The Metal Files

My Life. My Music. Your Voyeurism.

Archive for June 2009

Race With The Devil On Spanish Highway

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Right about the time that Riot released Privilege of Power (which I still love), I was reading the credits in the cassette’s liner notes. Remember cassettes? Anyhoo, I went to the mall record store and looked DiMeola up on their database B00000B4J1.09.LZZZZZZZand purchased Elegant Gyspy (on tape). At that time it was a name that I was unfamiliar with as I really wasn’t listening to any jazz/fusion at the time. Mahavishnu Orchestra was really the only band I was familiar with from that genre. I remember popping the tape in my car’s cassette player (1982 Pontiac Trans Am!) and just sitting in the parking lot with my mouth wide open. I was completely blown away. All I could think was “This dude is a badass! Holy shit. Listen to that drummer!”

I had a full time job with VDOT at the time but was also working a few hours a week at a local drum shop, helping the owner build his new store. I brought the tape in one evening and said, “What do you know about Lenny White?” He was already sitting behind a drum set and started playing some of the amazingly fast paradiddles and other licks from this album. Again…mouth wide open. Drew was a fantastic drummer.

I listened to this tape incessantly and even practiced drums to it…as much as my abilities let me anyway. I was no Lenny White.

It’s easily in my top 10-15 albums of all time. Al’s playing on this is so fluid. It’s jazz, it’s a little rock, it’s a little metal, it’s flamenco…it’s everything. The album flows so smoothly from beginning to end. I usually listen to it at least twice every time.

A few years ago (2006?), Patrick (Buzzard) and I got tickets to see DiMeola in downtown Norfolk. We were both pretty excited to see the show as we were both big fans. We parked near the venue a while before the show so we could grab some food and a beer or 2 prior to going in. We had some NY style pizza and a few beers and walked over to the theater. As we got closer I could see that something was taped to the door. “CANCELED” My heart sunk. What a total letdown. We were both pretty annoyed. Apparently Al’s drummer quit that day or something. Damn! So we ended up going back to our neighborhood and barhopped.

Last year it was announced that Return to Forever was reuniting and that their first 2 shows would be in Austin at the Paramount Theater. Doug Morrison and I scored 2nd row center seats on the balcony. $125ea and worth every penny. The view and the sound were perfect. You could hear Al’s footswitch when he changed channels on his amp. Everyone was quiet and attentive while RTF played. It was pretty impressive. It was doubly special for me because I finally got to see Lenny White play drums live.

Of all of Al’s other solo works, I really only liked Land of the Midnight Sun and Casino. The others got a little too modern sounding for me…But Elegant Gypsy is the cream of the crop.

So Mark Reale, if you’re reading this, thanks for turning me on to DiMeola.  I owe you bigtime! :)

RIP Michael Jackson

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Sure he turned into a freak but it still doesn’t negate his great contribution to music in the 70s and 80s.  Once upon a time he could sing and dance like no other.  Thriller…Off The Wall…Beat It…classics.

Maybe now he has found piece in that tormented mind of his.

Thanks for some great tunes.

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June 25, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Screaming Trees – Sweet Oblivion

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So early in 1993 I was drumming in Epitaph, a band that consisted of some of my best friends. It was fun being in a band with those guys, especially since we always basically agreed on everything that we wanted to play. Good times had by1182967463_4570_24924 all. The only real problem I had was that I wanted to play out. Sure we did the occasional party here and there but I wanted to get into some clubs. We were certainly good enough but those guys didn’t have much interest in it and it wasn’t too big of a deal. I understood where they were coming from.

So one day I cruise over to Mark S’ house and hang out with him a while. I had known him for quite a while as we worked together at the grocery store in 1986 and there weren’t that many drummers in our small town, therefore we all knew each other. Mark was/is an incredible drummer, definitely someone I’d love to be drumming for me now (I can’t play anymore; I should blog about that sometime). So we’re in his garage and doing some drum tradeoff stuff. I was dazzling him with my double bass skills and he was dazzling me with his overall drum badassedness.

Anyway, to make a long story longer, he told me that he was playing in a band (I AM I from Virginia Beach, VA) but had to quit it for whatever reason and hooked me up with an audition. I got the gig and it was fun while it lasted (1993-1995). We played out a lot. It was what I would call a progressive rock band. It was tough to quantify as we all had such different influences. We had quite an array of songs, 4+ sets of material which were about 50/50 originals to covers.

One of the covers we did was Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees. I had not heard this before but I liked it. I ultimately heard the song again in the soundtrack to the movie Singles (great film). Screaming Trees got pigeonholed as being a grunge band but personally I think they were heads and tails better than most of the bands that came from that NW rock scene and they were doing their thing for several years prior to that wave of music. They had a certain something that was very different. They were dark, depressing, heavy at times but not in a Nirvana kind of way. I ultimately bought the album Sweet Oblivion and instantly loved it. There was something in Mark Lanegan’s voice that just screamed that he was hurting deep down. It reminds me a little bit of Hank Williams, Sr. No matter how upbeat the song sounded, you could hear the pain in his voice.

This album has that front to back. Great hooks and melodies, Lanegan’s haunting vocals. It’s a perfect album in my opinion. Oddly enough for as much as I adore this album, I never delved into the rest of their catalogue. I remember hearing Uncle Anesthesia a few times when it first came out, but it didn’t stick with me, nor was I ever really trying to listen to it as it was always background music to something else. I heard some of Lanegan’s solo stuff and it’s very dark and moody. I briefly jammed with Drew from Unicorn Records in Portsmouth, VA and we did a few of Lanegan’s songs. I never got into his work with Queens of the Stoneage.

Riot – Narita – San Antonio Texas – 6/2/09

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From the 6/2/09 show.  Sorry the video ends abruptly, my camera was having issues.

Written by The Metal Files

June 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Pat Travers – Putting It Straight

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When I was still collecting vinyl, Iron Maiden was my #1 interest.  As you probably know they released a ton of stuff and I had a good selection of itPUTTING thanks to Unicorn Records, Skinnies Records, Electric Smiles, Fantasy, eBay and trading through some pen pal type things from the backs of magazines.  Oddly enough there were never any problems with the traders.  I never got ripped off once.  Honest lot those metalheads!  As a subset to collecting Maiden stuff, I also was trying to collect everything that Nicko McBrain had played on.  Not an easy task as there were some pretty obscure British things out there.

So my former supervisor and I were good friends and he told me about his record collection that had been sitting in his closet for 15 years.  Knowing Mark like I did, I knew these were in near perfect condition.  The guy was meticulous about everything.  So I randomly stopped by Mark’s house one day (1993ish?)  when I was in the neighborhood and we were just hanging out and catching up a bit as we hadn’t seen each other in a while.  After a while I asked if he still had his records.  He said he still had them and wanted to sell them.  I wasn’t in the market to buy the collection but I surely wanted to peruse his crates.  So he pulls out these 3 huge crates of records and I start flipping through one by one.  Tons of 70s rock. You know, BOC, Zeppelin, Stones, Bob Seeger, Poco, America, etc etc.  Nothing too obscure and surely nothing that a record collector would have paid more than 3-4 dollars each for.

There near the end of perusal, there it was.  It was one of those heavenly “ahhhhhh” moments where it seemed like the clouds parted and the sun shone down on this box of records.  Pat Travers’ Putting It Straight with Nicko on drums!  Mark still claims to this day that I was shaking when I was holding it.  I don’t doubt that I was.  I was pretty excited.  I said, “How much?”  He responded, “Not for sale.”  What a douche!  But he did tell me to take it with me until I found my own copy.  It was in pristine shape.  PERFECT even.  Shortly thereafter I found another vinyl copy at Skinnies and a year or 2 later he had the original and rare Jap pressing of the CD which I also bought.

I adore this album.  It’s got Nicko’s signature drum licks written all over it.  My favorites are Life In London, Offbeat Ride, Gettin’ Betta and It Ain’t What It Seems.  The album as a whole is good and I highly recommend it if you’re into 70s hard rock.

Around 1994-1995 Pat came to town to play Wicker’s in Portsmouth, VA.  I did my usual “show-up-to-the-gig-super-early” routine to hopefully meet the band.  I lucked out as they were all inside getting ready to eat.  I walked up to Pat and asked him to sign a few things for me and he was really cool.  He signed my vinyl copy of this album and my CD cover.  I asked him to talk about how it was to play with Nicko and he didn’t have many nice things to say.  “Good drummer but a complete asshole after that whole Iron Maiden thing.”  Apparently after Nicko joined Maiden, he landed his helicopter in Pat’s yard and bragged about his success.  Who knows?  I wouldn’t be that surprised if it was true.  Not important to me either way.  The guy that was sitting with us while we were talking about Nicko was Aynsley Dunbar.  Of course I didn’t know that at the time.  Had I known he was drumming for Pat, I would have brought my Jefferson Airplane and Journey stuff!

Nicko also played on Makin’ Magic which is also worth tracking down.

Vauxdvihl – To Dimension Logic (obscure prog)

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I really can’t remember exactly when I first heard this but it was undoubtedly via Kelz and Denis Gulbey of Sentinel Steel Records around 96 or 97.  Doesn’t matter.  This is a great album all the way around and pretty obscure.  Vauxdihl hail vauxdvihlfrom Melbourne, Australia.

I highly recommend checking this out if you’re a fan of Fates Warning’s Perfect Symmetry.  It reminds me a lot of that album although not quite as good.  No, this album isn’t particularly groundbreaking but it’s a nice change from all the trad and the death metal that I have been spinning lately.

Since this is very out of print and relatively hard to find, I uploaded it for your listening pleasure.  Download here.

Dark Angel – Darkness Descends

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I’m pretty sure it was spring 1987 and I was down on Atlantic Ave at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront hanging out for dark angelwhatever reason.  There was a little record store there that I can’t remember the name of.  I’m pretty sure it was an independent store and don’t hink it lasted more than a few years.  I can’t even remember if anyone was with me…maybe Robert S.  Anyhoo, we were browsing the cassettes and I saw Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends.  I immediately knew that this would be my purchase.  I had seen the ads for this in various metal mags and it was on Combat Records which had a pretty good track record of bands so far.

I remember getting in my 66′ Nova 4dr and heading back home while the tape started.  I was immediately blown away.  The drums.  Holy shit, the drums!  I remember seeing fotos in magazines of the band and the big huge drummer in shades looming over them in every foto.  I was fortunate enough to meet him earlier this decade and he was the coolest mofo in the world.

But back to this massive album.  There’s not a stinker in the bunch but my faves are Burning of Sodom, Black Prophecies and Perish In Flames.  Sure it’s a tad sloppy and severely underproduced, but it set a/the standard for early thrash and death metal in my opinion, especially for drummers.

When I finally saw them live in 1989, I got to help sing Merciless Death as the new singer said he didn’t know the lyrics that well.  I was the happiest acne-faced, bad-haired kid in Virginia Beach that night!

If you’re into classic metal and especially early thrash, you NEED this album.

I finally found the foto of Gene and me from 2001.  gene hoglan me