Monday, May 22, 2017

Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry



I like Bob Marley; I think everyone does. I do not however, love Bob Marley, I would by lying if I said so. This is slightly unexpected I suppose, because I fall into a category of human being where it is socially expected that I should love Bob Marley. In my youth, I partook in social ritual of marijuana and Bob Marley at many parties, and during that age of enlightenment it is a common experience for the participant to fall in love with Bob Marley’s music. I failed that rite of passage I guess. Though I did listen to multiple iterations of Marley’s greatest hits dozens of times, and I certainly enjoyed it every time, nonetheless, my heart and ear never submitted to the groovy beats of Bob Marley.

I like reggae, again, I suspect just about everyone does. I do not however, love reggae, which likely goes a long way to explain the last paragraph. Again, not to repeat myself, but in my informative years I was exposed to massive amounts of weed and reggae, but my ear was never fully seized by this super chill genre of music, despite enjoying it at length on countless occasions. I deeply appreciate the influence reggae has had on bands I hold very dear, like The Clash, and The Police, and while the source inspiration was cool it was never glorious to me and my likings.

I spent my high times more so as a Pink Floyd and Uriah Heep fan, that is just who I am.

So now that I have established my lukewarm fondness of Bob Marley and reggae, I suppose it is time to get to the point. In an very necessary on going effort to keep myself as calm and strong as possible, I find myself recalling past indulgent pleasures, and while I wait for Trudeau to legalize marijuana, I am forced to re-embrace the cool comfort of the most chill music in the world, and that is inarguably reggae.

I am a poor Marley fan, I have never owned any of his albums and have only listened at length to various versions of his greatest hits, so I am now very familiar with songs like “Jammin,” “Buffalo Soldier” and “I Shot the Sheriff,” but I think his most touching song is possibly “No Woman No Cry.”

A quick, and cheap interpretation of this song would be something to the effect that, “so long as you have no woman in your life, you will have nothing to be sad about.” It is a simple mathematical equation; no woman = no cry. This is naturally incorrect. Not only would a glance at the lyrics dismiss this analysis immediately, but this would be a truly bizarre message for a peaceful, loving man like Marley to preach. Alas I was once guilty of thinking this way, for I was young… and probably too stoned to listen to the lyrics sensibly.

In reality, Marley has created one of his many political songs in “No Woman No Cry.” Marley, being the peaceful and loving man he is, is singing to a female companion and friend not to worry, everything is going to be alright, and before he says those things he says:

No, woman, no cry.

Please take note of the commas, for they bring structure to the sentence, and we can see by the separation of the first “no” from the word “woman,” that Marley is speaking directly to a woman, and he is instructing not to cry.

But why is it important not to cry? Well Marley tells us:

I remember when we used to sit,
In the government yard in Trenchtown,
Observing the hypocrites,
As they would mingle with the good people we meet.
Good friends we have, good friends we’ve lost,
Along the way.
In this great future, you can’t forget your past,
So dry your tears, I say.


The two verses that follow hereafter express a greater sense of social interaction and slightly less political directness, but with or without an element of the political, the general message holds strong all the same. The struggles and troubles of the past, as painful as they may be, cannot be forgotten, but they can be overcome. So, you know, dry your tears.

As I said before Bob Marley was a man of peace and despite the cool embrace of sadness in “No Woman No Cry” there is an overwhelming positive message within. It is not just in the repetition in where Marley flatly states “everything’s going to be alright,” but also in every verse. For in every verse there is this constant remembrance of community; the good people we meet; the making of fire lights; the cooking of cornmeal porridge and the sharing thereof. It is a beautiful sentiment, that together, with cooperation and friendship the only natural outcome is a great future. It is both incredibly uplifting and optimistic. I expect no less from the greatest icon of the most chill music genre ever.

I have always connected with one specific line for completely personal reasons, and it is kind of funny that it has stuck to me for so many years:

My feet is my only carriage,
So I’ve got to push on through.

For me, this has been literally true for most of my life. Admittedly this is a strange line to single out and identify as a personally meaningful but it stuck with me. I mentioned in the last review, Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” how it has taken a frustratingly long time to acquire a driver’s licence, which in the continent of North America is effectively a death sentence to personal transportation, you see sometimes these reviews have a theme, and sometimes that theme is something as tangential as I have walk around too much. On the upside, my legs are strong and I am ready to run a half marathon next week.

Many a marijuana evening I would sit there pondering if Bob Marley had to walk around Kingston as much I have had to walk around Calgary. I wondered if he too was too gooned to drive, or if he was too poor to afford a car and that he and I had this in common. These are important questions, well, at least to me. I mean we both had to push on through, then again mind you, we all do.

“No Woman No Cry” really is a lovely song of humanity and hope, and the casual listening rans the risk of never learning just how beautiful it really is. Even a lukewarm fan like me cannot deny the value and love of a song like “No Woman No Cry.”

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Iggy Pop - The Passenger



Iggy Pop has had a long career. Despite his many albums, songs and tours, Iggy is best known for his early works, both with The Stooges, but also his first few solo albums.

When people think of Iggy Pop most of them probably think of “Lust for Life,” Iggy’s biggest hit song, and what a fantastic song it is. Not only is “Lust for Life” most likely Iggy’s catchiest song, and therefore the best suited for radio play, but in some regards it captures a vital aspect of Iggy’s personality and life, for he indeed had a lust for life. Iggy was a hugely influential rock star who heavily indulged in drugs and partying, truly a man who lusted for life.

After “Lust for Life” the song most people think of is “The Passenger” and both of these songs are from Iggy Pop’s second solo album titled “Lust for Life.” It is a hell of an album “Lust for Life,” and part of that might have something to do with David Bowie. In 1977 Bowie was in Berlin working on his trilogy of albums, “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger.” While there he spent a meaningful amount of time working, and producing albums, with his friend Iggy Pop. The result of this collaboration was Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums “The Idiot” and the afore mentioned “Lust for Life.” Notably the song “China Girl” off of “The Idiot” was later performed by Bowie on his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”

When punk rockers think of Iggy Pop they are probably more inclined to think of Iggy Pop’s earliest work with The Stooges, and probably most notably the highly important and insanely impressive album “Raw Power” which can rightly be contributed as one of the earliest pioneer works of the punk rock genre.

Despite having been around for so long and having made so many albums and written so many songs, it is interesting that the bulk of Iggy Pop’s work is known primarily just as the “Lust for Life” album and those hit songs that came from it. His work is a deeper well that is worth drinking from, but today I will focus on one of those two hit songs, because it is a song of deeper meaning than initial inspection revealed to me and indeed most.

When I think of Iggy Pop, I often think of drugs. Now could I not? Iggy Pop spent a very unhealthy amount of time on a drug induced rampage, getting himself arrested and disrupting his own concerts. It is fun, and even funny, looking back on some of his more deranged antics, but when observed all at once it is really rather frightening what Iggy put himself through. Iggy Pop is something of akin to The Door’s Jim Morrison, in just how far out of control he was, but a key difference is that somehow Iggy Pop survived and is still alive to this day. Iggy even released a new album recently “Post Pop Depression” which I have been listening to on youtube and it is pretty good.

“The Passenger” is the song I have always held as Iggy’s most enjoyable, or at least, the song that rang in my ear the longest. I felt a unique connection to “The Passenger” because I had a unique take on it. In a very literally sense I was a passenger in life. Due to a combination of factors, it took me a frustrating long time to acquire my driver’s licence, and living in a country like Canada, and a city like Calgary, where the population density is extremely sparse and mass transit being largely non-existent, getting around was extremely difficult, and thus I had to rely on the kindness of friends to drive me, thus I was in a constant position of passenger. There was one upside to this, I was never the designated driver, and thus spent many evenings gooned in the passenger seat being driven around.

Which brings me back to Iggy Pop’s drug habit.

I had always casually assumed that Iggy Pop, like myself, was too gooned to drive and thus found himself in the passenger seat seeing the world through the passenger side window, dazed and confused, but safe and more or less happy. This explanation made sense, Iggy Pop was a drug fiend and presumably could not, or at least should not, have been driving for most of his rock and roll career. How simple of an explanation, how simple an interpretation, naturally it is not the true message.

As time passed and lyrics were listened to more and more, and I learned more about the icon Iggy Pop, I knew “The Passenger” had more to it than a simple observation of being escorted about while intoxicated. I later learned that the song was written while Iggy Pop was riding the S Bahn in Berlin, and this connected with me because I have been to Berlin and I got around exclusively using the S Bahn. Still there was something more going on in these words in this song, it was much less to do with the literal act of travelling, and so much more to do with being led.

“The Passenger” is truly about not being in control. We can link this to alcohol and drugs and having handicapped facilities and thus no longer being in control, but as I said before, this is deeper than that. “The Passenger” is about not being in control of your own life.

There are so many variables in the world, so many factors and consideration raining upon us at all times, and they are in a constant state of flux, often times the sheer volume and unpredictability of life is so overwhelming that everything feels like chaos. There is no solution to this stress, or feeling of being powerless, we simple must soldier on, make the best of what we have, and manage as best we can with what we can control. We can let go, and let the current of the river take us. We can be a passenger and watch the world from under glass and believe that everything was made for us. Try our best to stay strong and calm.

This too connects with me, and I suspect virtually everyone who has ever lived.

In a fever dream, not long ago I came to realize that everything I had control over in my life was extremely well managed, it was only the elements where others possessed influence over me that were seriously harming and hurting me. As frustrating as all this is, it made me in no way unique, we are all passengers unable to take perfect control of our lives. Sometimes we can only go where the S Bahn takes us. Sometimes all we can is ride, and ride and ride.

“Lust for Life” expresses a strong element of Iggy Pop’s personality and life, and equally so does “The Passenger,” for this life is no less, and in fact probably more so at the time of writing this song, chaotic, and he was surely both literally and symbolically a passenger. So, we all are too.

- King of Dreams

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Led Zeppelin - Gallows Pole



Led Zeppelin has a lot more cover songs than most people know; this is fundamentally true for two reasons. The first explanation resides in the simple truth that Led Zeppelin are the greatest band ever, so naturally their versions of songs are vastly better known than the originals. The second factor to note is that all Zeppelin covers are very different from the originals.

A quick summary of early days Zeppelin covers contains:

From Led Zeppelin One:
  • “You Shook Me” originally by Muddy Waters.
  • “I Can’t Quit You Baby” originally by Willie Dixon.
  • “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” written by Anne Johannson.
  • “How Many More Times” contains a verse from Albert King’s “The Hunter.”
From Led Zeppelin Two:
  • “Lemon Song” is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues.”
  • “Bring it On Home” originally by Sonny Boy Williams.
From Led Zeppelin Three:
  • “Gallows Pole” originally by Leadbelly... sort of.
Perhaps the most interesting cover is “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” as it was a popular song of unknown origin. At the time of recording the first Zeppelin album the most popular version was by Joan Baez from a live recording which had no credits to the author, so Zeppelin presumed that it was an old song whose creator was forgotten. It was not until the 1980’s when the original writer, Anne Johannson, was made aware of Zeppelin’s existence and their cover of her song, which at that point was really her own fault, who the hell lives through the sixties and seventies and never discovers Zeppelin? I found this article to be a nice explanation of the history of the song: https://santafe.com/blogs/read/the-tangled-tale-of-babe-im-gonna-leave-you

We can see from the decreasing presence of cover songs that Zeppelin was naturally coming more and more into their own as time went on. This is very common for musical groups, especially when it comes to live performances, song writers refine their craft and their ability to create original material comes more naturally with time. This is why Zeppelin Four onward is effectively all original material. But of all the covers, and quasi covers Zeppelin embarked upon, the sole example on their third album “Gallows Pole” is my favorite.

“Gallows Pole” was among the first Zeppelin songs I heard on the radio when I was young and discovering music for the first time. Along with “The Immigrant Song” it was “Gallows Pole” that made it very important to me to get a copy of Led Zeppelin Three as quickly as I could.

I dabble in guitar, and the only Zeppelin song I ever came close to learning with any kind of ability is “Gallows Pole.” More accurately I was capable of playing one part in particular which is the fast back and forth between A major and G major, this serves as a bridge between verses and the chorus, and it is very fun to play. I know I am stating the obvious here but Jimmy Page’s guitar on “Gallows Pole” is freaking fantastic.

Or is it Page’s guitar work? After all this song was written by Leadbelly. The answer is still yes, Page’s guitar work is fantastic. Leadbelly’s original version is very different from the final manifestation we hear on Led Zeppelin Three.

Leadbelly - Gallows Pole

Is it really Leadbelly's guitar work we are comparing to Page's?  The answer is interestingly only so much, as Leadbelly never claimed to have written "Gallows Pole" he claimed it was an old folk song he had learned somewhere.  So unlike "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" the "Gallows Pole" is literally an old folk song whose original creator is forgotten. 

In recent years, it has become somewhat common among music critics to accuse Led Zeppelin, and specifically Jimmy Page, of being thieves of African American music. I do not really agree with the venom of that accusation. Zeppelin always gave credit to their inspirations but also they changed so much in all of their cover songs. Listen to Leadbelly’s “Gallows Pole” the lyrics are modified, the guitar solo in Zeppelin’s version is completely original, the rhythm and bass does not exist in Leadbelly's version and that bridge I mentioned earlier, the A major G major combination, it does not exist in Albert King’s version. Zeppelin’s cover is barely that, it is more so a complete re-imagining on the song’s concept.

It is not like we accuse Gounod of stealing from Bach when he created “Ave Maria,” despite how very different the final product is from it’s inspiration “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” I feel like that is what I am hearing when I listen to a song like “Gallows Pole,” it is undeniable that it is not an original song, but what Zeppelin did with it made it a unique entity all on its own, just like the “Ave Maria.”

Go and listen to Joan Baez version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” nothing like Zeppelin’s, and the same goes for every other example listed above.  

Potential controversy aside, we, humanity, win in the end, because we get multiple great songs by multiple great musicians. We have the blues to thank for rock and roll, and we have rock and roll to thank for giving us all a reason to live.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Monday, April 17, 2017

Led Zeppelin - How Many More Times



Music, and all art, is a perpetual motion machine. Ideas grow from other ideas and spawn new inspiration in an endless cycle of connectivity. There is no beginning, and there is no end.

Led Zeppelin is the greatest thing that ever happened. As someone who has dedicated a large amount of his free time expressing his love of music online it follows that my favorite band of all time would carry tremendous importance to me. Like all things music, Led Zeppelin, are part of the endless evolution of music and while they have their obvious admirers who have followed in their footsteps their heroes are not so well known, largely because Zeppelin eclipsed them all in every way.

I love the blues, and I doubt I would love it so, if it not for Led Zeppelin. This is one of those working backwards discoveries, where I love one band so much I want to know where they got their ideas so unavoidable the eventuality of discover moves in the reverse chronological direction.

The first installment of Led Zeppelin, their self titled debut album, is the clearest example of direct blues inspiration on them. There are three straight cover songs on Zeppelin One, “You Shook Me” by Muddy Waters, “I Can’t Quit You Baby” by Willie Dixon and while not a blues cover “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is a folk song originally written by Anne Johannson, more on that next review.

It does not end there though, possible my favorite song from this iconic album is “How Many More Times.” It is this song which may have dubbed John Paul Jones bass guitar playing as “galloping” as the punch behind the bass is at it’s highest. Everything about “How Many More Times” feels like a blues inspire rock song, and it is doubtless that it is, but unlike the afore mentioned covers this is primarily original material, and I am unable to pinpoint any direct connection to previous blues song, though that tragically may have something to do with my ignorance of blues music.

There is one clear blues inspiration in “How Many More Times” and that is the melody at the end of the song where two unique changes in pace and sound emerge. The first being Robert Plant breaking into an ode to a woman named Rosie:

“Oh, Rosie, oh girl.
Oh, Rosie, oh girl.
Steal away now, steal away.
Steal away now, steal away.
Little Robert Anthony wants to come and play.
Oh, why don’t you come to me baby?
Steal away.”


For the longest time when I was young I was convinced this was the beginning of blues medley and that “Oh Rosie” must be a cover of sorts, but with the all human knowledge in one place device (the internet) I have been unable to confirm this as true, which leads me to believe this is actual a true to form classic ramble from our friend Robert Plant.

The only meaningful connection I can draw between Rosie and the blues is the old African American work, or negro prison, blues song titled, simply, “Rosie.” Which is a song about the men working and in the distance, there is a woman named Rosie who none of the men can ever speak to or touch, but she tempts them daily. Which would make sense if this influenced Robert Plant in some way.

"Rosie" - Recorded at Mississippi State Penitentiary:

Then we have a second shift in style and with Robert singing:

“Well they call me the hunter, that’s my name,
They call me the hunter, that’s how I got my fame.
Ain’t no need to hide, Ain’t no need to run.
‘Cause I’ve got you in the sights of my……… gun.”


This portion of “How Many More Times” is a blues cover. The original is by Albert King and is titled "The Hunter.”

Albert King - The Hunter

Albert King, I have talked about him before in my review of Derek and the Domino’s “Layla” in which I discussed how his song “As the Years Go Passing By” was partial inspiration for the guitar in that song. You can read all about it here: http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2016/04/derrick-and-dominos.html

In live versions, the medley is longer and includes more rambling that I have been forced to believe are additional creations of Plant’s mind as I have been unable to draw any connection and usual it functions as an extension to the “Oh Rosie” portion of song.

I very much like the BBC sessions which includes the short repetition of “It’s alright, it’s alright,” which perhaps too little to find a proper connection to a blues song, or more likely it is Plant doing his rambling thing. However, the inclusion of:

“Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg.
Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg.
If you don’t squeeze me the way I want you to baby,
Swear I’m gonna kick you out of bed.”


Will be immediately identified as part of Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” from their second album, which is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues,” which is yet another blues cover by Led Zeppelin.

Robert Johnson - Traveling Riverside Blues

I read somewhere that Plant would break into Buffalo Springfield’s “On The Way Home” in some live versions, but I have never heard a version like that, and I have listened to many versions of this song live; so interesting if true.

It is a fine thing looking to our hero’s heroes. The first couple Zeppelin albums we see just how much blues and African American music meant to Jimmy Page and the boys, and in turn I appreciate all the unique changes they made to all of these songs, even their covers dramatically differ from the originals, but I will be discussing more of that in the next review.

- King of Braves

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tegan and Sara - Arrow & Sentimental Tune


Arrow:

Sentimental Tune:

Of all my favorite bands Tegan and Sara must be the strangest odd one out. I listen to a lot of metal and classic rock, so the indie rock pop style of Tegan and Sara, while enjoyable to all, in theory should not rank that high in my personally admiration, but they do. I suppose it is not that strange when you consider my fondness of indie rock in general. I listen to a lot of Arcade Fire, Metric, Interpol, Bloc Party and several others. I guess it is just I identify more with the rock and rollers of classic rock and metal and a lot less with the hipster variety fare most of us expect from the indie crowd.

But hey man, it’s all about the music.

In 2009 Tegan and Sara released their sixth studio album “Sainthood” and it was a departure from their previously more mellow and emotional indie and folk rock styling and engaged more so into good old rock and roll. Naturally “Sainthood” is my favorite Tegan and Sara album, granted there are a variety of nuances we could discuss, but the broad picture item of this album is by being more rock and roll added to my extra enjoyment.

So, it is highly appropriate that I like “Sainthood” so much, given my natural rock and roll ways, and this apparently puts me in the minority. “Sainthood” was not overly well received by critics and fans who were still madly in love with “The Con,” Tegan and Sara’s previous album, an album that is the apex of their indie rock catalogue. This stronger embrace of rock and roll was the first meaningful change in style Tegan and Sara had ever engaged in, and they would find huge success with their next two albums “Heartthrob,” a very pop rock album, and recently “Love You to Death,” a very eighties inspired album. Those last two albums are probably Tegan and Sara’s best selling albums to date, nonetheless “Sainthood” was the first experiment departing from their indie rock styling, and is now becoming somewhat overlooked.

I am a firm believer that the best albums should start and end strong, and my two favorite tracks from “Sainthood” is the first and second last, which creates a nice journey from beginning to end.

The first track is “Arrow” a short but punchy rock song with a very striking intro that turns into the best, and most rock and roll, rhythm on the album or on any Tegan and Sara song for that matter. I believe it was very wise to make this the first song on the album as it has the greatest energy of any track and brings the listener in. My first two Tegan and Sara concretes I attended both opened with “Arrow” and while not being their most popular song served as a fantastic opening to the show and really got the crowd pumped up.

While “Sainthood” does technically end with “Someday” I find the true end note to be “Sentimental Tune.” Again, as a rock and roll machine, I should, in theory, appreciate “Arrow” as my uppermost favorite in the Tegan and Sara catalogue, but such is the duality of man, I like the mellow and sweet empowering “Sentimental Tune” most. I believe “Sentimental Tune” is about someone refusing to allow someone else to love them, a cynical romantic maybe? This sentimental tune is meant to soften the hard heart of the nervous would be lover who is for reasons unknown refusing to believe in, or allow an embrace of, love. Which is, you know, sweet.

I particularly like the opening line in the chorus “Hard-hearted don’t worry I’m ready for a fight.” While tangential at best, my complete lack of a flight mechanism means I am always ready for a fight, which makes me relate to this song in a completely unintentionally demission.

Long time readers of this blog will know I really like Sara, and perhaps it is not a coincident that both “Arrow” and “Sentimental Tune” are both Sara songs. A strange fact about Tegan and Sara that many do not know is that they never wrote songs together until the album “Heartthrob.” Each would independently write songs and then collaborate when recording. This adds an extra element of personality and a note of interest when digging dipper into their music catalogue and gradually gaining an ear for not only the very slight differences in their voices but also their emotions and expressions. The later of which is actually more distinctive.

There is a weak, but very real connection between “Arrow” and “Sentimental Tune.” In “Arrow” Sara is asking for a very tough love, real assessment of herself from someone she loves and in the hope they will fight for her,

“Would you touch me?
Cling and wage an intimid fight for me?”


The sort of fighting for someone Sara later expresses in “Sentimental Tune” only this time as the active agent, fighting for the tough love. It is not the strongest connection I admit, but I have always felt there was something there, if not is symbolism or narrative, then at least in Sara’s mind. She wants someone to fight for her, like she would fight for them? A reasonable guess into the mind and heart of Sara Quin I suspect, but also a fair description of most people’s wishes I imagine.

The times I have sat to listen to “Sainthood” in full, I find myself repeating the second final track or starting the album over to start the gambit again with “Arrow. Normally the custom of this music blog to talk about one song, but these rules were made by me, and made to be broken, because why not. I struggle to think of a time in the near future where I might revisit this album or band, so it made sense to discuss the beginning and end of the album all at once. A two-song review; think I’ll have to do that again sometime soon.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Tea Party - Release



On March 25th I will attend my tenth Tea Party concert. The Tea Party are more than just a band for me, they are like old friends, and while I have never met any of them personally, I have seen them so many times and I know their music so thorough and so well, I have created a stronger connection to them than any other band, probably ever. Everyone has their local flavour of music that they love and most of the world does not nearly appreciate as much as they do; and for me it is The Tea Party. The Tragically Hip may be Canada’s best kept secret but The Tea Party are my dudes, they are the band I constantly go to see, they are the band I love uppermost.

The twenty-fifth of March will be significant for me for the reasons already mentioned, but this concert tour itself is significant. This is the twenty-year anniversary tour of their third studio album “Transmission.” I was a too young to see the original tour for “Transmission” but still I have been going to Tea Party concerts for nearly two decades now and finally I will get to hear all the songs from “Transmission” I have yet to hear live. I have read in interviews how difficult it was to perform songs like “Transmission” and “Babylon” live, and I do not believe I have ever heard less well known tracks that I love like “Emerald,” so this will be a great experience for me. It is all very exciting.

One of the first albums I ever purchased on CD was Tea Party’s “Transmission” and it was the first album that was not released prior to my birth that I purchased on CD. You could probably surmise from the consistency of my Tea Party concert attendance that the “Triptych” tour when it came to Calgary was my first ever live show. Lastly the song that made me buy that “Transmission” CD was “Release.”

I had really enjoyed songs on the radio, because Tea Party used to get played on the radio here in Canada, like “Fire in The Head” and “Temptation.” I had also heard and thoroughly enjoyed their first two albums, but there was something about “Release” that got its hooks into me and made me really want to own that album, plus “Temptation” was on the same album so it seemed like a good purchase.

I was not disappointed; obviously.

“Release” was written in support of the White Ribbon Campaign, a Canadian born global movement to end violence against women, and with even a cursory glance at the lyrics it is clear there is a concern for women and fear of what a man might do. I have always known this, not so much the White Ribbon Campaign connection but I always knew this song was about a man wanting the woman he loves to be safe and free, from him.

It was dark, and it brooding, and contain a self loathing and sadness that I really connected with when I was young. I loved a great many things, but very little loved me back. There was a darkness in my heart comfortable with combat and violence, but there was also a temperament of compassion and devote desire to help. The narrative of a man relinquishing his emotional hold on a woman for her betterment, for her safety and freedom was a story that was swarming around in my head and Tea Party brought it to life in musical form.

While “Release” is clearly a song that is pro women’s’ rights, and that is great, but the focus for me was always on requited love, because of course it was. It would be equally easy to interpret “Release” as a man letting go of the love he desires but will never obtain. All the hurt and ugliness inside this man’s hurt that consumes him will not be allowed to contaminate another, certainly not the one he loves, and;

“I want you to be free,
I want you to be free, from me.”


It is really rather sweet when you look at it from that angle. In this way “Release” contrasts the last review HIM’s “For You” very nicely. One is the stubborn refusal to dismiss a deep deadly love, and the other is salvation from it. Both are unrequited, one is an emotional prison, the other, a release.

Sometimes there is a continuity to these reviews.

The Tea Party’s “Release” is, as have as far as I know, the best song ever written to promote an end to violence against women, but also, in my opinion, one of the best songs in Tea Party fantastic playlist. It is a song so rich in conflicted emotion how could it be anything less?

- King of Braves

Friday, February 24, 2017

HIM - For You



I always thought it was bold of HIM to have their debut album titled “Greatest Love Songs Volume 666.” Unless they were implying that, there were six hundred and sixty five other albums before theirs that qualified as the other collection of the greatest love songs ever, then they must have been declaring themselves the pioneers of this feat. Of course, the number choice is obvious, it relates to the beast of many names, the devil.

I talk about Satan a lot on this blog, it is not intentionally but I do.

The devil is not exactly a major influence on Finland’s HIM, rather death and darkness are, and with that it is only natural to include the presence of demonic and hellish themes and references. HIM’s big thing is love and death, most of their songs are about both, but all of them are about at least one of those two things. An intense love song by HIM requires some elements of death and darkness and invoking the number of the beast is a fine way of going about doing that.

Like most debut albums “Greatest Love Songs Volume 666” is raw. A lot of emotion and a lot of fresh imagination is poured into HIM first album and with it the invention of love metal. There is a charm to albums like this and the songs there within. Oftentimes the message will lack symbolism or poetic depth in such albums but the blunt forwardness of these new imagination and new sounds of expression will be such a thoroughly enjoyable new experience that they endear themselves to us more so than later works which prove to be more refined in structure but less powerful in delivery. The emotions and overall content of a song like “For You” does not get much more direct or raw.

Of all the songs on “Greatest Love Songs Volume 666” the two songs that always captured the theme of love metal the best are “When Love and Death Embrace” which is very perfectly about love and death, and “For You,” a demanding love song that either willing or unwilling with be until death to us part.

There are a lot of love songs, and thanks to HIM there are a lot of dark love songs, but there are very few, even in HIM’s repertoire, that are as grim as “For You.” “For You” is not, the utterance of those to words meant as a request for love or even a simple declaration of devotion, in HIM’s song it is a statement of equal parts joy and misery. The very first line says just that:

“In the grace of your love I writhe, writhe in pain.
In six hundred and sixty-six ways I love you and I hope you feel the same.”

Only HIM could make love seem so wonderful and agonizing at the same time. It is in this opening piece that we hear the nice mention of the three digits of the beast. There are not a lot of lyrics in “For You,” the only verse is also only two sentences:

“I'm killing myself for your love and again all is lost.
In seven hundred and seventy-seven ways I love you 'til my death do us apart.”


The rest of singer Ville Valo’s contribution is to repeat, “I’m for you,” and “I’m dying for you love.”

I believe “For You” falls comfortably into the scenario of unrequited love, a topic I happen to know a lot about. The thing about requited love is the higher than usual sense of selflessness exhibited by the unloved, and in the example of “For You” Valo has gone so far to literally offer up his life and any ounce of happiness he might have enjoyed between now and than, the end.

Furthermore, there is something aggressive in the voice of Valo in this song that removes any choice in the matter. Valo loves this woman, whoever she is, no matter what, and she will be loved by him, no matter how she feels about it. It a foreboding and intimidating love, something perhaps darker than simply an unwanted attraction, rather an endless source of admiration and misery both embodied and projecting from his gothic man, for nothing can change the reality that he is for her.

It is difficult, nigh impossible, to think of, or even conceive a love song quiet like or similar to “For You.” Even in HIM now long discography no one song runs totally parallel to the deep dark dimensions of this song. While not my favorite HIM song “For You” is one that I find myself going back to listen to all the time. It is captivating for all the reasons explained above, and a gripping song that has let go of me, or anyone else who volunteered to listen.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Monday, February 6, 2017

Dance of the Vampires - For Sarah



Jim Steinman is quiet possibly the most underrated song writer of all time.

Steinman is best known for his work with Meat Loaf, as he wrote literally every song Meat Loaf recorded until the half and half mix of “Bat Out of Hell 3.” However, he was very busy during the eighties and nineties writing a lot of music for female pop stars, namely Ellen Foley, Bonnie Tyler, and Pandora’s Box. He also wrote the music for the cult classic, street gang fight, musical, “Streets of Fire.” Lastly, his biggest success outside of his collaboration with Meat Loaf must be his creation of songs like “It’s all Coming Back to Me Now,” which was made famous by Canada’s Celine Dion, so yeah, we have Jim to blame for that, but still, an impressive resume. However, his greatest accomplishment outside of Meat Loaf, must be his 1997 musical creation “Tanz der Vampire” or “Dance of the Vampire.”

1967's "The Fearless
Vampire Killers."
“Dance of the Vampires” is a rock opera based off of Roman Polanski’s 1967 comedy horror film “The Fearless Vampire Killers.” The basic plot of both is Professor Abronsius and his assistant Alfred are attempting to prove that vampires exist when they meet the genuine article, Graf von Krolock. At the same time, they meet Sarah, the innkeeper’s daughter, and Alfred immediately falls in love with her, but unfortunately Krolock has also taken notice of the beautiful young girl and decides to make her his.

A wonderful thing about writing hundreds of songs for other people is you get to keep the rights to those songs and use them however you see fit, which is exactly what happens with “Dance of the Vampires.” Steinman rehashes some of his past songs and reworks them for this vampire adventure. The most prominent example being Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of The Heart” now reworked as “Vampires in Love:”


"Total Eclipse of The Heart" now with vampires... finally:

Other notably examples of Steinman doing this include; “Original Sin” which was originally performed by Pandora’s Box; “Is Nothing Sacred” was originally recorded by Meat Loaf on the “Very Best of” album; “Confession of a Vampire” is a rework of “Objects in the Rear-View Mirror may Appear Closer Than They Are,” from “Bat Out of Hell 2;” and the closing title track “Dance of the Vampires” is a rework of the main theme from the movie “Streets of Fire” called “Tonight is What it Means to be Young.” These are all interesting songs to explore and discuss, but some of the original material from “Dance of the Vampires” really stand out as some of the best songs in the play. I am extremely fond of “Carpe Noctem” but I prefer to focus on the key love song from the play “For Sarah.”

Marjan Shaki as Sarah
As mentioned before Sarah is the innkeeper’s beautiful daughter and Alfred falls madly in love with her at first sight. Our vampire lord Krolock spirits Sarah away and Alfred exclaims his resolve to find and save her in this epic ballad “For Sarah.”

On paper “For Sarah” is a rather simple song, just piano and a singer, but it follows the more complicated center piece of the musical’s “Carpe Noctem” so it is meant to be a softer song, a quiet and sweet moment for Alfred to express the strength of his love and conviction to save the damsel in distress. What makes this song special is the singer himself. I have seen several different individuals perform this song live online and while some are more impressive than others I have enjoyed them all. It is a truly nice love song surrounded by fantastic factors, I mean vampires and all, and that makes the level of declared potential sacrifice a little more serious since actual death lays around the corner for our heroes.

Now, most people reading this have probably never heard of “Dance of the Vampires” and that has a lot to do with the utter failing to bring the musical in the United States. The original “Tanz Der Vampire” was a huge hit in Austria and Germany, and from everything I seen, heard and read about it, the German language version is superior to the English one in every conceivable way; but why is that? The songs were all written by an American, why did the US version fail so catastrophically. Well according to Steinman, the cast and crew in the US version did not take it seriously, and I can kind of understand why. The movie that inspired the story for “Dance of the Vampires” was a comedy, and the subject matter is silly and also rather trite in our current cultural zeitgeist regarding vampires. I mean “Vampires in Love” how cliché has that idea become?

Nonetheless Steinman is correct. Too many jokes were inserted into the English version. The great charm of “Tanz Der Vampires,” and the song “For Sarah,” was the passion put into it by it’s performers. The Germans and Austrians took this musical very seriously and they put together a highly emotional and exciting, albeit perhaps a little silly, musical experience. The wishy washy approach the Americans took undermined the story, the music and all the emotion that was required for making this piece of art work.

Because the music at it’s core is so damned good, the English versions of the songs are still thoroughly enjoyable. “For Sarah” is a song that needs, and in fact demands, the highest calibre of singing performance. For this reason, I believe the English version holds up very well, but I must say it is worthwhile to investigate the multiple German language version you can find online. I used to listen to one version on youtube a lot, but as these things go I can no longer find it, so here is a slightly not as great version:

Live German Version:

I feel for Steinman. He is likely to go down as one of the most overlooked song writers of his generation, and what might have been his magnum opus after the original “Bat Out of Hell,” this epic vampire musical, will likely be forgotten mostly by the English speaking music listening audience. This is the sort of review I think is highly important, I suspect a lot more people should be enjoying this over the top vampire rock opera than there are currently; and I am just doing my small part to help that along.

- King of Braves

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Meat Loaf - Everything Louder Than Everything Else



1977 was a good year for Meat Loaf and the gang, “Bat Out of Hell” was a super hit and the world tours that followed were smash hits. But things were turning ugly. Meat Loaf partied and toured himself to exhaustion and began to lose his voice, also he made numerous enemies in the music industry that poisoned his and Jim Steinman’s ability to get a proper record production going. Slowly but surely Meat Loaf sank into obscurity.

Most stories like this one would end here. A huge flash in the pan and then some casual world tours with a loyal but fleeting fan base, luckily for Meat Loaf and his fans, his fate would be very different from this.

After four albums that flopped, though one is an arguable exception, Meat Loaf was gaining an impressive amount of traction touring Europe and growing his cult following. Someone advised Meat Loaf do the obvious thing and regroup with Jim Steinman, the mastermind songwriter behind “Bat Out of Hell” and see if they could once again reignite the fire of that first album.

Again, normally, the story would end with a flat dud, but this is not one of those stories.

Steinman decide they should create “Bat Out of Hell 2: Back Into Hell.” In some ways, the second installment of Bat Out of Hell was very much an attempt to return to form of the original. In some ways “Bat Out of Hell 2” was a unique and special experiment. In most ways, the album was showcase of Jim Steinman songs that had previous been recorded by other artist and lost to the sands of time. For this last reason critics panned the album, believing no one could enjoy a rehashing of Steinman’s mostly failed endeavours; but what do they know? The general public strongly disagreed, and they loved the hit single “I Would Do Anything for Love.”

“I Would Do Anything for Love” is a wholly original song, and while inspiring the same sort of over the top drama for stark raving love that we had seen before, there had never been anything in the Meat Loaf or Jim Steinman playlist quite like it, there had never really been anything ever like “I Would Do Anything for Love.” Logically it became a number one hit song and the album was a huge success, and Meat Loaf became a legend.

I guess one could argue that “I Would Do Anything for Love” is a touch on the sappy side, what with it being so direct in proclamation of extreme love, and while that is part of it’s charm I am not going to dwell any longer on this song, because unbeknownst to most the best song off of “Bat Out of Hell 2” is “Everything Louder Than Everything Else.”

“Everything Louder Than Everything Else” is another completely original song from Steinman and it is very different than the passionate love songs, and is perhaps I a little more akin to the original “Bat Out of Hell” song itself, only instead of focusing on a street gang fighter’s motor bike crash, this song is an ode to the joy of life, lust and rock and roll.

On the album before “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” begins, a poem read by Steinman plays titled “Wasted Youth,” which is interesting because the turn of phrase “a wasted youth is better by far, than a wise and productive old age,” is present in “Everything Louder Than Everything Else.”

“I remember everything!
I remember everything little thing, as if it happened yesterday.
I was barely seventeen, and I once killed a boy with a Fender Guitar.
I don't remember if it was a Telecaster or a Stratocaster,
But I do remember that it had a heart of chrome, and a voice like a horny angel.
I don't remember if it was a Telecaster or a Stratocaster,
But I do remember that it wasn't at all easy.
It required the perfect combination of the right power chords,
And the precise angel from which to strike!

The guitar bled for about a week afterwords,
And the blood was zoot, dark and rich, like wild berry's.
The blood of the guitar was Chuck Berry red.
The guitar bled for about a week afterwords,
But it rung out beautifully,
And I was able to play notes that I had never even heard before.

So I took my guitar,
And I smashed it against the wall,
I smashed it against the floor,
I smashed it against the body of a varsity cheerleader,
Smashed it against the hood of a car,
Smashed it against a 1981 Harley-Davidson,
The Harley howled in pain,
The guitar howled in heat.

And I ran up the stairs to my parents bedroom.
Mommy and Daddy were sleeping in the moonlight.
Slowly I opened the door,
Creeping in the shadows right up to the foot of their bed,
I raised the guitar high above my head,
And just as I was about to bring the guitar crashing down upon the center of the bed,
My father woke up, screaming ‘Stop!’
‘Wait a minute. Stop it boy. What do you think your doing?’
‘That's no way to treat an expensive musical instrument.’
And I said, ‘God Damn It daddy,’
‘You know I love you, but you've got a hell of a lot to learn about Rock n' Roll.’”


This poem/intro was original recorded on Jim Steinman’s solo album “Bad For Good” only titled as “Love, Hate and American Guitar.” It’s presence on the second Bat Out of Hell is highly appropriate given the contents of the song that follows it. The dialogue between father and son fits very well with the whole “wasted youth” theme, and the desire to never fully grow up. Rock and Roll was always in theory a young man’s game, but by the nineties, and even more so now, since even more time has passed, we have seen great rock legends age and mellow, but for the most part they never lost that youthful joy of sex, drug and rock and roll, or at the very least they never lost a love for life.

We, the listener are hits with a barrage of witty phrases exemplifying an arrested development and the contrast of joy of partying and enjoying life compared with the dryness of being responsible and pursuing society’s mature goals; and a final thought on all of this is put in the intro to what a bridge:

“But it seems to me to the contrary, of all the crap they're going to put on the page,
That a wasted youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age.”

In a literal sense, we could probably debate the merits of a wasted youth versus a productive one, and as someone who has invested an extraordinary amount of time and energy into being productive I got to say there are regrets. All in all, we have a classic rock song about rebellion and defying expectations and being true to one’s self, the very essence of rock and roll. “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” is a very upbeat song, and is one of the tunes I often turn to get some positive energy into my mind. There is this focus on what really matters and it is not all about power, health, glory, or wealth.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell



Approximately forty years ago, Jim Steinman and Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, set out to create the ultimate motor cycle crash song. They succeeded.

When I was a child my parents owned a copy of “Bat Out of Hell” on vinyl, and I remember looking at the cover art and being fascinated by what I saw. Some muscular biker dude was bursting out of the ground of a graveyard on a motor cycle ready to confront a giant bat. I remember my older brother and I wanting to hear this record and learn how this biker was going to fight the giant bat. Despite that story not existing in any context on the actual content of the music, when we finally did listen to it the narrative stories therein did not leave my young mind disappointed. The music was so epic that it satisfied my youthful wild imagination, even though I was too young to fully appreciate the social dynamics of a song like “Paradise by The Dashboard Light.”

“Bat out of Hell” is a one of kind album, even though there are now three albums by that name by Meat Loaf. Despite reasonably revisiting the general and vague album concept of bat out of hell twice more there could not be a real recreation of the original. A perfect storm of creativity was unleashed when “Bat Out of Hell” was produced. The two men involved Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman were both extremely eager to explode onto the music scene and their combination of talents was exactly what the world needed.

Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf.
Jim Steinman was a marginally successful screen writing for a handful of musicals, and Meat Loaf was a virtual unknow who’s primary body of work consisted of playing a supporting role in the musical “Hair.” Both men were eager to break into the mainstream, Steinman was a methodical thinker and had a masterplan all sorted out, meanwhile Meat Loaf was a force of nature, a powerful singer who presumed he would charge his way to success with sheer force of will. Their chance meeting came when Steinman was looking for a unique singer with an unique presence, someone possessing something special, an edge, a certain grit. Steinman was hoping for a handsome young man, who would sound and look the part of a Hollywood star, what he got instead was a powerful fat man who sang perfectly for his ambitions but looked nothing like what was expected. While uncertain at first if Meat Loaf was the right choice for this project, Meat Loaf successfully charged his way into Steinman’s life.

It should not have worked. From a business perspective, the concept album of “Bat Out of Hell” should not have been a commercial hit. The forty-five-minute album had only seven songs on it, making the average song length six and half minutes in length, typically far too long to be pop music radio friendly. Grandiose epics about motor cycle crashes and trying to hook up with the head cheerleader were in theory too aggressive and uncouth for the late seventies and arguably still now. Also instead of a young pretty boy as the front they had this berserking fat man singing his heart out. In theory that should not appeal to the simple-minded masses, but magically this is one of the those times when something totally awesome was deservedly well received by everyone.

Effectively “Bat Out of Hell” is one of those rare perfect albums, and a persistent candidate for my list of ten albums to include on a deserted island.

My favorite song on this album has change about six times in my life but I have found in recent years the title track has persistently stood out to me the most.

As stated in the opening sentence of this review, “Bat Out of Hell” is the greatest motor cycle crash song ever recorded. The opening is over two minutes of instrumental, which is one of the many reasons this album should not have had much success with pop radio. However, this serves multiple purposes, beyond simply being fantastic. Steinman having trained himself to write full musicals is presenting his overture in this opening two minutes. The pace and tension is set for high drama without a word being uttered.

With out first verse the scene described in the beginning of “Bat Out of Hell” is one of violence and danger:

“The sirens are screaming, and the fires are howling
Way down in the valley tonight.
There's a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye
And a blade shining oh so bright.
There's evil in the air and there's thunder in the sky,
And a killer's on the bloodshot streets.
And down in the tunnels where the deadly are rising
Oh, I swear I saw a young boy down in the gutter
He was starting to foam in the heat.”


Street and gang violence is what is present here. This fits perfectly with the motor cycle theme but also with Steinman’s interests, the man always seemed fascinated with gang warfare, leather jackets, and guitars, this because all too obvious when we discover “Street of Fire” a Jim Steinman musical movie about exactly all these things described just now.

Our rock and roll hero, has come to town for one reason, some babe he is in love with, for she is “the only thing in this whole world, that’s pure, and good, and right.” But like a bat out of hell he’ll be gone when the morning come. Taking off “faster than any boy has ever gone” he with blaze our out of town on his motor cycle.

Steinman had wanted to include the sound of an actual motor cycle in the song, and at the six-and-a-half-minute mark you can hear it, only it is not a real motor cycle but rather guitarist Todd Rundgren mimicking the sound of motor cycle with his guitar. This is made all the more impressive when you discover he had to improvise the sound after the studio disallowed Steinman to use the real thing.

Then it happens, the crash:

“Then I'm down in the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun,
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike,
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell.
And the last thing I see is my heart, still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away
Like a bat out of hell.”


I have never been entirely sure how to take the part about his heart breaking of his body and flying away. I thought it might have been about ascending to heaven after death, a final redemption, where our rock and roll hero’s soul breaks free from hell in the after life. Or perhaps it is meant to simple declare the intensity of his passion and love for the women he is presumably singing this song to.

Epic might an inaccurate description for “Bat Out of Hell,” perhaps over the top would be more appropriate. Everything about Meat Loaf, Jim Steinman, and “Bat Out of Hell” is dramatic. What could be a straight forward song about crashing your motor bike and dying becomes this nearly ten-minute rock opera about gang violence, true love, and possibly salvation. We all seek these things, we want things to be dramatic, and that is probably why the zealous melodrama of “Bat Out of Hell” appealed to so many people, myself included.

In conclusion, “Bat Out of Hell” is a great song. Most of you already knew that, but it bears repeating.

- King of Braves.