‘Stars Align’ Is Bold Tour Title, But Ann Wilson, Paul Rodgers And Jeff Beck Look Like They Can Live Up To It

One could be forgiven to a bit cynical about the concept: Take three artists who had their prime years in the ’70s, throw ’em together and boldly call it the Stars Align Tour. Admittedly, I couldn’t entirely escape this notion when I saw that Ann Wilson, Paul Rodgers and Jeff Beck announced their tour, which kicked off on July 18 in West Valley City, Utah. Then I read some reviews and watched some clips on YouTube – well, let’s just say I wasn’t turned off by what I saw and just got a ticket for August 12 at my go-to concert venue PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., and for very reasonable money I should add.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised in the first place. After all, the success or failure of the three-in-one concept crucially depends on the featured artists. At 74, Beck seems to continue to defy age, not only with his looks but much more importantly with his guitar-playing. Okay, you might say, compared to 82-year-old Buddy Guy, Beck’s still an adolescent. But let’s not kid ourselves, rock & roll is a brutal business. On top, I can’t imagine Beck lived a particularly healthy life style. Speaking of Guy and Beck, I saw these two guitar dynamos in a double-header in July 2016 at the above venue, and it was a terrific show, so my expectations for the upcoming gig are high – now you better bring it, Beck! 🙂

Paul Rodgers, Jeff Beck & Ann Wilson

As for Rodgers, I had actually hoped he and Bad Company would be part of the June 22 Lynyrd Skynyrd farewell show I caught at – yes, you guessed it correctly – PNC. Given how many freaking shows I’ve seen there, perhaps I should apply for an honorary membership! 🙂 Leading up to the Skynyrd gig, I had read somewhere that Bad Company would be among the special guests that night. So I was full of anticipation and quite disappointed when it turned out they weren’t part of the lineup. I suppose that was another good reason to get a ticket for the Stars Align Tour. Looking at setlists from recent gigs, Rodgers is playing a nice mix of Bad Company and Free stuff. And his rock pipes still seem to be working nicely!

And then there’s Wilson. While I don’t want to pretend I’m a Heart expert, based on their music I know, I’m well aware of Wilson’s vocal capabilities. Barracuda is a nice showcase of what she can do. As an aide, Ann’s older sister Nancy Wilson is a kick-ass guitarist, but she’s not part of the tour. Interestingly, as reported by Ultimate Classic Rock and other media outlets, Ann’s set only includes one Heart tune, the aforementioned Barracuda. The remainder are all covers, and there’s some great stuff there, such as The Who’s The Real Me, The Black Crows’ She Talks To Angels and the Eagles’ Life In The Fast Lane.

Okay, time for a few clips. Here’s Wilson’s rendition of Life In The Fast Lane. She took some creative liberties with the tune, which was co-written by Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey and Don Henley and appeared on the Eagles’ Hotel California album from December 1976. It’s quite different from the original, but I think it’s a cool take.

As noted above, Rodgers’ set nicely draws from Bad Company and Free. Here’s the latter band’s signature tune All Right Now. Penned by Rodgers with Free bassist Andy Fraser, the song is from their third studio album Fire And Water, released in June 1970. It also appeared separately as a single. It’s one of these timeless straight rockers with a cool guitar riff that still sound great to this day!

Last but not least, here’s a cool black & white clip of Beck performing one of the few originals from his set, Brush With The Blues, which he co-wrote with Tony Hymas. The tune appeared on his seventh studio album Who Else! from March 1999.

Wilson, Rodgers and Beck are playing Boston tonight. Next they are taking the Stars Align Tour to Camden, N.J. (Aug 4), Cincinnati (Aug 8) and Indianapolis (Aug 10). The tour will wrap up in Tampa, Fla. on Aug 26.

Sources: Wikipedia, “Stars Align Tour” announcement; Ultimate Classic Rock; YouTube

Clips & Pix: Bad Company/Bad Company

Earlier this week, I got an email from Live Nation Concerts. Thinking it was just advertising about upcoming shows, I was about to delete it, when I decided to take a peek. The listings included a June 22 Lynyrd Skynyrd show at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., which is part of their farewell tour and for which I got a ticket a couple of months ago. It also revealed that Bad Company is slated to be among the special guests for that date. Like Skynyrd, I dig and haven’t seen the English rockers yet, so that’s pretty exciting!

The above clip is from Live At Red Rocks, a 2016 CD/DVD capturing a May 2016 show at the breathtaking Red Rocks Amphitheatre close to Denver, one of the dates during the band’s U.S. tour that year. Co-written by lead vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke, Bad Company is the title track of the band’s eponymous debut album, which was released in June 1974. It also appeared separately as the record’s third single the same year.

In addition to Rodgers and Kirke, Bad Company’s current line-up includes Howard Leese (guitar) and Todd Ronning (bass). While co-founding member and guitarist and keyboarder Mick Ralphs is also still listed as a member on the band’s Facebook page, he suffered a stroke in 2016 and hasn’t performed since.

Sources: Wikipedia, Bad Company Facebook Page, YouTube

Bad Company Live At Red Rocks

English rock supergroup’s 2016 live album becomes more broadly available

Paul Rodgers is one of my favorite male rock vocalists. So I was intrigued when a live album from Bad Company popped up under “New Releases” in my Apple Music last week. It turns out that while Live At Red Rocks appeared on iTunes and I assume other online/streaming platforms on January 12, it first went on sale exclusively at Wal-Mart last September.

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the CD/DVD set captures a May 15 show during the band’s 2016 U.S. tour with Joe Walsh at the breathtaking Red Rocks Amphitheatre close to Denver. A concert review in the Denver Post noted that Walsh opened the night backed by a 10-piece band, telling the audience, “We’ll get you sweaty and Bad Company will finish you off.” This must have been one hell of a show!

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, Col.

Rochester, N.Y. classic rock radio station WCMF 96.5 FM noted that while co-founder and ex-Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs is credited on the recording, he was no longer part of the band’s lineup due to health issues. Rich Robinson of The Black Crows stood in for him. Also on guitar was touring musician Howard Leese, formerly with Heart, who has played with the Paul Rodgers Band and Bad Company since 2008. According to Wikipedia, the band’s current lineup also includes Simon Kirke (drums), another co-founding member who played with Rodgers in Free; and Todd Ronning (bass).

Time to get to some music. Feel Like Makin’ Love is one of Bad Company’s best known songs. Co-written by Rodgers and Ralphs, the tune is included on the band’s second studio album Straight Shooter, which appeared in April 1975. It was also released separately as a single in August that year. Here’s a fairly decent video clip.

Burnin’ Sky is the title track from the band’s fourth studio record from March 1977. It was written by Rodgers and also came out separately as the album’s second single.

Seagull is one of the acoustic tracks of the set. Another Rodgers/Ralphs co-write, it is the closer to Bad Company’s eponymous studio album, which appeared in June 1974. During this live performance, Kirke joined Rodgers, Leese and Robinson on acoustic guitar and threw in a nice solo. Here’s a great video clip.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy, another Bad Company classic, is from Desolation Angels, the band’s fifth studio album released in March 1979. The tune, which was written by Rodgers, also was the record’s lead single.

The last track I’d like to highlight is Bad Company, the title track of the band’s eponymous debut record. Co-written by Rodgers and Kirke, the song also became the album’s third single. Here’s a great video clip.

Rodgers’ website currently lists four dates for 2018. One solo show is coming up this Saturday, January 20 in Bensalem, Pa. The remaining dates are Bad Company gigs: two in Florida in mid-February, and one in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic at the end of April. The last show sounds like an attractive proposition to me, especially with an outside temperature of 19F as I’m writing this!

Sources: Ultimate Classic Rock, Denver Post, WCMF 96.5 FM, Paul Rodgers website, Wikipedia, YouTube

What I’ve Been Listening To: The Art of McCartney

Tribute album illustrates McCartney’s incredible song catalog and admiration from artists like Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Smokey Robinson

This is another album I somehow missed when it was released in November 2014, even though it features music from Paul McCartney, one of my all-time favorite artists. Ironically, I came across this cover compilation earlier today when I looked for Bob Dylan in Apple Music and saw his single of Things We Said Today. In my humble opinion, Dylan’s voice has changed quite a bit and not for the better, and his version of the 1964 Beatles tunes from the A Hard Day’s Night album sounds pretty awful. But there are many other covers on this record I like.

The 34-track set opens with Maybe I’m Amazed, performed by Billy Joel, who I think together with Elton John is the greatest contemporary pop rock pianist. McCartney first released the tune on his 1970 solo debut McCartney and dedicated it to Linda McCartney, his first wife and I believe the great love of his life.

Heart did a nice version of Band On the Run, one of my favorite McCartney songs. Ann Wilson’s vocals are great fit, and Nancy Wilson, one of most underrated guitarists, does a terrific job. Band On the Run is the title song of the 1973 studio album McCartney recorded with Wings.  It was also released as a single in 1974, hitting no. 1 in the U.S. and no. 3 in the U.K.

Let me preface this next tune by admitting that I’ve never gotten much into the music of Kiss. But I have to say their version of Venus/Rock Show is pretty cool. The medley first appeared on Venus And Mars, the fourth studio album by Wings from May 1975.

Another great cover is Let Me Roll It performed by Paul Rodgers, one of the greatest voices in rock. Rodgers stays pretty close to the original, which was also first included on the Band On the Run album.

Who better to sing Helter Skelter than Roger Daltrey? Holy shit, I just love the man! The furious rocker initially appeared on The Beatles’ White Album from 1968.

Chrissie Hynde, another artist I admire, recorded Let It Be, doing a great job with this timeless, beautiful ballad. The track, of course, is the title song of The Beatles’ final studio album released in 1970.

When Motown legend the great Smokey Robinson covers your music, it probably doesn’t get much better and speaks for itself. It doesn’t even matter that the tune Robinson chose, So Bad, perhaps is not among the best songs McCartney has written – when Smokey sings, magic happens. So Bad first appeared on McCartney’s fourth studio album Pipes of Peace, released in October 1983.

The last track I’d like to highlight is Eleanor Rigby performed by Alice Cooper. Yep, you read that correctly – Mr. Shock Rock singing the tune from Revolver, The Beatles seventh studio album that appeared in 1966. And he did a nice job with it!

According to a Rolling Stone story, the initial idea for The Art of McCartney came from producer Ralph Sall. At the time, Sall, who has also produced for other artists like The Ramones, Cheap Trick and Aerosmith, was working with McCartney on polishing up A Love For You for the soundtrack of In-Laws, an American sitcom that aired from September 2002 until January 2003. A Love For You originally appeared on Ram, McCartney’s second post-Beatles album from May 1971.

There are many other remarkable artists on this tribute record, such as Steve Miller, Brian Wilson and B.B. King, who I didn’t include in the above selection, in part because other than snippets, I couldn’t find clips on YouTube. I’d like to finish this post with a trailer about the making of the album.

Sources: Wikipedia, Rolling Stone, YouTube