spectrum. Another Crean song, “In the Night” is the most immediately memorable. It takes a few listens to absorb Sinister. Headphones may help, but give it a chance because it’s not an immediate listen. Other tracks are familiar. Blue Murder’s “Riot”, with Robin McAuley singing, is a damn fine heavy explosive.
What about drum instrumentals? Well, of course! You would feel ripped off if the two brothers didn’t go head to head. “Drum Wars” is exactly what you’re looking for. What Vinny and Carmine have done is create drum parts that compliment each other and work in unison, creating a fuller sound. You’ll also get a kick out of “Brothers in Drums”, which tells the story of the Appice brothers. “Is that my brother, on TV? That’s what I wanna be!”
The album goes a little sentimental on “Monsters and Heroes”, heavy as hell, but the lyrics may bring a tear to your eye. “Sing a song, singer, you’re the man on the mountain…” Yes, it’s a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, with lyrics by Shortino, who worked with Dio back in 1985 on Hear N’ Aid. Sabbath gave us metal indeed, but “Monsters and Heroes” captures a little bit of why we miss Dio so much.
Not every song brilliant, and 13 is a large number of tracks, but Sinister grows as you listen. (Stay tuned to the end!) It’s a grower thanks in no small part to some great performances by an assortment of rock n’ roll veterans. Any fan of heavy metal will find something to enjoy with Appice. Serious Sabbath or Dio fans should consider adding it to their collections, as an extension of the discographies. Bonus: there’s a poster inside!
GETTING MORE TALE #537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain
Regardless of the music, 2016 will go down in history (for most of us) for just one notorious reason: The sheer number of stars that we lost, both young and old. Even after I had completed a list of the most significant pop culture deaths in 2016, I had to add even more names: Debbie Reynolds, and Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia was one of my first heroes. I was five years old. Carrie was an incredible woman, who lived a hard life and came out laughing.
But we’ll save the deaths for last.
Ever since the Record Store days, I have always done my albums as a Top Five. We had a newsletter and employees were asked to submit their Top Fives of the year. That being the case, I’ve always stuck with that tradition even when my compatriots have submitted some pretty awesome Top Tens.
You can check out the submitted Top Ten lists here:
Some extras! The TV shows below are the only ones I bother with. If you haven’t watched American Dad yet, after all my badgering, I don’t know what else I can say about the funniest show on TV!
Actually I do — American Dad has the best musical jokes. You will hear plenty of great tunes: Metallica, The Sword, Stan Bush, Satriani, Rush, Queen, and many more. And even the songs you don’t like (Owl City, Kelly Clarkson?) are hilarious, because of the context. That’s what makes a musical joke work. You can find a complete list of songs used in American Dad by clicking here.
Top four TV shows:
2.The Walking Dead
Dropping off the list is the Big Bang Theory which started to suck a couple years ago, a few noteworthy episodes aside (such as any time Wil Wheaton shows up).
Top Movies of 2016
Movies were…just movies. There was nothing this year with the emotional impact of The Force Awakens. The films below are not in any particular order. They are just movies, nothing more and nothing less. 2016 was a somewhat disappointing year for the silver screen. (I have not yet seen Arrival.)
And sadly, the real dead pool. These are just some of the musicians, actors, writers and sports heroes we lost in the year of 2016. Many went way too young. At the 11th hour, I received this sketch of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. It was drawn by Wardy who you may know as regular reader here. Thank you Wardy for sending and giving me permission to post this great sketch. (Wardy is one talented guy with a pencil.) Rest in peace to all below.
Ralph “Chick” Schumilas
Sir George Martin
Pat Harrington Jr.
Frank Sinatra Jr.
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr.
Dale “Buffin” Griffin
Rest in peace, and thank you for making our days a little brighter.
If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK. You probably know of his famous friends. Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows. Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more. But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes. Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.
In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show. He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother. Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”. Very odd. The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy! If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal. Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.
Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James. With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”. Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match. Best of all, Crean can pull it off! Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy. Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”. Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016: killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice! Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis. A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove. Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).
The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover. Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums. (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.) This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.
Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes. If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here. “Magic Touch” is, of course, great. It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings. As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.
Added Can-Con bonus: Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.
Added extra bonus: My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.
If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you. If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.