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’sinstallment. 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, Electronic, Modest 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
My recent “desert island” collection of 10 studio albums included Deep Purple’sMachine Head, which after more than 40 years of listening remains the ultimate hard rock album to me. In that post, I also noted that these days heavy rock no longer is my primary music choice. But occasionally, I still enjoy it, which triggered the idea to put together this playlist. I guess just like with many other things, when it comes to music, it’s all about moderation, except of course for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Neil Young, live concerts, music equipment… 🙂
As more frequent visitors of the blog know, I find doing rankings nearly impossible. But since I suppose there needs to be some system to the madness, the following list is in chronological order from oldest to most recent. And, yes, I suppose in some cases you could question whether a pick is really hard, heavy or metal rock, or is it just rock? The boundaries can be pretty fluid. Plus, to some extent, it’s also a bit subjective. At the end of the day, it’s all about music I dig when the occasion is right. With all these caveats out of the way, let’s get to it.
Steppenwolf – Born to be Wild
This classic from Steppenwolf’s eponymous debut album from January 1968 sometimes has been called the first heavy metal song – in part because of the second line of the second verse, “heavy metal thunder.”Born to be Wild was written by Canadian rock musician and songwriter Dennis Edmonton, aka Mars Bonfire. The tune also appeared separately as a single in June 1968 and became Steppenwolf’s biggest hit next to Magic Carpet Ride. It will forever be associated with the 1969 biker cult picture Easy Rider. Every time I hear that opening line Get your motor runnin’, I feel like climbing on my chopper and heading down Route 18 to the Jersey shore. Then reality sets in. I don’t own a bike, not to mention the minor detail I don’t really know how to ride one. But when I get the urge to look for adventure, there’s always my sexy family crossover SUV! 🙂
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
While Led Zeppelin IV is my favorite Zep album, Whole Lotta Love possibly is my favorite tune among their crunchy rockers. Credited to all four members, the track first appeared on Led Zeppelin’s sophomore album that came out in October 1969, ingeniously titled Led Zeppelin II. The following month, Whole Lotta Love was also released as a single and became their best chart-performing song, reaching no. 1 in Australia and Germany, and peaking at no. 4 in the U.S. Notably, it didn’t chart in their home country. From today’s perspective, the fact that Whole Lotta Love became such a big hit looks unreal. You need cooling/Baby I’m not fooling/I’m gonna send ya/Back to schooling//A-way down inside/A-honey you need it/I’m gonna give you my love/I’m gonna give you my love//Want to whole lotta love/Want to whole lotta love/Want to whole lotta love/Want to whole lotta love…
Deep Purple – Speed King
Obviously, it was only a matter of time until I would feature a Deep Purple tune in this post. But while Machine Head was their Mount Rushmore, there’s more to the British hard rockers than this 1972 gem. One great example is the opener to the band’s fourth studio album Deep Purple in Rock released in June 1970: Speed King. Credited to the entire band, the song’s lyrics are made up of titles of classic rock & roll tunes by Chuck Berry and Little Richard, which I always thought was a cool idea. Good golly, said little Miss Molly/When she was rockin’ in the house of blue light/Tutti Frutti was oh so rooty/Rockin’ to the east and west/Lucille was oh so real/When she didn’t do her daddies will/Come on baby, drive me crazy, do it, do it.. This is one kick-ass rocker!
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
While I can’t claim to be a Black Sabbath fan, there’s just no way you can leave out these English rockers from any heavy rock collection. It would be like doing a post about the British Invasion and excluding The Beatles. And, to be clear, I’m not just featuring Sabbath because I felt I had to. I’ve always loved Paranoid, the title track of their second studio album that came out in September 1970. Credited to the entire band, Paranoid first appeared as a single in August of the same year. It became their biggest hit, topping the charts in Germany, and reaching no. 2, 3 and 4 in Switzerland, Austria and the UK, respectively. Apparently, audiences were less receptive in America, where the tune stalled at no. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here’s a cool official clip, even though it’s all playback. Check out Tony Iommi’s cool Gibson SG. One day when I grow up I’m gonna get an ax like this – it even plays rhythm and solo at the same time! 🙂
Uriah Heep – Bird of Prey
Yep, Uriah Heep with their crazy high vocals can border a bit on the weird, but these guys were rockin’, especially in their early days. I seem to remember when I bought the album Salisbury as a young teenager, my six-year older sister who accompanied me to the record store was a bit embarrassed about my choice. Come on, sis’, while with Carole King’sTapestry, CSNY’sDéjà Vu and Pink Floyd’sWish You Were Here, to name a few, you undoubtedly introduced me to some of the best-recorded music ever, your taste also varied – let’s just leave it at that! 🙂 Credited to the band members Ken Hensley, Mick Box, Paul Newton and Keith Baker, Bird of Prey is the furious opener of Heep’s sophomore album from February 1971. That tune rumbles just like the tank on the album cover – “geil,” as was fashionable to say in Germany back in the day!
Rainbow – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
I don’t care how you feel about Rainbow, and my thoughts about them are mixed these days, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll just is an epic rocker. Co-written by former Deep Purple guitarist and Rainbow founder Ritchie Blackmore and the band’s powerhouse lead vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll was the title track of Rainbow’s third studio album released in April 1978. It also became the record’s lead single in March of the same year. To me, this is Rainbow’s best song. Apparently, audiences felt differently, at least the time, and far preferred some of their later songs, on which Blackmore adopted a more commercial sound along the lines of Foreigner.
Gary Moore – Victims of the Future
Before Gary Moore fully embraced electric blues during his solo career, the Irish guitarist released heavy rock album Victims of the Future in December 1983. The big hit off that record was the power ballad Empty Rooms, which was played to death on the radio in Germany. I don’t even recall hearing the title track, which was co-written by Moore, Neil Carter (keyboards), Neil Murray (bass) and Ian Paice (drums) – and, yep, that’s the Ian Paice from Deep Purple. The song wasn’t released as a single; clocking in at more than six minutes, it wouldn’t have been radio-friendly to begin with. Admittedly, this is a pretty aggressive tune I can only tolerate occasionally, but when I’m in the mood for some heavy action, I still enjoy it. According to Wikipedia, Moore later dismissed the record as “just one of my feeble attempts at heavy rock”. It’s certainly quite different from his electric blues music he released starting in the early ’90s all the way until his premature death at age 58 in February 2011.
Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child o’ Mine
My sentiments about Guns N’ Roses, in general, are similar to the previous pick. Sometimes, their music is simply too aggressive, so again, I need to be in the right mood. When I am, I actually enjoy a good number of their tunes. On these occasions, Sweet Child o’ Mine is one of my favorites. It’s a track off their debut album Appetite for Destruction from July 1987. Credited to the entire band, the tune also became the album’s third single in August of the same year. It was one of the songs that fueled the record’s massive international chart success, turning it into Guns N’ Roses’ biggest album. The guitar work on this song is just killer!
Scorpions – Raised on Rock
I suppose writing a post about heavy rock without acknowledging German veterans Scorpions would border on treason. The band from the city of Hannover first entered my radar screen with Love at First Sting, their hugely successful ninth studio album they released in March 1984, 12 years into their recording career. I seem to recall reading somewhere there were times before then when Scorpions were more famous elsewhere than in their home country. With hits, such as Rock You Like a Hurricane, Big City Nights and Still Loving You, Love at First Sting definitely changed that. Scorpions continue to rock and roll to this day. In April, they released a new tune, Sign of Hope, a classic Scorpions-style ballad, inspired by COVID-19. According to a statement on their website, they have been working on songs for a new album. The tune I decided to feature here appeared 26 years after Love at First Sting. Raised on Rock is the opener to the band’s 17th studio album Sting in the Tail from March 2010, which together with the supporting tour was positioned as their farewell. Then, they decided they simply couldn’t stop.
AC/DC – Play Ball
Let’s wrap up things with a great late-career rocker by AC/DC. Play Ball is from their 16th studio album Rock or Bust, which is the band’s most recent to date from November 2014. There have been reports about a new album for some time, largely fueled by Twisted Sister’sDee Snider, who apparently is close to AC/DC. According to this NMEstory from late July, the album is already in the can, but it’s release has been delayed due to COVID-19. It sounds like thanks to some technology wizardry, it will feature the classic lineup including Malcolm Young and be the band’s final album. For now, let’s focus on actually released AC/DC music. Co-written by Malcolm Young prior to his forced retirement due to dementia and his younger brother Angus Young, Play Ball was the lead single from Rock or Bust, which appeared in October 2014, preceding the album by one month – a classic AC/DC rocker!
Jeez, after listening to ten heavy rock tunes, my ears are exhausted. Yesterday, the long-awaited reissue of The Rolling Stones’Goat Heads Soup came out. I think I’m just about ready for Angie. A-Angie, A-Angie/When will this hard rock disappear/Angie, Angie/where will it lead from here…
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.