Saturday, June 27, 2020

Classic Metal Class #3 - Metaphysical Identity of Bands in Changes

We had our third session of the Classic Metal Class earlier in June, discussing a number of metaphysical issues that arise when we are considering what a "band " or "group" is, and whether it remains the same basic thing in the course of changes.  These most often have to do with musicians going in and out of the ensemble - changes of personnel - but we also discussed other ways that bands can change over time as well, for instance when the band shifts in its style or basic approach.

We'll be revisiting many of these topics in future sessions, and when I can set aside the time for writing, I'll be doing some posts here as well.  For now - for those who missed the session and would like to watch it (so far, over 700 views!) - here it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Classic Metal Class Session 3 Coming Up This Weekend!

Session 3 of Classic Metal Class is coming up at 12 Noon this Saturday.  I'll be joined again by special guest, Scott Tarulli, who will be providing some additional expertise and insight on our topic.  And what is that this time?  We're going to get metaphysical about a set of topics people often bring up when considering the changes in lineups of bands over time.  

These include the famous "ship of Theseus" problem, in which a whole composed of parts gradually has all of those parts replaced - like a band that has no original members left (e.g. Thin Lizzy).  We'll also consider the issue of rival versions of bands which include original/essential members (e.g. Judas Priest and K.K. Downing's Priest). And we'll also think about what, besides being an original member, make some  band members more essential than others.

One additional topic we'll discuss is why this is particularly an issue for classic metal bands that formed in the 1970s or 1980s.

We'll be meeting by Zoom.  If you want to attend and participate, you have to sign up for the session.  Here's the signup form.  Hope to see some of you readers there - and Scott and I are looking forward to a great conversation about classic metal!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Recording of Classic Metal Class #2 - The Sabbath-Purple Nexus

We had a great second session for our monthly Classic Metal Class, this time focused on a key topic in the development of early heavy metal - what I've come to call the Black Sabbath-Deep Purple Nexus.  What that refers to - the short version - is the set of musicians and bands that fed into and spun out of these two central early metal bands, and the dynamics and connections by which these complex processes took place.  The bands involved include: Rainbow, Gillan, Whitesnake, Dio, and Ozzy Osbourne - as it turns out, one I missed, Paice Ashton Lord. (I'll do some writing about this nexus, fleshing out this idea further, when I can make the time). 

My friend and colleague, Scott Tarulli - Berklee School of Music guitar professor, studio and gig musician extraordinaire, and a great creative artist in his own right - was able to join me again as a special guest to provide some additional expertise and insight.  The conversation, initially planned to run a bit over an hour, went on for almost two hours.  We had some really seriously engaged participants!

Here's the videorecording of the session, for those who couldn't make it - I hope you enjoy it!

We've got the third session coming up this month - so stay tuned for information about that one!

Friday, May 15, 2020

Classic Metal Class Session 2 Tomorrow Noon Central!

We're doing another of the online Classic Metal Class sessions tomorrow, Saturday May 16 at Noon Central Time, and anyone who wants to attend is invited! 

If you'd like to register for the session - which you'll need in order to get the Zoom link and the cool handout on the topic for this session - just click here and fill out the form.

I'll be joined again by special guest, Scott Tarulli - guitar professor, band leader, studio and gig musician, and a good friend and colleague - and we'll be discussing the "Black Sabbath-Deep Purple Nexus".

By that admittedly strange term, what I have in mind is not just the early metal music they composed, played, and recorded, and not just their massive influence on so many other metal acts that were to follow.  I also mean the musicians they took in from other bands, developed, and then spun off and out into other bands.  There's a lot of connections between these two main poles of the nexus and the other acts that fit into it.  These include three important metal solo bands - Gillan, Ozzy Osborne, and Dio - and two other major bands - Rainbow and Whitesnake.

So join us tomorrow for a conversation that will range over classic metal music history, philosophical ideas and speculations, and most likely a lot more (including a kids' cartoon)!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Recording of Classic Metal Class #1

Our first session of the new online Classic Metal Class went very well.  Feedback from the participants was that they had a great time, and are looking forward to the next session, and I'll say that I - and my special guest, Scott Tarulli (who will be joining me for additional sessions coming up) really enjoyed the conversation as well!

We discussed the beginnings of Heavy Metal, looking particularly at 1970, and then continuing the narrative up to 1974.  1970 was a massively important year, with a number of early metal bands bringing out albums, and going on tour (sometimes with each other). Black Sabbath, of course, is the most influential and central band, but there are some others that play a major role in forming and fomenting this developing genre - Deep Purple, UFO, Uriah Heep, sir Lord Baltimore, and Led Zepplin each bring out important albums in 1970.  And in 1971, that expands to Budgie and Flower Travellin' Band.  1972 adds the Scorpions, Blue Oyster Cult, Alice Cooper, and Bang to the mix.

There's a lot more to be said, but it was in the session!  So here's the videorecording:

Watch for an announcement about the next class session coming up soon!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Classic Metal Class - Session 1 This Saturday!

Classic Heavy Metal - the stuff from the 70s and 80s - has been a major part of my life since I was a kid, and before I even knew what that kind of music was called.  I've also been either studying or teaching philosophy for three decades now.  Those areas have bled over into each other from time to time, and I've been fortunate to have friends and colleagues - including Scott Tarulli, Blitch 66, and (my wife) Andi Sciacca - with whom I could "talk metal" in deep, detailed, and animated conversations.

In addition to enjoying heavy metal as a fan, I've also long been researching the history of the genre.  I've been wanting not just to engage in writing about classic metal, but also to engage in some teaching and interactive discussion about it.  So I'm starting that up this weekend with a the first 1-hour session of Classic Metal Class - and you're invited!

I'll be hosting the class on Zoom at Noon Central Time, Saturday April 25Here's the signup page (our Zoom is capped at 100 people).  I'm planning on presenting for the first 20 or so minutes, and then we'll open it up to discussion and Q&A - and guitarist, bandleader, and professor Scott Tarulli will also be there as a special guest, participating in the discussion!

The topic I've selected for this first session is a basic but also controversial one:  the early years of metal (1970-1974).  "Controversial?" you might ask?  Yep!  There's quite a few "origin stories" to heavy metal, and the simpler they are, usually the more wrong they turn out to be.  We'll be discussing the "it was just Black Sabbath at the start" narrative (usually coupled with "and then it was Judas Priest"), and showing how much richer, more complex, and more interesting the real story of metal's early years is! 

We'll also be touching on some more explicitly philosophical issues like how and whether we can define music genres; what the essence of heavy metal is (if there is one); what makes a band "important" or "influential"; and why this music caught on in the first place.

So join us this Saturday for what promises to be a lively discussion of this music we love!

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!