Though today is a gloomy and rainy day here in my NYC Metropolis, the power of music shines as radiant as the blazing sun as we raise a glass to the mighty Van Halen and their self-titled debut album which celebrates its fortieth anniversary today. Speaking frankly, “Van Halen I” as many are apt to refer to it is a “Milestone Among Milestones” and since all the hard scoop about it is already documented on its Official Wikipedia entry (linked below), I’ll be sticking to the more personal reflections on how this album hit me as a then very young music fan. Now, as I scroll back through the sands of time to my own first go-round about the album, I must admit that I couldn’t recall hearing it when it was first released in 1978 and think that it was probably closer towards the end of the Summer of 1979. I had already been enjoying the melodies of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Renaissance and KISS with the four masked men being my own discovery some years earlier. My folks listened to the other stuff I mentioned, and I remain very happy about their musical offerings to me.
I first learned about the existence of Van Halen on the streets of Brooklyn and while that might sound tougher than it is, its just reflecting on the times when teens spent time together outside. There weren’t home video games like there are today and while Atari had its “Pong” and I think another game, no one I knew owned a console, so you did other stuff. One of the girls in my circle of the day pulled out this sleek looking record with the cool cover and awesome logo and asked if we had heard them yet. We hadn’t, and she let us hear the track that was playing on some radio stations which was “You Really Got Me” (the bands take on the classic by The Kinks) and I have to admit that I was hooked straightaway. We also got a good listen to the guitar skills of Edward Van Halen on the “Eruption” track and I remember friends who dabbled with guitar at the time looking dumbfounded. The stuff Eddie was doing during this solo seemed like from another dimension of sound. Let’s look at the full-on album tracks before continuing. Continue reading Van Halen’s Mighty Debut Is Four Decades Old (1978-2018)→
Historically speaking I have been following the band HIM since around 2003 which was a full six years after their debut “Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666” would hit the racks of music stores over in Europe. This brooding opus of sound is celebrating its 20th Anniversary today. Thinking back on it, I remember that first time that I heard the band and it was while at work at an incredibly boring and terrible job as I browsed around Yahoo Music. I remember that the service was superb in letting you discover new and exciting sonic things. My first song from HIM was “Join Me In Death” from the “Razordblade Romance” album from 2000 (the bands second release) but it hooked me and once I was able to find them online, I would work my way back from there and it was a musical journey that I would greatly enjoy.
As usual with these missives they are much personal recall as I can muster together and when it comes to this particular album, it was from listening some years post release. I’d like to think that had I the chance to listen to them on their initial debut that I would have enjoyed them immensely right off the bat. I was a big fan of Type O Negative and they had a brooding and solemn sound that a lot of folks called Gothic Metal and while many would come to label these Finns as the same, I felt that Dark Metal and the soon coined “Love Metal” fit more to a tee. Founder Ville Valo made the bands framework to be about the topics of love, heartbreak and even death. During this beginning stage of the band, the groups members included Valo along with guitarist Mikko Lindstrom (Linde) and Mikko Pannanen (Mige). According to research this is the only album to feature Antto Melasniemi and Juhana Rantala on keyboards and drums. Below let’s review the original track release from the album and then discuss some favorites. Continue reading HIM’s “Greatest Lovesongs, Vol. 666” Hits 20 Mournful Years (1997-2017)→
Light the candles in the study as we open the arcane tomes in celebration of King Diamond’s sophomore album as a solo artist with the seminal work “Abigail”. An album that was released thirty years ago on this very day. It was the King’s second outing as I’ve noted but his first full length concept recording. He touched upon his sinister storytelling with “Fatal Portrait” on a few numbers but with “Abigail” a terrible tale was woven across each and every track. You can read more about the whole premise and the finer details down on the official Wikipedia entry as I always include them here.
At the time of the original release I must admit that I was not listening to much that King Diamond was dishing out. I was a very latecomer to Mercyful Fate and while some of their stuff intrigued me back then, I always felt it was a bit much for me and I leaned more towards the building Power Metal genre. It wouldn’t be until King’s “Them” album that I immersed myself more into his work. As I listened to the release once more for its anniversary, it’s amazing to find that it still holds up really well and still sends chills down your spine as the tale plays out. The whole album was written by King but guitarists Andy LaRoque and Michael Denner tossed their talents into a couple of tracks as well. The band was rounded out by bassist Timi Hansen and drummer Mikkey Dee. Andy and Dee would quickly become a lot of aspiring musicians favorites based on their his skillful playing. The King Diamond band was a quick lock for fans of the Mercyful Fate group based on that bands bassist Hansen and guitarist Denner being in the lineup with the King. Let’s take a look at the original track listing and then toss together our favorites. Continue reading King Diamond’s “Abigail” Hits Its Thirtieth (1987-2017)→
For crying out loud my readers, can you believe that “Bat Out Of Hell” by Meat Loaf is now hitting its “Fabulous Fortieth” Anniversary? Yes my friends this album, while the second of Meat’s storied career was released on this very day back in 1977 and what an album it was. Composed in full by Jim Steinman, this release began the pairs historic collaboration during a very interesting time in music history. As a score this one is bombastic to the nth degree and from the moment it begins with the title track brings you deep into the story of a biker who is heading for the great unknown despite his unawareness of this being the case. This track remains a favorite based on its flourishing intro part and it was something I always tried to master as an up and coming musician. I got some of it but hey I was young. Oh yeah and before I get carried away here please remember that this isn’t as much line by line history and more of a personal reflection on the body of work. All of the finer details are locked into the Wikipedia entry if you’d like some deeper fact checking. So where was I. Oh yeah so this one was a killer if you glanced at the liner notes and featured players such as Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sulton, Max Weinberg, Edgar Winter, Roy Bittan, Ellen Foley and of course Jim Steinman. Rundgren would produce the album when no one else really wanted to. This one was a hard sell to the record companies of the day and that surprised me just a little bit since they were already open to bands like KISS, Judas Priest and Angel. Two of which could be considered “way out there” by the times standards.
The song “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” was an immediate radio hit or at least I believed that it was since I heard it on so many radio stations back in the day. My parents had a rocking side to them so traditional Rock Radio was something that was listened to in my household quite a bit. I think that was what led them to grabbing me the album because if they didn’t my copy came from one of those Record Clubs that let you snag a bunch of albums for a penny. I think everyone that I knew back as a youth took advantage of that “deal” and then was shell-shocked by how high the albums cost for you to make good with the company for the super discount but I digress. Continue reading Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” Still Rocking At 40 (1977-2017)→
Stand up on top of your seats and raise your fist in the air and light that lighter to its highest flame because KISS “Alive II” has reached its fortieth anniversary and was released on this date back in 1977. As this is one of my very favorite albums of all time I am pretty stoked to reflect upon its awesomeness. Here we go.
In some sense it began for me with the opening line that shouted “You Wanted The Best And You Got The Best! The Hottest Band In The World —- KISS!!!” From the moment this album began with that intro I started my first truly full exploration into a band that I had only heard every now and again at that point in history. I would sometimes hear them if my parents had the Rock radio station on in the car and songs like “Rock and Roll All Night” or “Strutter” came across the airwaves. I liked those songs enough to the best of my recollection but that was all I was able to absorb since I was still at a pretty young age. When KISS “Alive II” came out I was still in grade school and for some reason I can still recall seeing a double page advertisement for it in one of the major newspapers of the day. Since money was not really in my own control around those years it would be a couple of years later when I finally got my own copy of the album but of course I had heard it quite a few times by then since some older friends had it and allowed me to indulge in its greatness and be schooled in a sense with what truly was “The Hottest Band In The World” to my young ears. To me, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were Rock and Roll superheroes and their wild image was like watching the comic books that I was reading come to life.