Music Reviews by the Rock Doctor – June 23rd, 2017

Music Reviews by The Rock Doctor – June 23rd, 2017

The Rock Doctor is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion). Want a music review? email: \m/

California Riverdogs CALIFORNIA Riverdogs (Frontiers) *** ½ Apparently guitarist Vivian Campbell doesn’t like to sit at home twiddling his thumbs.  Def Leppard has been his main gig since 1992, and after the death of Ronnie James Dio in 2010 he helped start The Dio Disciples.  The Riverdogs are a blues/ rock band he started after stints with Dio and Whitesnake. California, their 5th album, is pretty great.For those that know the band, this is the original line-up; Campbell on guitars, Nick Brophy on bass and keys, Marc Danzeisen on drums, and Rob Lamonthe on vocals and guitar. Lamonthe’s voice is husky and Bon Jovi-esque, but I’m mainly here for Vivian Campbell’s guitar.  There’s lots of bluesy emotional soloing, particularly in the first half of the disc, but when we get to songs like The Heart Is A Mindless Bird and Searching For A Signal things start to pick up steam as Viv’s metal roots becomes more evident.Coming 6 years after the Dogs’ last record World Gone Mad, California has the bones to become a hard rock classic.  Riverdogs formed at the end of the 80’s when glitzy hard rock was the order of the day, but this band clearly had something more to offer. Frequent personnel changes at the label and the guys’ day gigs got in the way, preventing to the group from achieving takeoff speed.Though California contains metallic elements and moments, I wouldn’t call this a metal record- it’s a rock album with real melodic muscle and inspired playing. Brophy and Danzeisen in the engine room provide a solid foundation, Lamonthe’s vocals are soulful and emotional, and as a guitarist Campbell stretches and flexes here expressively, perhaps moreso than he does with the Leps. California will be available July 7th.

ESSENTIALS:  American Dream, You’re Too Rock & Roll, The Heart Is A Mindless Bird

Nickelback - Feed the machineFEED THE MACHINE Nickelback (Warner/ BMG) *** 3 years after 2014’s No Fixed Address and a cancelled tour so Chad Kroeger could have surgery to remove a cyst on a vocal chord, Nickelback has returned with a vengeance. To the untrained ear, Feed The Machine may sound like ‘just another Nickelback record’- but to those of us paying attention this is their hardest and heaviest yet, and it crushes.Feed The Machine finds Nickelback expanding their sonic palette while never straying too far from home.  After The Rain is an emotional ballad and, surprisingly, the disc ends with an acoustic instrumental called The Betrayal (Act I). There are some odd squonky sounds on some of the intros, and Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme plays the solo on For The River.Producer Chris Baseford and mixer Chris Lord-Alge, wisely and for the most part, play to Nickelback’s main strength- dense walls of guitar underpinned by Mike Kroeger’s low end bass lines and Daniel Adair’s thunderous drums providing a backbeat that sometimes feels like cannon shots. Ryan Peake’s guitar solos are still exciting, and Chad’s voice seems less frantic since the surgery. One of the reasons I like Nickelback as much as I do is that the thickness of their sound gives their music a real physical presence- you can literally feel the music.  Some bands feel the need to make each record vastly different from the one that came before it, but this is a band (like AC/DC) that found their groove early on and they stick close to what works for them.Feed The Machine is also a leap forward lyrically, with the songs addressing more worldly concerns as opposed to the barely double entendre songs that populated most of their previous 8 records.  Sonically some of the tracks aren’t as dense as you might be expecting, yet the sound is still deliciously dense… so in their own way Nickelback are growing and changing.Nickelback is a band that will always have their haters, but I’ll be sure to wave at them as I drive by with Feed The Machine turned all the way up to 11.

ESSENTIALS:  Feed The Machine, Song On Fire, Silent Majority

BUCKINGHAM/McVIE Lindsay Buckingham & Christine McVie BUCKINGHAM/McVIE Lindsay Buckingham & Christine McVie (Eastwest/ Warner) **** This may not be a Fleetwood Mac album in name, but it sure sounds like one- at least as much as Say You Will did in 2003 after Christine McVie left the band, but this time it’s Stevie Nicks that’s missing.  Though conceived as a duet album for Lindsay and Christine, with Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass this might as well be a Mac disc. Light, breezy esoteric pop music- B/V is a breath of fresh air.McVie just rejoined Mac last year, but was uncertain about how things would develop. “When someone takes such a long hiatus, you don’t know if that was a moment in time, if that working relationship is still there” she says, “but actually, it’s better than ever.” Buckingham/ McVie actually started out in 2015 as a Fleetwood Mac record with Nicks fully intending to participate- then she pulled out, deciding to mount a solo tour instead. Ah, but what’s a project with this band without drama?Rather than abandon the record Lindsay Buckingham decided to forge ahead, developing the disc as a duets project for him and Christine instead.  Indeed that’s what it sounds like, with Lindsay and Christine alternating lead vocals, track by track, throughout the record. Throughout much of his creative life with Fleetwood Mac Buckingham’s creative foil has always been Stevie Nicks, but working so closely with Christine was something of a revelation. In a joint statement prior to the album’s release, they said “We were exploring a creative process, and the identity of the project took on a life organically. The body of work felt like it was meant to be a duet album. We acknowledged that to each other on many occasions, and said to ourselves what took us so long?”Rolling Stone has described Buckingham/ McVie as “bubbly pop-rock” in nature, they’re right, and this is the best Mac F-Mac record I’ve heard since 1987’s Tango In The Night.  What this disc also proves is that the band can get along fine without Nicks and, though a farewell tour has been announced for 2018, there is still plenty left in the tank.

ESSENTIALS: Red Sun, Too Far Gone, Carnival Begin

OFFERINGS Joseph VelozOFFERINGS Joseph Veloz (Big O Records)  *****+Talk about a display of musical virtuosity!  8 songs and a list of guest vocalists, Offerings is one of the funkiest, most groove-filled albums you’re going to hear in 2017.Veloz is a bassist of uncommon skill and taste, a touring player who has been all over the world with artists like Lucky Peterson, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Mississippi Heat, James Armstrong, Joanne Shaw Taylor and many more. His roots are clearly in the blues, but his style is so fluid and flexible that he can probably play anything. Peter Galanis, guitarist for Howard & The White Boys says that Veloz “has both the knowledge and versatility as a bass player to instinctually play the right part for the song, when either improvising live or tracking in the studio.”  Skill and instinct- an unbeatable combo.Veloz is not a singer, and so several singers take the mic on Offerings; Biscuit Miller, Lucky Peterson, Greg Nagy Jennifer Westwood and Joey Spina. The other two cuts, Just Jammin’ and Mules For Biles (Blues For Miles) are thrilling instrumentals.  A pair of intriguing cover songs end the album- a swampy take on Dolly Parton’s classic Jolene and a lively cover of Prince’s Kiss, a tune that’s been a hit for artists like Tom Jones too.The quoting of the bible passage Isaiah 61:1 and the nature of his ‘thank you’ note on the inner sleeve make it clear that Joe is very Christian, but only one of these 8 songs has an overtly religious message so he’s not beating anyone over the head with his beliefs.  My feelings on that subject are immaterial… when I threw Offerings into the CD player I was amazed and entertained by the level of musicianship on display.   This disc is so good, so well played, that it’s ridiculous- look for it on shelves and at digital retailers July 15th.

ESSENTIALS:  Just Jammin’, Jolene, Mules For Biles (Blues For Miles)

ROYAL MINT The Cash Box KingsROYAL MINT The Cash Box Kings (Ailligator) ****This is the 9th album overall and first Alligator Records release for these former Blind Pig artists.  If you’ve never heard a Cash Box Kings album before, you’re in for a treat- these guys know how to jump and swing, and how to really get down too- they put some real ‘party’ in the grooves!Harp player Joe Nosek founded The Cash Box Kings in Madison, Wisconsin in 2001 and, since 2007, has co-led the band with charismatic Chicago vocalist Oscar Wilson, whose inner city sensibilities lend the songs on Royal Mint some real grit.  “The Cash Box Kings is a throwback to the golden age of blues with some kickin’ fresh young blood” says Wilson. “Joe is my best friend in the music world- the band is marriage made in heaven for both of us.”  “Oscar is godfather to my oldest son” notes Nosek. “We have each other’s backs- we’re family.”Royal Mint is 13 awesome tracks, 6 originals along with covers of stuff by the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Clifton Chenier, Amos Milburn and Jimmy Reed- a feast of true blues for aficionados of the genre.  Their label prides themselves on being “the home of genuine houserockin’ musc”, and that’s exactly what Royal Mint delivers… it’s a potent mix of raw delta blues, proto-rock ‘n’ roll and steamrolling bluesabilly.  The original material ranges from humorous stories of internet love (If You Got A Jealous Woman Facebook Ain’t Your Friend) to harrowing tales of Chicago’s violent gun epidemic that Oscar Wilson has seen first hand.House Party starts off the album and sets the tone, but the band really gets down into some lonesome, lowdown stuff too- like the original track I Come All The Way From Chi-Town, and everything in between.  No matter what your favourite thing is about the blues- tasty guitar work, harp playing that makes the hair on your arms stand up, or a singer that sounds like he’s really been there, Royal Mint represents everything you love about this kind of music.  “Good blues and a jumpin’ good time” is what harp legend Charlie Musselwhite calls these guys, and you’ll agree before you’re even through the first spin.  This disc is about as authentic as it gets.

ESSENTIALS: House Party, Traveling Riverside Blues, If You Got A jealous Woman Facebook Ain’t Your Friend

Star Rating
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The Rock Doctor is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion). Want a music review? email: \m/
music-reviews-june23-2017Music Reviews by The Rock Doctor - June 23rd, 2017The Rock Doctor is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion). Want a music review? email: m/ CALIFORNIA Riverdogs (Frontiers) *** ½ Apparently guitarist Vivian...


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