HRD Jukebox – MARCH 2019
Welcome to HRD Jukebox! This new feature on Hard Rock Daddy is the evolution of Music Discovery Monday. It is designed to expose our readers to outstanding hard rock / metal music that isn’t likely to gain traction on Active Rock radio, but is more than deserving of the attention.
Through these curated playlists (and accompanying reviews), our readers can discover new music from established artists and newcomers alike. HRD Jukebox follows the same format as one of the most popular features on the site – the annual Top Hard Rock Songs list.
In addition to the playlist below, you can find archives of all HRD Jukebox playlists on Hard Rock Daddy Network (HRD’s YouTube Channel).
Below this month’s playlist is a review of each featured song, where you can learn more about the artists. Each song title is hyperlinked to take you directly to the corresponding YouTube video…
THE NEAL MORSE BAND – “The Great Adventure”
I can think of no better (or more appropriate) way to launch this new feature than to do so with “The Great Adventure” by The Neal Morse Band. Since the site launched in March of 2013, it has certainly has been a great adventure. Of all of the memorable moments, one of the highlights was going to see The Neal Morse band perform their double concept album in its entirety (CLICK HERE to read the review).
As a storyteller, musician, and theatrical personality, Neal Morse may very well be in a class by himself. Surrounded by drummer extraordinaire Mike Portnoy, and fellow virtuoso musicians Eric Gillette, Bill Hubauer, and Randy George, The Neal Morse Band is an incredible unit with a cult following. However, this is not a radio band in today’s climate.
If this was the 1970s, when bands like Kansas and Styx filled the airwaves, songs like “The Great Aventure” would assuredly be in the mix. The title track off of the band’s recent brilliant double concept album is progressive in a mainstream, feel-good kind of way. Think Kansas’ “Point Of Know Return” with a modern flair. Intelligent lyrics, incredible harmonies, and flawless musicianship.
Want to go on a great adventure of your own? Listen to this track and then go delve into the vast catalog of Neal Morse to hear what you’ve (quite likely) been missing.
QUEENSRYCHE – “Dark Reverie”
The year was 1984. I had seen the video for “Take Hold Of The Flame” on MTV, but other than that, I knew very little about Queensryche. A group of us were heading to the Nassau Coliseum to see Kiss on the “Animalize” tour. It was the first time that any of us had seen Kiss, so we were all pretty excited. Well, except for the one acquaintance that went with us because he was there to see Queensryche. We thought that he was crazy at the time. Little did I know that Queensryche would become my favorite band not too long after that show.
The music was so powerful, and Geoff Tate’s vocals were mindblowing. I was hooked. This band has always been different than all others. There is no formula. With each subsequent album, you felt like you had to get reacquainted and adjust to a “new normal.” That’s what made it exciting. As the saying goes…“all good things must come to an end.”
When the original members started getting replaced, things changed. In some ways, the change started before the departures happened. At some point, the band’s music had evolved beyond the taste of many original fans. I’ll admit to being skeptical about replacing Tate with Todd La Torre, and took a while to come around.
I eventually realized that Tate and the rest of the band were headed in different directions both musically and personally. The time came to embrace the change. Which brings us to today…
The first listen of “Dark Reverie” brought me back in time to the days of The Warning and Rage For Order, but as I listened to it more, and allowed the nuanced layers to wash over me, I started thinking about the Promised Land days. There was a moodiness to that album that I’ve always felt was underappreciated. It’s been recaptured here with a different lineup, but the same magic as yesteryear.
REECE – “Forest Through The Trees”
Replacing a vocalist with a distinct sound and personality is no easy feat. When most people think of Accept, the name that instantly comes to mind is Udo Dirkschneider. If I’m being honest, I kind of lost track of the band after Udo’s departure. So, while David Reece is known most for his work with Accept, when I heard “Forest Through The Trees,” I didn’t even think of Accept. If you listen to this song, you’ll see that his previous work doesn’t matter. In fact, you should get rid of any preconceived notions that you might have based on his past. This solo work doesn’t remotely resemble Accept. It doesn’t need to. It more than stands on its own. The anger and intensity that Accept is known for has been replaced by angst and powerful emotion on this passionate track. The acoustic guitar and power chord blend has elements of a power ballad, but this song is more of an emotive blues rocker than anything else.
WHITESNAKE – “Shut Up & Kiss Me”
Whitesnake has always delivered their brand of sex-infused rock in a unique way. Never in the band’s history would you ever think about David Coverdale as being a “tease.” It felt like new Whitesnake was being promised to us all for months on end, but the date kept getting pushed back. Was the album really not ready, or was Coverdale playing hard to get? This was the man who gave us the seductive Tawny Kitaen sprawled across the hood of a Jaguar in the “Here I Go Again” video. For a band with album titles like Slide It In, and Lovehunter (with its famous cover of a naked woman riding a giant snake), the teasing felt unnatural.
Then, on Valentine’s Day, like the pinnacle moment of a John Hughes film, Coverdale hit us over the head with “Shut Up & Kiss Me.” It’s a slice of nostalgia that will take you back to the ‘80s, a time when the world was far less serious and rock and roll was a lot more decadent and fun.
In the current climate in America, it seems that a lot of the sexiness has been drained from rock and roll. As you listen to Coverdale’s smooth delivery, and the dual shredding guitars of Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach, you might just forget what time period you’re living in. And that’s a good thing!
THE END MACHINE – “Alive Today”
George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, Mick Brown, Robert Mason. If you only saw these band members’ names, you might think that the members of Dokken had replaced Don Dokken as their frontman. Even though Dokken’s original lineup has played together recently, this does seem like Dokken (sans Dokken), but it’s a new project called The END Machine (with Mason on vocals).
This isn’t the first time that Lynch and Mason have worked together. Dating as far back as 1991, Mason has been the lead singer of Lynch Mob for a few brief time periods. These days, he is known mostly for his work as the frontman of Warrant.
This new project is not Dokken, Warrant, or Lynch Mob, but the influences are there. Musically, “Alive Today” has a bit of a Dokken vibe, but Mason’s vocals take the band in a different direction. Yes, he currently fronts one of the biggest hair bands of all time, and is playing with musicians that made their bones in the ‘80s, but his vocals have a bit of the angst that you’d expect from ‘90s grunge. The contrast of upbeat ‘80s metal and ‘90s grunge is refreshingly interesting.
IRON SAVIOR – “Eternal Quest”
Formed in the mid-‘90s, Iron Savior is a German power metal band with roots that trace back to Helloween and Blind Guardian. The band uses power metal to share high-concept science fiction. Guitarist/vocalist/producer Piet Sielck, the brainchild behind the band, has been the only constant throughout, but that’s more than enough. If you’re a fan of Iron Maiden, classic Queensryche, and Judas Priest, Iron Savior will undoubtedly grab your attention.
“Eternal Quest” is a high-tempo power metal track that is fueled by adrenaline and outstanding musicianship. This brand of metal is mostly found overseas, but it certainly will appeal to the right kind of American metal fan.
THE RAVEN AGE – “Fleur de lis”
It sounds cliché to say that bands like Iron Maiden have spawned a new generation of hard rock/metal artists, but it’s true. Not so much in the influential sense (although that certainly exists), but more in the biological sense. The apples don’t fall far from the heavy metal tree (so to speak). Bruce Dickinson’s sons are both lead singers in modern rock bands (As Lions and SHVPES), and Steve Harris’ children are making their mark as well. Harris’ daughter is a hard rock singer, and his son (George) is the guitarist for The Raven Age.
Having famous musician parents can open doors, but in the end, it takes talent to thrive. To be honest, I had no idea that George Harris was in The Raven Age when I discovered “Fleur de lis.”
Intense and melodic, “Fleur de lis” straddles the line between symphonic, theatrical, and power metal. You don’t expect to use the word “beauty” when describing something this powerful, but it is a fitting description of a song blends thunderous double bass drumming with sweet melodies.
BACKYARD BABIES – “44 Undead”
Backyard Babies have released seven studio albums and have won two Swedish Grammys since their debut in 1989. When you listen to “44 Undead,” you will probably think more about the Sunset Strip in L.A. than Scandinavia. Given their sound, that’s understandable. However, the band is considered to be sleaze rock pioneers in their corner of the world. Kids in America may know their music (even if they don’t know their name). The band’s single, “Minus Celcius” was featured as a playable bonus track in Guitar Hero III, and “Degenerated” is available as a download from Guitar Hero World Tour.
“44 Undead” is a little bit of dirty sleaze with a punk edge, yet also incredible catchy and melodic. It’s old school rock and roll with a modern production sound. Plain and simple, it just works.
ZFG – “Special”
Too often these days, bands take a formulaic approach to songwriting in an effort to garner whatever radio support they can. The problem with this approach is that the music ends up sounding too similar to other artists, and takes away anything that makes them “special.” In my opinion, the best music comes from artists who don’t place restrictions on themselves, and don’t define themselves by the narrow, fickle lens of radio program directors. What would the end result be if artists entered the studio with “Zero Fucks Given” about conforming to the norm? That’s what ZFG stands for (in more ways than one).
If you read the band’s bio, you might think that the thing that makes them “special” is their rock and roll heritage. Trev Lukather on guitar, and Sam Porcaro on bass is only part of the story. Yes, Lukather’s dad (Steve) is the original lead guitarist of Toto, and Porcaro’s dad (Mike) was the bass player in the band for over two decades, but this band is not Toto 2.0.
ZFG is a four-piece California rock unit that is rounded out by Jules Galli (vocals) and Josh Devine (drums). The beauty of this band is that they are all close friends making music with no rules. The end result on “Special” is a nice fusion of rock, pop, and funk that is hard to categorize. But then again, that’s kind of the credo of the band. Just listen and enjoy it for what it is.
JOHNNY GIOELI – “One Voice”
I discovered Johnny Gioeli back in 1992 when he was the frontman for Hardline (f. Neal Schon on guitar). “Hot Cherie” is easily one of my favorite songs from that year. Unfortunately for Gioeli, the early ‘90s were not kind to AOR bands…it was all about grunge back then. Though he has kept himself busy for decades, you have to think that if the timing was a little bit better, he would have become a household name along with other singers in the genre.
“One Voice” is the title track off of Gioeli’s first ever solo album. The song opens with a slow, moody intro that (ironically) was commonplace in some of the most popular grunge songs. As it builds to a crescendo, Gioeli’s melodic vocals kick in. If you just turned radio on during the chorus, you might think that you were listening to a new Bon Jovi song. This is the type of song that is so catchy that you end up singing it in your head all day long.
MATT MITCHELL & THE COLDHEARTS – “Black Diamonds”
There isn’t a lot of information to be gleaned from Matt Mitchell’s Facebook page. The British singer got his start in the mid-2000s with an AOR band called Pride. He went a little heavier with his next project, Furyon. That band enjoyed some success in Europe, but was eventually “put on ice.” Mitchell continued to have success overseas with the lighter, bluesy sounding Colour Of Noise.
With “Black Diamonds,” Mitchell appears to have incorporated all of his previous experience. The song is heavy blues rock infused with melody and soul. Mitchell’s debut is an intriguing introduction that makes you want to hear more.
BOOTYARD BANDITS – “Showdown Hoedown”
Saddle up for a wild ride and a LEGO video that can best be classified as NSFW (not safe for work) with Bootyard Bandits. They’re wild and western with their collective tongues planted firmly in cheek. Some might say that they’re cheeky. Wait a minute! Why would anyone describe the southern rock version of Steel Panther with a British term? Because these cowboys are from Worcester, England! To be more specific, their bio says that they’re from the Wild West of Worcester, England.
If you’re thinking that Bootyard Bandits is some kind of joke, you’d be sorely mistaken. Their debut single, “Hoedown Showdown” is fun and funny, but it is also really good. There is a definitive southern/country rock sound, but at its core, it’s pure rock and roll. At times, the song conjures up memories of the Joe Lynn Turner days of Rainbow, albeit with the southern swagger of ZZ Top. Intrigued? You should be! Check it out and see for yourself.
SONNY JIM – “Don’t Know What Got Til It’s Gone”
As promised, HRD Jukebox is just as much about developing artists as it is about known entities. The only requirement to be featured is to have good songs. And Sonny Jim has just that with “Don’t Know What You Got Til It’s Gone.”
Suffice it to say that this three-piece band is likely to be flying beneath the radar of most (if not all) Hard Rock Daddy readers.
Here is the entire content of the band’s Facebook page…
“Sonny Jim are a no nonsense 3 piece guitar based band. Big Licks, Monster Melodies, Great Vocals and Solid Rhythm. Sonny Jim are currently busy recording their debut album at Sonic One Studios with Tim Hamill.”
No nonsense is an understatement. However, you don’t need a lot of information to enjoy this song. I purposely chose it to close the first edition of HRD Jukebox to give our readers a taste of things to come. The message behind the song title also resonates on a personal level around this time of year.
Until next time…