Some More Recent Purchase Reviews.
1120. BOB DYLAN – HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED – 1965Believe it or not, this is my first Bob Dylan album. He is one of those artists that I have always respected, but never had a strong inclination to purchase any of his albums. For some reason lately I have kind of been on a Dylan kick so I decided to give this one a try. “Highway 61” seems to be regarded as one of his classics by most of the Dylan’s fans, and indeed this has some great material. Several songs that have become classic rock radio staples are here including “Like A Rolling Stone”. Lyrically Dylan is one of the all time greats and although I find some of the music on this album to be slightly repetitive, that is not really what Dylan is all about anyway. There is not a weak track on this disc and it’s legacy has lived on with just about every rock n roll troubadour of the last 40 years. Dylan’s music in the mid-60’s proved that rock could be thought provoking and relevant. The decade proved to be one of the most important in the history of modern music, and with albums like this one Dylan was at the forefront.1121. OZZY OSBOURNE – BARK AT THE MOON – 1983Of the 5 Ozzy albums that I own this one is my least favorite. It is not a bad album, but not up to the standards of his best works either. “Bark” was the first studio album released after the death of guitar god Randy Rhoads. Jake E Lee fills in well here for the most part, but lacks some of the flair that Randy brought to the table on Ozzy’s earlier albums. The title track was a big hit off the album although again not one of Ozzy’s best singles in my opinion. The rest of the tracks are pretty typical 80’s metal with nothing really standing out to my ears. The album contains a significant amount of cheesy sounding keyboards. I have nothing against keys in rock n roll, but here, most of the time; it makes the album sound dated and really ads very little to the overall presentation. To my ears “Bark” is a very average Ozzy album.1122. OZZY OSBOURNE – NO REST FOR THE WICKED – 1989Ozzy’s first album with Zakk Wylde on guitar is a nice return to form. Ozzy had hit a bit of a rut in the mid-80’s but the presence of Wylde seemed rejuvenate Mr. Osborne and kick everything up a few notches. The collaboration between Wylde and Ozzy would last another 20 years. There are not really any dud songs on this one. The lyrics on songs like “Breaking All The Rules”, “Crazy Babies”, and “Tattooed Dancer” are a bit rock n roll cliché, but the monster riffs and overall competency of the band more than make up for any lyrical deficiencies. Songs like “Miracle Man” (about Rev. Jimmy Swagart), “Devil’s Daughter”, “Bloodbath In Paradise ’ (about Charles Manson), and “Fire In The Sky” rank up with some of the best stuff Ozzy had done. “Wicked” is the album that saw Ozzy transform from the hair metal 80’s to the more heavy straight ahead metal of the 90’s. One of the Oz man’s better releases for sure.1123. OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ – 1980At the end of the 70’s things were looking pretty bleak for Ozzy Osborne. He had been kicked out of the band he had founded, Black Sabbath, and was having some major substance abuse problems. It appeared that his career might be finished. So it was a bit of a surprise when he emerged at the beginning of the decade with this album that would be come to be thought of as one of the great metal albums of it’s time. The discovery of guitar wizard Randy Rhoads propelled Ozzy’s music and lyrics to new heights enabling him to carve a new direction away from the more plodding heavy music that Black Sabbath had been making. Every track on this one is an Ozzy classic with many of them remaining concert staples to this day. The two leadoff singles “Crazy Train” and “I Don’t Know” get as much airplay today, 30 years later, as they did back in the day. Along with the better known songs, the album contains one of my all time favorite Ozzy tracks in “Revelation (Mother Earth). Everything about this track is great including some incredible guitar work by Rhoads. For me it is a tossup between this one and “Diary Of A Madman” as to which is Ozzy’s best work, but either way “Blizzard” managed to resurrect a career thought to be dead, and push Ozzy back into the limelight as one of the gods of heavy metal.1124. PEARL JAM – BACKSPACER – 2009I have had mixed feelings about Pearl Jam over the years. I was never a huge fan of grunge, but Pearl Jam was one of the few grunge acts that appealed to me, and I still think “10” was one of the classic albums of it’s time. Over the years I have liked some Pearl Jam releases and not liked others. After reading reviews from “Backspacer” and have heard a couple of tunes that I liked, I decided to pick it up. I’m glad I did as I find this to be a solid hard rock album from the band. “Backspacer” seems to be a bit more upbeat that many of the band’s albums moving somewhat away from political and social commentary and as others have mentioned the album seems to have an element of fun to it. All of the songs are short and concise. Personally I think some of the tracks could have been fleshed out a bit more, but this is more a matter of personal taste than a criticism. Overall “Backspacer” is a solid album from a band that has outlived most of it’s peers.1125. OZZY OSBOURNE – NO MORE TEARS – 1991To my ears Ozzy Osborne has made 3 classic metal albums in his long solo career. His first two “Blizzard Of Oz” and “Diary Of A Madman” in the early 80’s secured his comeback from being kicked out of Black Sabbath. His later 80’s albums were hit and miss, but 1991’s “No More Tears” would prove to be one of the best of his career. Listening to this album again, most of it sounds really fresh 20 years later and not nearly as dated as some of it’s peers. The album opens with one of Ozzy creepiest characters in “Mr. Tinker train” that features some great guitar from Zack Wylde and just enough keyboards to keep it interesting. The album spawned a bunch of tracks featured on rock radio at the time, all of them good, including “Mama I’m Coming Home”, “No More Tears”, and “Road To Nowhere”. Elsewhere tracks like “I Don’t Want To Change The World”, “Hell raiser” (A Moorhead cover) and “A.V.H.” help to round out the rest of the disc. Some criticize the use of outside songwriters on this one (Limy from Moorhead Co-wrote 4 tracks), but Ozzy has always collaborated, so to me it is not that big a deal. “Tears” is Ozzy’s last truly great album in my opinion and still holds up really well today.1127 SHINEDOWN – THE SOUND OF MADNESS – 2009I first discovered Shinedown after hearing the song “Second Chance” somewhere along the line and I remember the first time I heard it, the song really stuck with me. I decided to check out the album and have been pleasantly surprised that the whole disc is chock full of good material. “Second Chance” remains my favorite song on the album and in fact I think it is one of the best songs by anyone in the past decade. I rarely listen to the radio these days, but this is one song that deserves its popularity. The rest of the album is all solid as well with a great mix of harder and softer material. I see these guys sometimes get criticized for playing it too safe, but I think the fact that they are able to walk that fine line between melodic and metal provides a nice amount of versatility while also keeping a signature sound. This diversity undoubtedly turns some people off as they may not be heavy enough for hard core metal heads, but probably too heavy for fans of more radio friendly rock. To my ears the diversity is a good thing with the band branching in several different directions. This is my first Shinedown album, so I don’t have any comparisons to their previous material, but “Madness” is one of my favorite straight ahead rock albums of 2009.1126. HALFORD – RESURRECTION – 2000After his exit from Judas Priest in the mid 90’s Rob Halford experimented with different forms of modern metal with his band’s Two and Fight nether of which captured a large audience. At the beginning of the Millennium he decided to go back to his roots and form a band after his own name with music very similar to what he was famous for in Judas Priest. The Halford band is a twin guitar led Juggernaut that features all of the things that have made Halford the singer one of the gods of heavy metal. This is a very strong album from start to finish with Rob spewing one of his most passionate performances ever recorded on disc. It is obvious that he was out to try to prove something with this album and for the most part he succeeds. The first two tracks “Resurrection” and “Made In Hell” kick the album off with full momentum. Other standout tracks include “Silent Screams”, “The One You Love To Hate”, “Cyberworld”, and “Savior”. Halford does fall into heavy metal cliché’s from time to time on the album which is to be expected with this genre of music, but overall this is an excellent slice of prime metal from one of the all time vocal masters.1127. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO – ST – 1967This is one of those albums that I have read about for years as one of the most influential in rock history, but I had never actually heard. I was familiar with a few live cuts that were featured on Lou Reed’s “Rock N Roll Animal” album, and I liked them, but had never given the original recordings a shot. Finally on a whim I decided to pick this up. I can certainly understand that when this album was released in 1967 it was probably groundbreaking stuff. The material here ranges all over the place from dark descriptions of drug use and sado masochism through almost Pink Floyd like pscycadellia and light hearted pop songs. Personally I find that I enjoy the Lou Reed led numbers better than the one’s performed by Nico, but even Nico’s stuff holds a certain charm that has grown on me with additional listens. Reed’s tales from the street are gripping in their intensity with songs like “Waiting For The Man” and especially “Heroin” being two of the most realistic sounding paeans to the drug culture ever written. Neither are pretty songs and reflect the reality of the characters (Lou himself?) leading lives in the gutter. “European Son” is not that different from works that Syd Barrett was writing in England at the same time. “Venus In Furs” explores the darker side of sexuality in the New York underground. The criticisms of this album seem to revolve around the production and the lack of instrumental virtueosity to be found on the disc. True none of the members of The Velvet Underground were going to be hailed as great players on this record. Reed and Cale would improve significantly over the years, but on this early album they were still somewhat limited in what they could pull off musically. The production is not the greatest either, but considering this was recorded in 1967 I think that it is on a par with other lower fi recordings of the day. People hearing this album for the first time today, may not appreciate the influence that it has had over the years, and yes it does sound dated, but for 1967 this was a groundbreaking piece of work and I am glad that I finally picked it up.1128. KING CRIMSON – IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING – 1969There is little doubt that “In The Court Of The Crimson King” is one of the great progressive rock albums of all time. Some would argue that it was the first true prog album. Whether or not that is true is debatable, but the album is certainly one of the first and probably the most influential. Newly remasterd by Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, this new version of the disc brims with sonic quality bringing out nuances that permeate the nooks and crannies of the music held within this sonic masterpiece. There are plenty of extras to be found here too including alternate versions of “Moonchild”, “I Talk To The Wind”, and “Epitaph”. The package also contains a DVD with more interesting bits and pieces. This is a great remaster of one of the all time classic progressive rock albums.1129. ALTER BRIDGE – BLACKBIRD – 2007Alter Bridge consists of the 3 instrumental members of Creed teamed up with the very talented vocalist / guitarist Myles Kennedy. On this, the band’s second album, they show a bit more focused approach than on the debut. There are plenty of loud crunching guitars to be found here, but also an emphasis on softer more acoustic material in some spots. Kennedy is one of the top vocalists in rock at the moment and his voice soars over the material bringing much of it to a higher level. This album is hard hitting and I am not sure if I like it better than the band’s debut, but it certainly continues to forge a path away from the old Creed sound. There are lots of tasty guitar solos and the rhythm section is on fire throughout the disc. The songs themselves could use a bit more diversity here and there, but overall they are a fine collection. My personal highlights are the opening track the rocking “Ties That Bind” and the seven minute plus title track “Blackbird”. Alter Bridge continue to be a cut above the average heavy rock bands out there and there is a reason why Myles Kennedy was the top candidate to replace Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin last year. Bottom line this is a great modern hard rock / metal record.Steve Sly