Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Classic Metal Workout Playlist

For the last four months, I have been doing something different with my life.  Something that consumes quite a bit of time and energy.  It's working out regularly - mostly doing cardio and weight circuit training (I've written a bit about that on my main blog, Orexis Dianoētikē).  When my workload gets especially crazy, or if I get seriously sick, I might only get in 1 or 2 workouts in a week.  But most weeks I'm at the gym 5, and sometimes 6 days a week.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you've likely seen me post occasionally about the music I listen to when I exercise - all classic metal.  Occasionally, I'll listen to just one band or even one album.  But usually, what I'm listening to is my classic metal workout playlist, set to play randomly.  

Two days ago, I posted a screen shot of a bit of that playlist from my phone.  One of my fans said that he'd really like to see what else is in that playlist.  It's really a work in progress at this point, but I'm happy to share the song listing as I've set it up so far.  So, with no further ado, that's what I'm doing below - arranged by band.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Judas Priest, Saxon, and Black Star Riders at the Riverside

Earlier this week, my wife and I went to a metal show we had been anticipating for a long time.  Judas Priest was the headliner, with Saxon and Black Star Riders as the opening bands.

The Riverside here in downtown Milwaukee seems like a somewhat unlikely venue for a metal show at first.  It's self-described as "opulent," not inaccurately, given the furnishings and decor. It was somewhat comical to see it filled up with metalheads dressed the part, guided to their seats by ushers who seemed a bit confused by their guests.

I took a few shots with my phone.  Black Star Riders came on first.  They're basically the latest incarnation of Thin Lizzy - a band with no original members left (a topic I've previously written about) - but under the Black Star Riders name, they create and perform new music as well.

Saxon followed them, and put on what I can - with no hyperbole or qualifications - say was an amazing performance!  There's a lot to be said about Saxon as one of the major early NWOBHM bands - and I'll do that in much greater detail in a post next week - so I'll just write this for now.

I never really understood how early Saxon - on their first, self-named album, and then on Wheels of Steel, and on Strong Arm of the Law - rocketed to the top of the bills for so many metalheads.  Their stuff is not bad, but - with a few exceptions - not really great either, particularly when you compare it to the other British bands they were often classed with at the time - Motorhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard.  (They do get better on Denim and Leather and The Power and the Glory, I'd say, and through a good bit of Crusader)

Saxon's later work - especially the albums from the last decade - displays a marked development in musicianship.  Sloughing off certain of their weaker original members - in particular, bassist Steve Dawson in 1986 and guitarist Graham Oliver in 1994, who would go on to form their own version of the band - improved the band considerably.

Seeing them in concert helped me understand their popularity.  They put on a hell of a show now, and I imagine they did so back in their early days.  Biff Byford - at 67, an age when many singers have long since lost their volume and high end - belts the songs out with a voice that could be from 30 years ago.  And the present line-up of musicians takes their classic songs and performs them as they could have been played - that is, better than they were originally composed.

The main attraction, of course, was Judas Priest, arguably one of the greatest and most influential classic metal bands (who else would I include at their rank? that's a topic for another post!).  We had seen them twice at previous shows in the last decade, and were excited to go to another Priest show literally just down the street from where we live.

My wife had asked me what songs I hoped they would play, and I mentioned a few that we hadn't heard them do in concert yet.  They played several of them, including "Saints in Hell" - as Rob Halford noted, this is the 40 year anniversary of Stained Class!

You know which song this one was from - right?  "The Green Manalishi"!

And it wouldn't really be a Priest show, without Halford riding out on a motorcycle, would it? (especially with Harley Davidson just down the road here in Milwaukee!)

For me, an amazing highlight of the show came not long after that.  It was one of those moments that impressed itself upon me so deeply that I'll be reminiscing with fellow metalheads the rest of my life.  I have been listening to the song "Painkiller" for decades now, and I've seen Priest play it in those two previous shows.  What Halford did with it this time around was simply amazing.

Halford is 66 years old, and he has maintained the superlative range, the strength, and the sustain of his voice down to the present.  His rendition of Painkiller this time around can only be compared with the performance of a world-class athlete who, decades past his youthful years, not only manages to match - but through sheer force of will and talent shatters - one of his early records.  It was as metal as one can get.  An inspiration.

As I write this, we're getting ready to head off to a repeat show tonight with Saxon and Black Star Riders at the local casino.  Now that I've seen how good the present-day Saxon actually is, I'm super-excited to hear a longer set - expect some writing about them next week, here in Heavy Metal Philosopher!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Farewell Tours - Can You Repeat Them?

Recently in an interview on Blabbermouth, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snyder weighed in on a topic that raises some interesting ethical dimensions.  Do bands that go on a farewell tour incur an obligation to make it exactly that - their last tour as a band?  Or is it legitimate for them to take as many of these tours as they like?  Maybe we should just let them have one do-over?

As classic metal acts from the 1970s and 1980s get older and older, this will become more and more of an issue.  But as Snyder points out, it already presents significant problems for fans.  When a band says that their current tour is the last they'll do, are they really committed to that or not?

Snyder frames it more as an aesthetic issue - it's a matter of an "insult to the fan" - and the bands that go back on their word that this tour really, really is their last. . .  what they're doing is "not cool".  But it strikes me that, when you get down to it, it is also an ethical issue. There's something morally wrong about labeling a tour as a "farewell" tour, when in fact it is not the last tour for that group.  So, what is wrong about it?  Several things. Let's take a look.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

RATT At The Concord In Chicago

Earlier this month, my wife (Andi) and I restarted our quest to see as many classic metal bands as possible while they are still rocking it out!  We went to see the reconstituted RATT - here's an earlier piece on Pearcy, DeMartini, and Croucier getting back together and restoring a genuine version of the band - at the Concord Music Hall in Chicago.  It was, quite simply, an amazing show, for reasons I'll shortly discuss.

In the last six years, Andi and I we have been fortunate to see Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest (twice), Megadeth, Raven, Alice Cooper, Accept, UDO, Thin Lizzy, KISS (twice), and Motley Crue - I'm so glad we saw some of them while it was still possible!  Although both of us have loved RATT since our teen years in the early 80s, neither of us had previously made it to one of their concerts.

When we saw their concert schedule rolling out after they reformed, we hoped that they might be a surprise guest at  Summerfest here in Milwaukee - there is a block of days open in late June and early July on their tour calendar - but didn't see that panning out (Summerfest this year is astonishingly weak on metal bands - but that's another conversation!)  So when Andi saw that there were still tickets available the day of the Chicago show, we decided to clear our schedule, buy them, and drive down!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Interview With Guitarist Scott Tarulli

It is hard to believe that it has been more than a month since Scott Tarulli and I finally crossed paths and got to hang out and talk shop in Manchester, New Hampshire!

I had mentioned earlier that week that I'd shortly be just a short drive from his home base in Boston - presenting at the 6th St. Anselm Conference - and he drove up that Saturday with beers and snacks, ready for some intensive discussion about the music business, education, rhetoric, philosophy. . .  and of course all sorts of matters of the metal scene!

I actually recorded 1 1/2 hours of our conversation - here's the video of it - in the hotel room where I was staying.  I call it an interview, and I suppose it started out more with Scott interviewing me.  But it quickly turned into an open-ended, sometimes at-tangents, super-enjoyable conversation - and I even got a bit of "interviewing" in on my side, putting Scott on the spot.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Ship Of Theseus and Bands With No Original Members

A number of the responses to my last post here - RATT - immediately referenced the "Ship of Theseus".  That's not surprising, since what I was writing about focused on the identity of a band in terms of its membership, and the "Ship of Theseus" is a classic puzzle about a whole and its constituent parts.  But as I pointed out to those commenters, that puzzle really has to do with a different kind of case.

It's not as if there aren't some bands, though, to which the "Ship of Theseus" issue would apply.  I thought it might be useful for others - and interesting for me - to write a follow-up piece specifically discussing how and why.  Simply put, the Ship of Theseus bears upon cases where none of the constituent parts of a whole are original to it.  In terms of bands, this means we would be focused on bands that contain none of their original members.

The fundamental question then is whether they do remain the same band or not, despite all of the replacements of members.  It is always useful to consider examples, and in classic metal, we do have a number of illustrative cases we can examine - and discuss (in comments or social media).  I think it might also be helpful to consider some cases close to but not quite like the Ship of Theseus as well, where one original member of the band is left (but reserve that issue for a later post)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Reconstituted RATT And The Issue Of Who Is The Band

It's old news by now that two really key things are happening with RATT.  First, three of the original members - vocalist Stephen Pearcy, guitarist Warren DeMartini, and bassist Juan Croucier - are gearing up to tour (and here's hoping they play Summerfest here in MKE!).  Second, drummer Bobby Blotzer definitively lost his case to use the RATT name in court, and that name has now passed back to those other three original members.

Those two bits of news would be interesting enough on their own accounts - after all who doesn't like the idea of (as much as can be mustered of) classic RATT touring again, and who isn't happy to see the group name reverting back to more of the original members - but there's also a philosophical issue raised by all of this as well.

Who is the "real RATT" in this case?  Pearcy, DeMartini, and Croucier? Or Blotzer?  Both?  Neither?  Or if we think about it more generally - when a band splits up, and multiple members lay claim to the band's name, who should we consider to be the band?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

3 Undeservedly Panned Albums from 1983

Even the greatest of bands can suffer occasional missteps, turning out an album or two that aren't just below the high standards their earlier releases established, but genuinely, head-shakingly, take-a-swig-to-wash-away-the-taste bad.  It's true that music critics can be a demanding and rather eccentric lot -- and as a profession, they've been off base at times in condemning some amazing albums, bands, or even movements of music -- and fans, as well as the chart numbers and album sales figures they drive can prove a faddish and finicky lot.  But there are indeed efforts and experiments by bands that make even the real cultists, the diehard believer fans ask "what the hell are they doing?"

Friday, August 28, 2015

Remembering the Columbia Record Club

It is often when institutions, artifacts, or practices become entirely -- or at least effectively -- defunct that we come to realize or reconsider what they had meant.  The busier our lives get, the more useful such distinct moments become as markers memorializing the meaning of the past within the ongoing present.

For me -- and for many of my generation, those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s -- the news earlier this month that the long-moribund Columbia Record Club had filed for bankruptcy was such a moment.  As the news filtered into social media networks, many of us reminisced together, some recounting how many times they had joined the club.  For my part -- and that's mostly what this post will be about below -- I was reminded of how taking advantage of the club's offer played such an important role early on in building my metal collection.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Generations of Metalheads: Passing On My Bass

This year, I am passing on an object that, by virtue of giving it to my teenaged daughter, effectively becomes a family heirloom -- my bass guitar.  On her own initiative, she asked this summer if she could get it out of storage -- I hadn't played it for years, since now I putter around with a banjo that previously belonged to my dad -- and start learning how to play.  I was surprised, and very happy, that she wanted to learn an instrument -- she is already a strong singer -- and to learn this instrument particularly in order to play metal songs, specifically KISS songs!

So, for the last four weeks, she's been plunking away here, downloading tabulature, practicing, and taking lessons from a bassist at a local music store.  I've recently had it overhauled -- the buddy-of-a-former-brother-in-law who "rewired" it a decade back did what I hesitate even to call a "job," even with the qualifier of "bad" -- and she got to play it today for the first time actually plugged in.  Not into a bass amp, and not turned up all that high, but still enough for her to get a sense of the raw sonic power that the instrument she held, fretted, and plucked!  So, I'm experiencing the kind of excitement and pride that parents feel when one of their children decides to follow along, not necessarily in their footsteps, but along a similar and shared path.  And added to that is the simple fact that I've discovered that my teenage daughter is a genuine metalhead!