michael jackson

#717: Only Your Nose Knows

GETTING MORE TALE #717: Only Your Nose Knows

 

Who are the most recognizable noses in music? Seriously? Who comes up with this shit?

I do! And why not? We’ve already covered the best glasses, best shoes, and best hats in rock. Let’s go for the nose.

 

5. Barbra Streisand

The mighty Barbra is one of the biggest names in entertainment. From music to movies, Barbra has conquered all stages. Her profile is one of the most famous. Her world famous nose has not held her back!

4. Geddy Lee

What do Geddy Lee and Barbra Streisand have in common? They both come from Jewish families, and both have a prominent schnoz! In fact the “Jewish nose” is an old racial stereotype, one which has actually been studied in science and literature. Geddy’s recognizable nose is loved by millions.

3. Rachel Bolan

Rachel is probably responsible for launching the nose ring trend that picked up in the late 80s. You didn’t see nose rings on rock stars back then, and certainly none with a chain connecting to their ears. Rachel Bolan was the rock and roll nose ring pioneer in 1989!

2. Michael Jackson

Few remember what his original nose looked like. We can’t get the image of that plastic surgery nightmare out of our heads.  Yet that weird, artificial construct is now iconic.  Who knew?

1. Nicko McBrain

“Old flatnose himself” has an old schoolmate named Peter Beecham to blame or thank for his profile. Beecham broke his nose in a school brawl. Nicko was “clobbered”, but it’s all good. As Nicko has said, “Look where I am now. Fuck you!”

Sunday Chuckle: Michael Jackson fans

#421: First It Steals Your Mind, Then It Steals Your Soul

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#421: First It Steals Your Mind, Then It Steals Your Soul

Pop music:  love it or hate it, it does exist!

I have found myself briefly flirting with popular hit songs from time to time, but I find that the rush goes away fast.  You can be totally into a new song, only to be bored with it after hearing it dozens of times over a week or two.  Then, on to the next thing.  This is nothing new, that’s pop music for you.  But why do modern-day pop songs lack longevity?  Whether it’s Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Beyonce or One Direction, their songs are hook-laden and catchy.  Yet there’s nothing about them that sticks with you for long.  People don’t really carry around a Beyonce track for life like they do with a Led Zeppelin number.  Why?

Pop songwriters always try to hit the biggest possible audience.  That’s what they are paid to do.  As such, a lot of pop music ends up sounding very “neutral”.   The songs are vaguely catchy and lyrically bland so as to appeal to “everyone”.   That doesn’t seem to be enough for a song to stick forever.  Rather than try and make a pop song interesting, producers would rather throw in whatever sounds, beats and hooks are “in” right now.  Rather than do something new, they go for something familiar.  That’s what the masses go for – songs that sound like songs they already like.  As long as it’s not much longer than three minutes….

I’m speaking very generally now.  I know there is pop music out there that defies the pigeonholes that people often want their music slotted in.  I’m not talking about those songs.  I’m talking about the same damn beats, same damn words, and the same damn melodies that you hear every day.

How does today’s pop music steal your mind and soul?  Below, find some reasons:

1. Today, pop songs trick you into thinking an artist can really write, play and sing. A look at the credits shows that 18 writers from Sweden wrote that song, and got sued by 7 different writers from America for stealing it.  A computer fixed every missed beat and note.  The song was almost completely untouched by human hands.

2. The lack of innovation and exploration in pop music leads to stagnation. Just copy, copy, copy.  Have a hit with an idea similar to someone else’s.  There’s very little new out there.  How can you expect your mind and musical taste to grow by listening to the same damn song every day?

3. Faceless performers don’t have much ability or personality compared to the golden days of the 60’s. Back then, you knew when it was Aretha singing.  Today, you have to use an app on your phone to see if that was Katy Perry or Demi Lovato.  Listen to them sing live – they do a low sultry voice, and then belt it out on the choruses, aided and abetted by computers.  Sure, Demi has lungs, but her voice gets pretty thin when she’s reaching for notes without assistance.  Thankfully this is usually covered up by the screaming crowds of teen girls.

4. We’re long past the days of people like Michael Jackson being the King of Pop. Jackson, a talented writer, worked with one of the best producers in the world, Quincy Jones.  Together they worked hard and played hard to create real pop music with actual soul.  Who is left in the world of pop of that stature and talent?  Surely not Justin Timberlake.  Timberlake has never written anything with the soul of “Billie Jean”, not that I have heard anyway.

5. Pop music and pop culture have become so intertwined that they have formed a complex web of stupidity. Remember when Britney Spears said, “I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that”?  Pop stars today are saying even dumber things.  Witness this zinger from Ariana Grande about “cow tit pus”:

“In America, almost everybody thinks you need to have meat for protein. Protein, protein, protein! And what’s in dairy? Calcium, calcium, calcium. It’s those kinds of proteins that latch onto the insides of your blood stream and make it easier for you to have a heart attack. Look, cows produce milk with nutrients for cows. Maybe that’s why Americans end up looking like cows! Ultimately, no one wants cow tit pus in their food, do they?”

And don’t even get me started on Biebs, the Little Turd from Stratford.

And these reasons, dear friends, are only some of the ways that modern pop music can steal your mind and then steal your soul.  Stick to the classics, and beware!  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

#389: LeBrain Trivia Facts!

Picture 16 A

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#389: LeBrain Trivia Facts!

Time to get to know your host here a little better. Here are 10 facts I bet you didn’t know about LeBrain.

1. I don’t wear a watch. I was sick of them always breaking, plus I don’t find them comfortable.  When I worked at the Record Store, I would take off my watch at the beginning of every shift and put it on again afterwards.

2. When I was really really young, I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, until somebody told me a bass only has four strings and therefore four tuning pegs. Until that time, I had assumed Michael Anthony was actually Eddie Van Halen, because he looked cooler to me!

3. My very earliest exposure to rock music was through a couple TV shows – The Flintstones, and the Hilarious House of Frightenstein!  Frightenstein featured a character called “The Wolfman”, based on Wolfman Jack…but a wolfman!  He would spin Rolling Stones and Kinks singles.

4. My first musical idol was John Williams. I loved his movie soundtracks and played them until they skipped.  Star Wars and Indiana Jones were awesome, but his best was the 2 LP set of The Empire Strikes Back, which was loaded with photos.

5. After John Williams came Johnny Cash, my very first concert at age 12.

6. I have been given a speeding ticket a total of three times over 24 years of clean driving.

7. I come from a musical family, but I can’t really play anything.

8. I make stop motion Transformers movies using my toy collection. I have never released any of them, even though I think I did better in one weekend with $0 than Michael Bay did in a year with a $Zillion dollars.

9. Much like everyone who grew up in the 1980’s, I owned Thriller by Michael Jackson and Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, on cassette.

10. My last name has been misspelled for about the last 100 years. Can you guess how it was originally spelled?

The two videos I chose for this post have a specific common element. Can you name it?

REVIEW: Van Halen – 1984 (1984)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Part 7: House of Pain

VH_0003My latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com is an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth.  Jump in!

Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977)
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)

INTERMISSION – “Beat It”

Edward Van Halen picked up the phone.  On the other end was a man claiming to be “Quincy Jones”, asking Eddie if he was available to play on an album.  Not knowing the name “Quincy Jones” and assuming it was a crank call, Eddie slammed down the phone yelling, “Fuck off, asshole!”  Only a followup phone call from Michael Jackson clarified the situation.  Quincy Jones, the legendary record producer, was working on the new Michael Jackson album.  Could Eddie come by and play a guitar solo on an upbeat, driving song?

What Eddie laid down (in reportedly two takes) was selected by Guitar magazine as the greatest guitar solo of the 1980’s.

In one tension-filled solo, Eddie threw every trick from his bag: whammy dives, complex neo-classical trills, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tapping, harmonics, squeals, and finally a big fat pick slide.

If one wants to hear what Eddie Van Halen sounds like, all they need to do is play “Beat It”.

VH 194_0001VAN HALEN – 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) (1984 Warner)

Having compromised his artistic instincts on 1982’s Diver Down, Edward Van Halen refused to do the same again.  He and longtime engineer Donn Landee proceeded to build 5150, Eddie’s home recording studio.  There he was free to experiment with the synthesizers that had begun to creep into Van Halen albums.  When the studio was complete, Eddie felt that he had more control.

But there were other issues beginning to surface.  The Michael Jackson cameo, for example.  Roth had reportedly vetoed previous offers for Van Halen to do guest appearances on records.  (Van Halen had also appeared on the semi-obscure Brian May and Friends EP Star Fleet Project.)  When Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson extended the offer to appear on “Beat It”, Edward did it without telling the others in the band.  Roth claims he never would have objected to Edward working with an artist of Quincy Jones’ stature, but the feelings of betrayal had set in.

Edward and Roth both recall that Van Halen had the main keyboard hook from “Jump” for years, and had submitted it for consideration twice.  Roth and producer Ted Templeman rejected it both times, wishing Eddie to keep the focus on his guitar playing.  The third time was the charm, and Roth finally agreed to write lyrics for the song, now titled “Jump”.  Another synth piece of Eddie’s, now called “1984” was used on the album to precede “Jump”.

It’s impossible to underestimate the impact of “Jump”.  Those big fat Oberheim keys were unlike any that Van Halen had used before.  The song’s success made other bands pay attention, who were quick to begin adding keyboards themselves.  The trends this song ushered included the successes of Bon Jovi, Europe and the like.  Veteran bands like Kiss started adding keyboards to their live shows.  “Jump” was a perfect storm.  It captured Van Halen’s already likable and cool party-hearty spirit, with the cool new wave bands that had replaced punk.  Eddie’s tasteful guitar solo ensured that his fans would still listen to every note in order to figure out just how the hell he did that.  Meanwhile, who couldn’t love his sheepish grin in the music video?

If you listen carefully during the fade, you’ll hear a familiar guitar riff.  Can you name it?  That very riff was recycled in 1991 on Van Hagar’s song “Top of the World”!

“Panama” was also a single, no keyboards this time!  David made the ladies faint every time during the middle break.  The high-flying video showed their sense of humour and electric stage show.  If any fan was left doubting after “Jump”, then “Panama” assured them that all was alright.  Guitar pyrotechnics and cool lyrics are where’s it at.

What’s not to like about “Top Jimmy”?  Perfectly fusing his experimental and hard rocking sides, Eddie created a hook using guitar harmonics for “Top Jimmy”.  There’s the patented Van Halen backing vocals, a smokin’ song, and David Lee Roth running the show.  This is one of those album cuts that’s every bit as good as the better known tracks.  Same with “Drop Dead Legs”.  Alex’s steady beat, Eddie’s smoldering riff, and Roth’s leathery moan are a trifecta of perfection.  If you listen to the riff, you’ll notice Eddie’s innovative way of using a whammy bar in a musical fashion, as an actual part of the music.  Towards the end, Eddie goes into a different riff, and solos his way to the side’s fade-out.

“Sit down, Waldo!”

Dave’s knack for video scored a home run with “Hot For Teacher”.  You wouldn’t necessarily think a song like this, a hard shuffle with a lot of talking in it, would make for hit.  Hell it opens with 30 seconds of nothing but drums!  “Hot For Teacher” remains a pinnacle of hard rock music videos.  There’s the humour, the girls, the cool car, and of course “Waldo” who got the last laugh, didn’t he?

“I’ll Wait” is the third and last synth track on the album (including “1984”).  It too was chosen as a single, and like all the others, it has stood the test of time.  “I’ll Wait” is a very transitional song.  Roth keeps it cool, but musically, Van Hagar was already in sight.  The echo of later songs like “Feels So Good” can be heard in that throbbing keyboard.  “I’ll Wait” (credited to the band and Michael McDonald) went through a period in the 1990’s of sounding dated, but today it sounds timeless.  Rather than commercial, today the keyboards sound classy.  The guitar solo is simple and full of feel.

Ominous guitar tapping and shredding opens “Girl Gone Bad”, a devastating assault of Eddie’s most aggressive guitar.  A song like this absolutely needed to be on 1984 in order to maintain the band’s metal credentials.  Many teenagers injured their wrists trying to pick as fast as Edward.  Meanwhile, Roth does his very best Robert Plant impression during the middle section.  “Yeah, ahh, ahh, owww!  Oooooooowhoah!  Ma…ma…ma…oh!”

Finally, exhumed from the band’s distant past is “House of Pain”.   This song was always one of Van Halen’s heaviest, featuring a chugging metallic riff.  Eddie’s increasingly interesting solos have evolved, and they make the last couple minutes of “House of Pain” absolutely indispensable for anyone wanting to know anything about the electric guitar.

As “House of Pain” fades out and 1984 comes to close, a sadness overtakes me.  The end sounds abrupt; unfinished.  The album was so good, so great, that I want to hear more.  But there is no more.

VH 194_0002

Another successful tour followed the 1984 album, and the band were burned out.  David Lee Roth got the covers EP Crazy From the Heat out of his system.  There was also some kind of companion movie to the EP in the works, something that bothered the Van Halen brothers greatly.  After a while, the band settled in to begin writing the next album, their seventh.  It was not to be.  According to Alex Van Halen in a fall 1991 M.E.A.T Magazine interview, David Lee Roth fired the entire band.

Van Halen had to replace a frontman, a difficult thing to do in any circumstances, much less when that frontman was David Lee Roth.  In the meantime, David Lee Roth had to replace an entire band.  A difficult thing, especially when the lead guitar player of that band is oft-recognized as the best in the world.

Both bounced back.  Van Halen pondered a number of singers including Patty Smyth of Scandal, before meeting Sammy Hagar.  Hagar’s energy and musical chops helped fill Roth’s sizable shoes.  Meanwhile, Roth chose to replace Van Halen with not one but two acclaimed virtuosos.  On bass was ex-Talas maestro Billy Sheehan.  On guitar, from Frank Zappa’s band, little Stevie Vai.  Throw in the talented Gregg Bissonette on drums, and you had one hell of a band.

Both artists would find 1984 hard to top in the eyes of the most stubborn old fans.  It’s hard to blame them.  1984 is a very special record, and quite arguably Van Halen’s very best.

VH 194_00045/5 stars

And that is all.

Or not…

They did try again, in 1996.  We’ll be taking a look at that next time.

 

Part 216: The Most Expensive Thing I Ever Destroyed

Ultimate

RECORD STORE TALES Part 216:  The Most Expensive Thing I Ever Destroyed

The most expensive thing I ever destroyed was a Michael Jackson Ultimate Collection 5  CD box set.  The discs were pretty hacked, but salvageable.  We had the means to repair such discs, but the deeper the blemish, the harder this is.  Retail price on it was probably around $55, we had sunk at least $20 or $25 into it.  We didn’t see too many of them, which is why one of the staff paid $20 or $25 for a hacked box set.

Four of the discs we were able to fix no problem.  One of them was really bad.  It had one deep scratch in it that just refused to come out.  Other staff members, even the guy who was generally the best at getting scratches out, had failed as well.  One night it was slow in the store so I decided to take another shot at it.

I could see the scratch, clear as a bell, but I couldn’t feel anything with my fingernail.  We must have buffed it down so close to the actual scratch.  I just needed to buff a little more…and then I applied a little pressure.  A little more.  Looking good.  A little more…

Then I felt the familiar, frictiony bite of the plastic in the CD melting.  Once you’ve melted a disc, it’s done.  Finished.  Garbage.  Worthless.  You can see, if you look close enough.  You can see a tiny deflection, a distortion, kind of like a hot road on a summer day.  Once the plastic is melted, your player’s laser is refracted and the CD will skip.  And it will probably skip very, very badly.

That’s how I destroyed an expensive and rare Michael Jackson box set, forever and ever.

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – The Movie (2006)

Are you a Tragically Hip fan?  Then read on.

TRAILER PARK BOYS – The Movie (2006 Alliance Atlantis)

Directed by Mike Clattenburg

The story goes that Ivan Reitman, who produced Trailer Park Boys: The Movie (aka “The Big Dirty”), wanted to do a movie that would re-introduce the characters and target them to a new audience.  He preferred the flavour of the earlier seasons and steered the movie in that direction.  This is sort of a good and bad thing.

The movie is out of continuity with the TV series, unfortunately.  There are characters and events in the movie that would never be referenced in the series.  Lahey loses the roof of his car in both the movie and the TV series, but in different ways.  You’ll notice Trinity is played by a different actress (Lydia Lawson-Baird), and her character is slightly different in tone as well.

Remember those movie trailers where the Boys are auditioning actors to play themselves? I think it’s best to think of this movie in that context: It’s the Boys playing themselves, in a movie based on themselves.  Even though we’re talking about fictional characters in a mockumentary movie.

The plot:  Ricky and Julian go to jail (again) and are about to be released (again). No fair! cries Ricky, who wants to play in the jail hockey tournament against the prison guards, captained by Donny.  The rivalry between Ricky (a goalie) and Donny (Gerry Dee) result in a few classic exchanges:

Ricky – “Suck it, Donny.”

Donny – “You suck it.  More.”

Ricky – “What kind of comeback was that?  I said ‘suck it’ and you just added ‘more’ to it.”

Donny – “Because it’s more, you suck it more.”

TPB_0002Out of jail, Rick goes home to Sunnyvale trailer park, only to find that things have changed. Lucy’s got a new job.  “An awesome new job,” according to Sarah.  “She workin’ at Horton’s again?” asks Ricky.  Nope, it’s not a coffee shop, it’s a “gentlemen’s club”.  This “gentlemen’s club” is owned by Sonny (Hugh Dillon, of the Headstones), and he’s banging Lucy.

Julian, also out of jail, has an idea to get rich “without getting caught”: Do small crimes.  Steal change!  Ricky, on the other hand, has met a lot of really “smart” guys in jail, and they all say “the big dirty” is the way to go: one big crime, and you’re retired. The two ideas are combined and a plan is set in motion. Will Ricky still be able to play in the hockey tournament?

In addition to new characters like Sonny and Donny, look for cameos by Alex Lifeson (Rush) and Gordon Downie (The Tragically Hip). The soundtrack kicks ass, featuring Helix, April Wine, and lots of The Tragically Hip.  I always think of this movie now when I hear the songs “Bobcaygeon” and “38 Years Old”.  Hell, Julian even goes to see a movie called “The Dark Canuck” in the film.

I really enjoyed Trailer Park Boys: The Movie even if it’s not quite pure Trailer Park Boys. It sort of attempts to recapture what worked in the early seasons (you can tell by casting Trinity as a younger girl) and by and large, it works. Sonny works as a replacement antagonist, a role that Cyrus often filled on the show.  All your favourite regulars such as Philadelphia Collins, Jacob Collins, and Officer George Green are here. Lahey is suitably drunk, and Randy as shirtless as ever.

This actually works pretty well as a way for newcomers to get into the show. It distills what worked best in the earlier years, into a two-hour package that stays funny and doesn’t wear out its welcome. Bonus features include the music video for “I Fought The Law” (featuring Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson!), and lots of alternate takes.

5/5 stars. Two smokes, let’s go.

“I could easily fuck over 10 pieces of chicken”

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (12″ single)

This is the third review from the The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale!  Wes bought me this 12″ single, which was real nice of him.  So for Wes, here’s the review!

For the last review in this series, click here.

TWISTED SISTER  – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)

I’ll skip the formalities, and I won’t be discussing the single A-side.  What is understood need not be discussed.  On the off chance that you spent your youth in Antarctica, here’s the very clever and original music video (later ripped off by Michael Jackson for his own “Black or White”).

The B-sides are three of Twisted’s all time best, recorded live, and unreleased on CD to date.  All three are classics from You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll:  “The Kids are Back”, “We’re Gonna Make It”, and the album’s title track.  These were recorded live in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Although it seems odd, Dee’s usual spoken opening, “We are Twisted fuckin’ Sister” skipped the expletive.  I’m not sure if it’s edited out or not, for the release of this single.

As far as a single side of Twisted onslaught goes, I don’t know if you could have selected three better songs.  The performances are typical live Sister; fast and reckless.  In other words, perfect.  The live tracks were co-produced by bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza so you know that the band at least had their hands in the mix, too.

Another cool fact:  neither “The Kids are Back” nor “We’re Gonna Make It” are on the Live at the Marquee CD, minimizing overlap with that later release.  They were recorded within the same time frame, so the band is in similar ferocious shape to that great live album.

4/5 stars

Part 192: Mix One

MIX ONE

RECORD STORE TALES Part 192:  Mix One

Blank discs are so cheap, and musical tastes so fleeting today, that I wonder if anybody but me still has the first mix CD they ever burned?

I’m hoping some of you have, and I’m hoping to hear it about from you too.  My first disc was made in early 2001 when we got our first burner.  It was made for a very specific purpose.

At the store, there was an informal rule that if you were closing one day and opening the next, it was “OK” to borrow a movie overnight, watch and return it.  So if that was true for movies, why not a CD?  Why not a dozen?  A few nights after having the CD burner installed, I borrowed a bag full of discs and burned this compilation on a Maxell CD-R 650.  74 minutes!  Up to 16x certified!

I returned the discs the next day, all albums that I wanted one or two songs from, but not the whole album.  Many were soundtracks and tribute albums.  I ended up buying The Strokes’ album a few weeks later, an ill-advised purchase that yielded only two or three listens.  I don’t have that one anymore.  But I still have my mix CD with “Last Nite”!

The Robbie Williams + Queen track is taken from the soundtrack to A Knight’s Tale.  I shall maintain the anonymity of the store employee who had the crush on Heath Ledger and inundated us with this soundtrack.  The same disc also yielded “I Want to Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone.

Track 3 is an industrial-rock hybrid tune called “Violent New Breed”.  I later purchased the Violent New Breed album by Shotgun Messiah.  Industrial rock fans will know that Messiah’s original bassist/singer was Tim Tim, aka Tim Sköld of KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, and his eponymous band.  I liked the title track enough to later buy the album and the prior one too.  Both were keepers.

I’ve been a Goo Goo Dolls fan for a while so I thought I would grab their INXS cover “Don’t Change” from an Ace Ventura soundtrack.  Their cover of “Bitch” came from the 1993 No Alternative compilation album.

Apparently I was on a Warrior Soul kick at that time as well.  Shame that there isn’t a great Warrior Soul compilation album that suits all my needs.  I bought and sold their studio albums.  As for Michael Jackson, I later decided to add a single disc compilation to my collection, offsetting my burning of “Billie Jean”.

This being a real odds n’ ends disc, it’s not a spellbinding listen today.  It’s fun to remind myself of some oddball tracks that I liked enough to burn but not enough to buy.  I’m also amused by the title Mix One, the first of many!  And I was even doing cover art back then, too.  On the cover is myself dressed up as the alien from Part 148: Navigate the Seas of the Sun!

2/5 stars!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

The return of the Dandy!

REVIEW: Orianthi – Believe (II)

I’d like to give a shout-out to Tommy Morais, who requested this review!  Check out his Amazon Reviews, he is one of their top rated reviewers!

I first became aware of Oriantha when Alice Cooper hired her as his new lead guitarist, replacing Damon Johnson.  Doing my research, I saw that she had even worked with Steve Vai and Michael Jackson!  This meant, the lady could play!

Because I don’t do things small, I decided to pick up the Japanese import of Believe (II) to check out her skills.  The Japanese import contains 3 bonus tracks:  two versions of a Cream cover, “Sunshine of Your Love”, and a useless remix of “According To You”.

ORIANTHI – Believe (II) Japanese import with bonus tracks (2009)

I’m not really into this kind of pop rock anymore, but Orianthi does fill this more aggressive pop rock void that Avril used to occupy.  Believe (II) reminds me of that one sincerely good Avil album, the second one, in that it’s undoubtedly rock yet melodic and well recorded, not overproduced.

What separates this girl from the rest of them is that her chops on the guitar are absolutely stunning.  Each song has a solo spot, well composed, and expertly executed.  This girl is a shredder who happens to play commercial pop rock.  Well, OK.  I can dig it.

The best tracks to me seem to the be chosen singles:  “According to You”, “Shut Up and Kiss Me”, and the instrumental “Highly Strung”, featuring Oriantha trading licks with Vai.  There’s also a decent version of “Missing You” by John Waite, which, I guess, I like better than the original, since I really don’t like John Waite.

The songs are written by the usual suspects, song doctors new and old including Desmond Child.  There are a couple tracks though that are not messed with by song doctors, and I hope that Orianthi is moving more in that direction in the future.

Orianthi has a good but not an especially different sounding voice from all the other girls rocking it out there these days.  Her range is good, she has power, just not a particularly unique sound or style.  I also can’t help but think she’s trying to sing “American”.

I think it’s a good enough album for this stage in her career, and I think she is going to grow by leaps and bounds, touring the world with Alice Cooper.  But before Orianthi makes another solo album, I hope she has the opportunity to record with Cooper.

For Believe (II): 3.5/5 stars