PARANORMAL Alice Cooper (Ear Music) ****
Paranormal following 2011’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, is Alice’s 2nd in a row with Bob Ezrin at the helm, producer of his classic 70’s stuff. It’s a 2 CD set, with the album proper on the first disc and bonus tracks on the second. What this lacks in the firepower of 2011’s Nightmare it makes up for in connection to the classic Cooper group sound.
Paranormal is a case of this 68 year old shock rocker doing what he does best, telling campfire ghost stories and making it hard for you to sleep without the light on. Alice’s trademark, lyrically, is spinning horror yarns with a wicked sense of humour, and this disc is no exception. Fallen In Love name checks a number his classic songs as he details an intense love affair; the chorus contains the line “…but I’ve fallen in love and I can’t get up”. Cooper can make you rock, shiver and smirk at the same time.
This far into his career, Alice still makes great records, with only his 1986 comeback disc Constrictor being a weak link. He always has a great band, and Paranormal has some pretty interesting guests- U2’s Larry Mullen plays drums on most tracks, Deep Purple’s Roger Glover slaps da bass on the title cut, and the surviving members of the Alice Cooper Group are here too. Dennis Dunaway co-wrote and plays bass on The Sound Of A-Coop has said many of the band’s classic tunes were built around Dunaway bass riffs. Drummer Neal Smith brought in the transgender anthem Genuine American Girl, Dennis was involved in writing You And All Your Friends, and both tracks are played by the original band; Alice, Dennis, Neal, and guitarist Michael Bruce; they’re great songs too.
The album proper is short, around 35 minutes. The disc of ‘bonus’ stuff includes the 2 songs just mentioned, plus live versions of 4 Alice Cooper Band classics and the solo Cooper cuts Feed My Frankenstein and Only Women Bleed. 2 discs at $30 at Sunrise Records at West Edmonton Mall (my first purchase there) is quite pricey, a single disc version with the 2 Cooper Group tracks and no live stuff would’ve been a good option.
Is Paranormal the best thing Alice has done since going solo? No- that would be Hey Stoopid or Brutal Planet for me- but this is still really friggin’ good.
ESSENTIALS: Genuine American Girl, Fallen In Love, The Sound Of A
HOKUM BLUES Chris “Bad News” Barnes (Vizz Tone) ***
Whoever thinks the blues can’t be good time music needs to listen to Chris Barnes’ new album, his second. Part Vaudeville part New Orleans, Hokum Blues is a ton o fun.
“Hokum Blues” is a raunchy and humorous song style popularized in the steamy Prohibition era of the 30’s by the likes of Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. While the lyrics are decidedly cheeky the musicianship has a casual excellence to it. It can sound like they’re slacking a bit, but when you listen a couple of times you’ll realize the guys are right on the money and that ain’t easy to pull off.
Chris Barnes has built quite a career with his comedic brand of blues, and has opened in years gone by for legends like Koko Taylor, Pinetop Perkins and Otis Rush. Chris has some pretty cool guests on his latest record, like Jimmy Vivino on guitar (the Conan O’Brien band) and Will Lee, formerly of Paul Shaffer & The CBS Orchestra for David Letterman, plays bass and produced the album as well. Looking at the liner notes the songs seem to come for two sources; 6 from Tampa Red, and the other 8 from a band called The Hokum Boys that was active in the 20’s and 30’s.
Hokum Blues is a fun, light album, and I suggest mixing some of these tunes into your ‘serious’ blues playlists to lighten things up and change the pace. While I may prefer the down n dirty cryin’ in your beer weepers or rugged guitar workouts, I also enjoy listening to guys that can play well and have fun too. If I still had a blues radio show, you’d be hearing tracks from this on the airwaves, guaranteed!
ESSENTIALS: It Hurts Me Too, It’s Tight Like That, Caught Him Doing It
WELL, IT’S ABOUT TIME Andrew Chapman aka Jo-Jo (UpIsland Records) ****
Here’s a guy that has a long history in the music biz, and you’ve likely never heard of him. You can hear and feel the blues in these songs, but Well It’s About Time is more than that. This disc has been a lifetime in the making, and you can sure feel it.
Some back story is needed, I think, to put this disc in the proper context. Chapman’s musical journey started in the late 60’s when he managed a band called Buttermilk Bottom in Texas, helping them get a single out on Polydor in 1970. Chapman then formed a band called The Bloontz with bassist Terry Wilson not long after, which led him to New York where the band recorded an album and then signed on to tour with Houston’s Johnny Nash (I Can See Clearly Now) in some of the U.S.’s bigger clubs.
Andrew grew tired of the industry- “I loved the music but the business turned me off” he says. He then began a successful corporate life in hotels and investment banking, continuing to hit the studios periodically with friends. Then, a couple of years ago, he called up his old band mate Terry Wilson, who had by then become a respected producer and engineer. Tracks were passed back and forth across the globe between Chapman and his guys, former Who keyboard player John “Rabbit” Bundrick, with his old chum Tony Braunagel from Buttermilk Bottom hitting the studio in LA to add the drums. “The trust level between us was amazing” Chapman says. “This record greatly exceeded my expectations.”
Well, It’s About Time is a deep, rich album with equal tastes of blues, the swamp and straight up rock & roll. Not one of those discs to slide by unnoticed, this baby gets your attention from the first song and just pulls you into a world that feels like the soft, white underbelly of rock & roll. Melodically intelligent while at the same time not necessarily being for polite folks, About Time isn’t a concept album and yet it seems to be telling a story. I love the way it sounds, and I love the way it feels even more- a definite keeper.
ESSENTIALS: She Don’t Mess With My Buzz, That’s The Kind of Day I’ve Had Today, That Takes Some Balls
DRIFTIN’ HEART Jason Buie (independent) ****+
Here is the 3rd CD for this Vancouver Island bluesman. A well-seasoned gumbo of blues, funk, rock and soul, you could almost call Driftin’ Heart a history lesson in the blues. This, gang, is some of the good stuff.
I like all kinds of blues but mainly consider myself a blues guitar guy and if that applies for you too, then Jason Buie is your guy. I hear echoes of Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray, Fats Domino, Albert Collins and Howlin’ Wolf in these songs. There’s a brutish, almost primal muscle in some of these tracks that will really speak to you… you can almost hear Jason and his band saying “Let’s roll up our sleeves and get this done.”
In his 20 or so year career Buie has shared stages with Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Mick Taylor, Jeff Healey, John Mayall, Robert Cray, Powder Blues, Trooper, Doucette and more. The bed tracks for these tunes were recorded at Vancouver’s Afterlife Studios (formerly Mushroom), with vocal and guitar overdubs done at Mountain View Studios in Nanaimo. 7 of the 11 tracks are Buie originals, and they sit comfortably next to songs by Amos Milburn, Sue Foley, Jimmy Rogers and Jesse Mae Robinson.
Driftin’ Heart, with it’s muscular sound and Buie’s piercing leads, sounds like it knows exactly where it’s going… this disc is muscle-bound traditional blues for the most part and it’s headed straight for Chicago. Pour yourself a beer or a couple of fingers of your favourite whiskey and let the good times roll!
ESSENTIAL: House Party, Driftin’ Heart, Stay The Night
THE RISE OF CHAOS Accept (Nuclear Blast) *****
This is Accept’s 4th studio album since re-starting the band with singer Mark Tornillo, and also their 4th with producer Andy Sneap at the controls. Like the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”- The Rise Of Chaos is all killer, no filler.
Accept has been on a mission since they came storming back in 2010 with Blood of The Nations and they haven’t looked back. Brutal and precise yet melodic, The Rise Of Chaos follows the blueprint the band set out for themselves; to recall the power of their 80’s stuff but with fresh energy, sounds and ideas. With guitarist Wolf Hoffmann at the controls since the very beginning and bassist Peter Baltes at his side, their path is unwavering as they deliver topical songs built on melodic, insistent riffs delivered with controlled fury and tight precision. Makes me wish I was still driving my 1980 Firebird!
I don’t think anyone is going to give this record a listen and think “Well I didn’t see that coming.” Accept’s consistency over these last 4 albums is one of their strengths. in an interview in 2010 Wolf told me that the songs always start with him and Peter, Mark comes up with the lyrics (something Udo never did in the old days) and then they bang ‘em into shape. I pre-ordered The Rise Of Chaos on I-Tunes, quite certain of what I was in for, and well satisfied when I turned this up to 11 and just let ‘er rip.
Over the ten songs that make up The Rise Of Chaos Accept rails against demagoguery on Don’t Drink The Koolaid and the proliferation of modern technology on Analog Man (definitely NOT the Joe Walsh tune!) as well as today’s political climate on tracks like Worlds Colliding and Race To Extinction, plus more standard metal fare such as Die By The Sword and What’s Done Is Done. If you dig Blood Of The Nations, Stalingrad and Blind Rage, you’ll love The Rise Of Chaos. If you’ve been sitting out Accept’s stellar comeback, give their classic Balls To Wall a spin- if you like that, you’re going to love what they’re doing now.
ESSENTIALS: Don’t Drink The Koolaid, Carry The Weight, Die By The Sword