Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another new music revue. All featured tracks are on albums that were released yesterday. Let’s get to it!

Scorpions/Knock ’em Dead

I trust pop metal stalwarts Scorpions need no introduction. The band was formed in 1965 in Hanover, Germany by guitarist Rudolf Schenker who remains as the original member. The current line-up also includes Klaus Meine (lead vocals, guitar), Matthias Jabs (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Paweł Mąciwoda (bass, backing vocals) and Mikkey Dee (2016), who have been members since 1969, 1978, 2003 and 2016, respectively. In 2010, the group’s 17th studio album Sting in the Tail appeared, which initially was called their farewell album and followed by their “final tour.” They subsequently changed their mind and have since released two additional records including their latest, Rock Believer. I featured the title track four weeks ago in this Best of What’s installment. Here’s Knock ’em Dead, a pretty typical Scorpions rocker co-written by Meine and Schenker. The band will support the album with a tour, starting in late March with a series of nine gigs in Las Vegas before continuing in Europe until early July. Other than the Vegas residency, oddly, there are currently no other scheduled U.S. dates.

Tears for Fears/Master Plan

This is starting to feel like a trip back to the ’80s. While Scorpions had been around for 16 years by the time British new wave band Tears for Fears were formed in 1981, the German rockers first entered my radar screen in 1984 with their immensely successful album Love at First Sting. At that time, Tears for Fears had released their debut The Hurting (March 1983) and scored their first hit Mad World. Their smash singles Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World would still be one year away. These days, Tears for Fears continue to be co-founders Roland Orzabal (guitars, keyboards, vocals) and Curt Smith (bass, keyboards, vocals). The other original members Manny Elias (drums, percussion) and Ian Stanley (keyboards, backing vocals) left long ago in 1986 and 1987, respectively, and were never replaced. Orzabal and Smith broke up in 1991 (though Orzabal kept the Tears for Fears name alive) and reunited in 2010. Fast-forward to the present and The Tipping Point, the duo’s first new album in nearly 18 years. Here’s Master Plan penned by Orzabal. Like most of the other tracks, it’s more on the mellow side. It may not be as instantly memorable as Everybody Wants to Rule the World or Sowing the Seeds of Love, but I still like it!

Dashboard Confessional/The Better of Me

Florida band Dashboard Confessional were initially started in 1999 as a solo acoustic side project by singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba who at the time was the lead vocalist of emo group Further Seems Forever. Following his departure from that band, Carrabba released his solo debut The Swiss Army Romance in March 2000 under the Dashboard Confessional name. By the time of sophomore album The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most came out, Dashboard Confessional had become a trio. Apart from Carrabba, the present line-up includes Scott Schoenbeck (bass, piano, keyboards), Armon Jay (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chris Kamrada (drums, percussion). The Better of Me is a tune from the group’s ninth and latest album All the Truth That I Can Tell. According to Apple Music, In mid-2020, Chris Carrabba got into a motorcycle accident that nearly paralyzed him—the veteran singer-songwriter was forced to relearn his instrument, unable to play guitar for more than five minutes a day before the pain hit. You would never assume this had happened to him when listening to this tune and others I sampled.

Johnny Marr/Night and Day

My last pick for this week is music by Johnny Marr from his new album Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4. The English guitarist and singer-songwriter, who first gained prominence in the ’80s as a co-founder of English indie rock band The Smiths, had previously released eight of the 16 tracks on two EPs. In December, I featured a tune from the second EP. Following the break-up of The Smiths, Marr played in various other bands, including Pretenders, The The, ElectronicModest Mouse and The Cribs. His solo debut The Messenger appeared in February 2013. Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4 is Marr’s fourth solo record. Here’s one of the newly released tunes, Night and Day. Like all other tracks on the album, it was co-written by him and James Doviak, co-producer and guitarist in Marr’s band. Kind of catchy!

Last but not least, here’s a playlist of the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Scorpions website; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Sometimes it’s funny how things go. Even though my employer observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, as such, I was officially off on Monday, this week still felt very long. Finally, Saturday and another installment of my weekly new music feature are here. This time, my picks include three artists/bands who are entirely new to me and two I’m familiar with, especially one I’ve known since the ’80s. Except for the last tune, all tracks appeared on albums that were released yesterday (January 21).

Miles Kane/Change the Show

My first pick is Miles Kane, who is known as a solo artist and as a member of English supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets. He also used to be the lead vocalist of English rock band The Rascals, who were active from 2007 until 2009 when Kane decided to launch a solo career. His Apple Music profile describes him as an artist with a “resonant croon and charismatic stage swagger” who is “known for his vintage ’60s- and ’70s-inspired rock sound.” Here’s more from Apple Music: Born in 1986 in Merseyside, Kane was an 18-year-old guitarist when he formed his first band Little Flames with childhood friends vocalist Eva Petersen, guitarist Mat Gregory, bassist Joe Edwards, and drummer Greg Mighall. However, after Petersen and Gregory left the band due to creative differences, Kane and the remaining members formed the Rascals with Kane taking on vocal duties...In 2011, he delivered his full-length solo debut, Colour of the Trap. This brings me to Change the Show, the title track of Kane’s new and fourth solo album. The tune was co-written by him and Jamie Biles – catchy pop/rock with a retro flavor.

Texas Hill/Heaven Down Here

Texas Hill are an alternative country trio founded in 2020. According to their website, Craig Wayne Boyd offers a voice full of gospel-tinged country smoke, Adam Wakefield blends a rootsy bluegrass-and-Americana rasp, and Casey James wraps it with a blue-eyed soul quality and deft blues guitar chops. [Casey James did ring a bell, and it turned out in June 2017, I covered his sophomore solo album Strip It Down.]…The Voice and American Idol worked in creating a fan base for all three...That connection helped forge Texas Hill. James and Boyd, who grew up 60 miles apart on the outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, ran into one another at a 2019 event in Nashville and dove into conversation…Roughly a month later, Boyd brought Wakefield into the musical conversation, and when the three of them met up, Boyd introduced a song he’d just written. In September 2020, Texas Hill released their eponymous debut EP. Heaven Down There, credited to all three members, is the title track of their first full-length album. Great country rock with beautiful harmony singing – the kind of music that makes me happy!

Keb’ Mo’/Good Strong Woman

Keb’ Mo’ (born Kevin Roosevelt Moore) probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. While typically characterized as a blues artist, the Nashville-based guitarist and singer-songwriter also integrates elements of pop and Americana into his music. I grew fond of Moore when he teamed up with Taj Mahal for their great 2017 “uplifting blues” collaboration album TajMo, which I reviewed here. I also saw the two later that same year during the tour that supported TajMo. Good Strong Woman, which features former Hootie & the Blowfish lead vocalist Darius Rucker, is a track from Keb’ Mo’s new album Good To Be…The soulful, country-flavored tune was co-written by Moore and Jason Gantt. This sounds really sweet! Here’s the official video.

Penny & Sparrow/Voodoo

Penny & Sparrow are an indie folk duo of Texas singer-songwriters Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke. According to their Apple Music profile, they rose out of Austin, Texas, in the early part of the 2010s, combining rich harmonies and a modern sensibility inspired by acts like Bon Iver, the Swell Season, and Mumford & Sons. After honing their sound with a few indie releases, they signed with Southern indie Single Lock Records and issued a trio of well-received albums including 2016’s Let a Lover Drown You and 2019’s Finch. Voodoo is a tune off Penny & Sparrow’s new album Olly Olly. Like all except one of the other 11 tracks on the record, it was co-written by Baxter and Jahnke. Sounds pretty!

Scorpions/Rock Believer

This brings me to my final pick, which comes from Scorpions. When I last featured the German rock/pop metal stalwarts in a Best of What’s New installment in May 2020, I referenced a statement by the group that noted they “are working on lot’s of Hard‘n Heavy Rockers for our new album these days.” That album, Rock Believer, is now in the can and scheduled for February 25. Here’s the title track, which was released on January 14 as the second upfront single of what will be the band’s 19th studio album. Scorpions were formed in 1965 in Hannover, Germany by guitarist Rudolf Schenker, who remains with the group to this day. The present line-up also features Klaus Meine (lead vocals, guitar; since 1969), Matthias Jabs (lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals; since 1978), Paweł Mąciwoda (bass, backing vocals; since 2003) and Mikkey Dee (drums; since 2016). Scorpions first entered my radar screen with their immensely successful 1984 album Love at First Sting. In general, I dig their melodic pop metal, though whether I want to listen to it also depends on my mood, which I think applies to most other music as well.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify list featuring the above tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Texas Hill website; Scorpions website; YouTube; Spotify

Clips & Pix: Scorpions/Bad Boys Running Wild

I can’t listen to their music all the time, but I’ve always had a thing for Scorpions. When it comes to ’80s pop metal, these guys from Hannover, Germany rule!

Bad Boys Running Wild is from their hugely successful album Love at First Sting that came out in March 1984. The lyrics were co-written by frontman Klaus Meine, who is a hell of a vocalist, and drummer and backing vocalist Herman Rarebell. The music was composed by Rudolf Schenker, the band’s rhythm guitarist who also provides backing vocals.

Love at First Sting is better known for the tunes Rock You Like a Hurricane, Still Loving You and Big City Nights, which all received plenty of radio play in Germany. These songs brought Scorpions on my radar screen and made me get the record on vinyl at the time – and wear it out!

Yes, these boys could be pretty aggressive (and soft!), which why their music doesn’t work for me every day. But when I’m in the mood for kickass metal that’s not just loud but also melodic, Scorpions are always a great choice.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

Clips & Pix: Scorpions/Raised on Rock

Since I included Scorpions in my most recent installment of Best of What’s New, the rock band from Hanover, Germany has been on my mind. While I’m mostly drawn to their albums released between 1979 (Lovedrive) and 1984 (Love at First Sting), Raised on Rock is a late career stage tune I dig. Perhaps that’s because it reminds me of Rock You Like a Hurricane, one of their best-known songs from the Love at First Sting album.

Co-written by producers Martin Hansen and Mikael Nord Andersson, together with the band’s lead vocalist Klaus Meine, Raised on Rock is from Scorpions’ 17th studio album Sting in the Tail. To date it’s their second to most recent album, which came out in March 2010.

At the time of release, it was supposed to be the band’s farewell album. It appeared right before their announced farewell tour. But then Scorpions changed their mind and decided against retirement. Or was it just a marketing gimmick? After all, at the time, the oldest members of the band were in their early ’60s.

I recall reading somewhere that rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker said during an interview when you do the equivalent of going at 200 kilometers an hour, it’s very hard to stop abruptly. While touring certainly must get tougher as you get older, I guess this sounds plausible to me. Fast forward 10 years to 2020. It doesn’t look like retirement is imminent. Scorpions are working on a new album.

During an interview in April with a French fan club, Meine said originally, they had planned to go together into the studio in late March. Because of COVID-19, everybody is now working separately on songs and parts in their home studies. Apparently, they have many songs. The album will be produced by Greg Fidelman, who among others has worked with Metallica and Black Sabbath. Because of the current situation, timing is uncertain.

Sources: Wikipedia; Scorpions website; YouTube

Christian’s Fourth of July Rock Playlist

While I never need a reason to listen to great music, I certainly don’t mind the idea to combine it with a special occasion. Today happens to be the Fourth of July, which undoubtedly means many folks will be hanging out with family and friends, eat burgers and other barbecued foods, and watch some fireworks. Perhaps with the exception of the latter, all of these activities are much more fun with music, in my humble and completely unbiased opinion.

Before we get to the enclosed playlist, I wanted to express my hope that all people celebrating Independence Day remember this country was built by immigrants, based on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not hate, division and walls. And that’s all I have to say about that, to borrow a line from one of my all-time favorite motion pictures. Time to get to some music!

How to organize a playlist of random rock tunes I found in my music library? Well, how about alphabetically and kicking if off with some Abba? Just kidding! Here’s AC/DC with It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll. Co-written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott, the track first appeared as a single in December 1975 and also became the opener to High Voltage, the Aussie rockers’ first internationally released album in April 1976. I suppose many people never looked at bagpipes the same way again. While the visual is a bit blurred, I just couldn’t resist to post the video version of the tune. Fasten your seat belts and let’s go!

What comes after “a”? Well, d’uh, “b”! Though don’t worry, I won’t go through the entire alphabet. But I didn’t want to skip Blue Öyster CultCities On Flame With Rock With Rock And Roll is from their eponymous debut album released in January 1972. I’ve always dug that song, which is credited to Albert Bouchard, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Sandy Pearlman. It also became the band’s first single.

I’m skipping “c” and jump ahead to “d”. It didn’t take long to figure which band to feature: Deep Purple.  I just love these guys and still believe they’re the ultimate hard rock band. And while Highway Star or Smoke On The Water may have been more obvious choices, I felt like going with Speed King, the opener to their fourth studio album Deep Purple In Rock from June 1970. Like all tracks on the record, the tune was credited to all members of the band at the time: Ritchie BlackmoreIan GillanRoger GloverJon Lord and Ian Paice – their best line-up, in my opinion.

Before Gary Moore started to focus on the blues, the Northern Irish guitarist was more of a straight rocker and in this case a hard rocker. Victims Of The Future is the title track of his fourth studio album that came out in December 1983. It was co-written by Moore, Neil Carter, Ian Paice and Neil Murray – and, yep, that’s Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, which I didn’t know either until I read up on the tune. Once it kicks into high gear at around the one-minute mark, the track literally feels like fireworks going off!

Okay, I thought a rock playlist has to have some Jimi Hendrix. Given the occasion, Star Spangled Banner it is. And since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, here’s Jimi’s legendary rendition from the festival.

Next up is a choice you may find a bit surprising: Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas. In my book, this tune off their fourth studio album Leftoverture from October 1976 features one of the coolest rock guitar riffs I know. Written by Kerry Livgren, the track also became the record’s lead single in November that year.

We’re up to “l” and that means Led Zeppelin. With so many great tunes from this band, the choice was tough. Whole Lotta Love is one hell of a song that includes one of the best Jimmy Page riffs, in my opinion. In addition to all members of the band, the opener to Led Zeppelin II is co-credited to Willie Dixon, since Zep “adapted” parts of Dixon’s 1962 tune You Need Love. Unfortunately, they didn’t give any love to Dixon when the album came out in October 1969. It took a lawsuit and settlement in 1985 to make this happen – not the only example where Zep obviously stole material from other artists. Maybe I’m a bit naive here, but I never got why they engaged in this kind of BS! Proper attribution wouldn’t have diminished them as one of rock’s greatest bands.

Rainbow, the band founded by Ritchie Blackmore in 1975, may not match Deep Purple, but they released some great music, especially during the initial phase with powerhouse lead vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Following is their best known tune, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, the title track to the band’s third studio album from April 1978. Dio wrote all lyrics on the record, his last with Rainbow. Most of the music including for this song was penned by him and Blackmore.

As somebody who grew up in Germany, I felt I had to acknowledge what’s probably the most successful German rock band internationally: Scorpions. While I acknowledge their music has varied quite a bit over the decades, these guys have released some kickass rock. Here’s Loving You Sunday Morning, the opener to Lovedrive. According to Wikipedia, the band’s sixth studio album from January 1979 “cemented the “Scorpions formula” of hard rock songs combined with melodic ballads.” Lead vocalist Klaus Meine and drummer Herman Rarebell co-wrote the tune’s lyrics, while guitarist Rudolf Schenker came up with the music. Scorpions continue to rock to this day, more than 40 years on, with Meine and Schenker still being part of their line-up – amazing!

We’re up to the tenth and last tune. Let’s finish it with some early Van Halen, when they were still great: Runnin’ With The Devil, off their eponymous studio debut in February 1978. Like most of the record’s tracks, the song is credited to all members of the band at the time:  Eddie Van HalenAlex Van HalenDavid Lee Roth and Michael Anthony.

And that’s a wrap. Hope everybody who is celebrating it has a great Fourth of July. And please be safe and don’t do anything silly, such as drinking and driving!

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube