Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Avantasia - Journey to Arcadia

"This plane, with whom I have shared joys and sorrows, is the Arcadia of my youth. I kept flying, believing in myself. I have no regrets about my life. Dreams do not vanish, so long as people do not abandon them.” – Captain Harlock

Space Pirate Captain Harlock and his ship the Arcadia
Arcadia is a province in Greece, in poetry it is a peaceful land of natural beauty. The fall of Rome caused the majority of territories within the Roman Empire to experience a throw back in technology, resulting in what people who are not historians like to call, “the dark ages.” Unlike the majority of Europe, hidden away in the Greek Peloponnesian region rests Arcadia, Arcadia avoided the darkness of the era and had a rebirth of quiet agricultural living. To escape to Arcadia was to escape to peace.

As you can see Arcadia is actually a real place.
Happy Arcadia by Konstantin Makovsky
Arcadia for generations has been thought of a hidden paradise.
I could have focused on the whole escapism angle in my last music in review; “Runaway Train,” clearly is a song suggesting some escape, but I had something else/more to say about that song, so let’s talk about, “Journey to Arcadia.”

I picked up “The Wicked Symphony” and loved it, but I was confused that I could not find part three of the Scarecrow epic, “Angel of Babylon.” They released both albums at the same time in Europe, so why here in Canada did we only get one of the two albums? I looked it up, and apparently I was not the only one surprised by this development, other Canadian Avantasia fans along with HMV employees could not explain the reason why only one of the two albums was made available here. As annoying as that was, this is 2010 and it was easy enough to buy “Angel of Babylon,” at So let us conclude the Scarecrow trilogy by talking about a third song by Avantasia on their third album in the set.

There is a reason at the age of twenty-seven I can still sit through “Wizard of Oz,” in its entirety, it is captivating; the childlike imagination captured there within does an amazing job of saying profound things about life and dreams. Most of us end up trading one for the other; it takes a lot of hold on to both. There is something about dreams of escape, as cliché as it is, be careful what you wish for, a magical world may be far from what you were hoping for, or it may be just too damned weird to enjoy. In time we all learn to trade youth for wisdom, but we shouldn’t have to let our dreams die by the wayside, we can have both.

I like the sounds of Arcadia though. It’s not my dream world by any means, but simplicity, is something I have longed for, for a long time. That is the thing about Avantasia, there is no clear picture of a linear story. There is a great provocation to use your own mind to see it your own way. “Journey to Arcadia,” is one of the softer songs on the album, but I believe it is the best. “The Scarecrow” set an unbelievable standard of quality, “The Wicked Symphony,” was in so many ways the most exciting and intense of the three albums, the conclusion “Angel of Babylon,” is lighter and gentler. Our signature character was so hopeless in searching for a kinder peace of heart, and here at the end waiting both the Scarecrow and us we find the joy of Arcadia. How appropriate “Journey to Arcadia,” is the last track on this journey, it was the light at the end of the tunnel.

Until next year my friends, hang on to a runaway train.

- Colin Kelly

A lonely boy, a handful of dreams
Cold wind blows through a heart wired-in
Open skies he would explore
No there ain't no mastery
Of a passion and a deep blue love

Yearn to see far away places
One day he'd feel two hearts collide
In his eyes tears and desire
But he prays and he swears every night
One day scales will fall from her eyes

Just with a dream
Just with a dream and with a song
On my own I may stumble and fall
It don't matter at all when you're blessed with
Just what's yet to come, what's yet to come

When dogs run barking
And I don't hear no sound
And the sky is as blue
As eyes have never seen it
Then I remember
What I'd have been dying for
Faith rescue my dream
From a role that I've been put in
On their screen

Your eyes, and as I'll look into your eyes
We're at the crack of dawn
Life will stop telling lies
And destiny will know
It's just you and I

Burning feet on the ground
Got my head in the clouds
Journey to Arcadia
And I know I will stand
What I can't comprehend
Journey to Arcadia

The more we see we understand
That there's a lot that we don't know
As you awake on padded ground
The final curtain of the show

Far from the eye but close to heart
No matter how we try
Can't repel the counterpart
Our common bond we can't defy

I've seen them standing at the crossroads
When they were waiting for a sign
And they unlearned to face the silence
As they unlearned to turn inside

You're turning to the sky
And you're dying for an angel
If you want it bad enough, see those eyes
That's where two glances collide

Learn to breathe, learn to crawl
Learn to stand, walk and fall
Learn to lose and to love, to believe, to rise above
Love is more than to love

Burning feet on the ground
Got your head in the clouds
You're out to find Arcadia
And you know you will stand
What you can't comprehend
Journey to Arcadia

The more I've seen I understand
That there ain't nothing that I know now
As I awake on padded ground
The final curtain of the show

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Avantasia - Runaway Train

Welcome to Avantasia.

Back in January 2009 I reviewed Avantasia – Lost in Space, and informed the good people who read my music in reviews that the best album of 2008, at least in my opinion, was Avantasia – The Scarecrow. Fortunately for me, and you as well, Tobias Sammet was not done. He had so many ideas that he had eight additional tracks that never saw official release on The Scarecrow, and he had many more ideas to come, as it was his intention all along to make The Scarecrow a trilogy.

The lead song writer, singer, bass player, and occasionally keyboard and lead guitarist, Tobias Sammet, is sort of like a modern Mozart, insofar that he has a great skill set and mind set to write beautiful music and also he is very young, as of this moment Tobias is thirty-three. Sammet’s rock group “Edguy,” was formed back in 1992 when he was merely fourteen years old. Under the Edguy title Sammet has released eight albums plus a ton of singles which for reasons unknown never made it to release on any of the albums, under the Avantasia project he has released five albums (arguably six) with a ton of songs never released on any of the official albums. You know someone is creative when they can’t even fit all their ideas on thirteen studio albums, and this is an ongoing problem.

I could try to beat into all your minds that Avantasia is in fact the greatest thing in the world right now, and I have a lot of things I could use to argue this point, but personal taste usually wins out such debates, so let me play the emotional card and explain to you why this music perfectly suits me. I love methodical music, and Avantasia is very methodical. I have always loved rock opera’s, I love the narratives style, and I love how it creates a pattern of familiarity that really speaks to the human ear, and well Avantasia is a perfect example of such a concept. I love this style of music, finding simplicity in complexity, and harmony in chaos.

The other reason this music really speaks to me is the story being told is open enough for our imagination to fill in the blanks. The story is there if you want to pick it out, but instead of being told to you point blank it is told only through the poetic thoughts and expression of the main character.

“The Scarecrow is a tragic story of a lonesome creature, emotionally isolated from his environment and suffering from a distorted sensory perception.” - Tobias Sammet

That’s a neat concept, dealing with a lot of powerful and deep ideas that I as well have given a lot of thought about in the past. If I could sum up my feelings for Avantasia in a single sentence it would be; this is the kind of music I would write if I had the talent, it speaks to me on every level.

This year Sammet released Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony, part two of the epic, and on this album I fell in love with my favourite Avantasia song of all, my favourite song of the year, “Runaway Train.”

There is a reason why it took me till halfway through the month to write up this music in review and that reason is life sucks. If you know me well there won’t be any need to elaborate so I won’t, I’ll just restate the obvious, I’m living life the hard way most every day, at the very least it feels that way. “Runaway Train” is all about being miserable and yet finding bliss in a faraway world, it is escapism, and it is the beautiful to think if you but hold on to a runaway train it will take you somewhere else, “a world beyond human imagination.” This song couldn’t possibly do a better job of capturing both extremes, dark inescapable misery, and yet, freedom and peace, just one train ride away, all you need do is hang on through the wind and rain.

As I said this is the kind of music I would right, what a narrative, in just one song it paints an entire story for your own mind to fill in all the blanks and paint wild images both grim and glorious. I feel a kinship with Sammet, even though we have never met, there is a great measure of parallel thinking between the two of us and I couldn’t be more thankful for his existence and the music he has given me, it captures so many things I would have wanted to say, and says it better than I ever could have. No one could ask for better music than that.

Until next month, hang on to a runaway train.

- Colin Kelly

Your pocket full of dreams
Your mind in a daze
Keep on chasing rainbows
Fly high
Leave the past behind
The dark road you take bears no escape

In a world of grand illusions
Where love is just a dream
You got to make your sacrifices
Time to pick your poison

The fool is he who is noble minded
And bellies up to poverty
He's not a king in the world of diamonds
Paling into oblivion

I lay down my soul for glory
I've given a life away
Don't know if I am sorry
Blind me, blind me

Don't know where I'll be going
I got to get away
From the pain of recollection
Drawn into the faint

Hang on to a runaway train
No turning back
Tethered to a runaway train
Take me away
Torpid in the wind and rain
No turning back
Hang on to a runaway train
Take me away

If I'm a stranger to myself
Then I better got to stay away
Even better got to get away, get away
Time to pick my poison

Feel the devil sitting in my neck
Straight ahead into the unknown
Oh father I forgive you for I
Don't know what I'm doing

It's only human nature
To keep away from pain
Take a train to ecstasy oh
Ride on, ride on

Inhale the scent of heaven
Respire the smell of fame
You've been to hell and back
You can't change things anyway, no

I hang on to a runaway train
No turning back
Tethered to a runaway train
Take me away
Torpid in the wind and rain
No turning back
I hang on to a runaway train
Take me away

Reaching out to rule the world
you'll watch the mirror shatter
As you'll be dazzled by the sight
Once only diamonds mattered

How can you justify the way
When you wake up screaming
Will you pretend that you were blind
When you were really seeing

Your image everywhere
The looking glass: a sheet of ice
It's thick enough to dance on
In a frozen realm of lies

But the ice will break
And you will scream repenting
Oh boy the ice will break
You'll just feel your heart rending

Riding on to a world of funny flowers
Riding on to the white wide world
If coming back would hurt my pride
I rather take another ride
Riding on, winter on the mirror
Riding on into the unknown
If I'll awake in pain one day
I got to catch just one more train

Days gone by
Who'd want to live forever
On our knees up your road
Paved with good intentions
Fly high
Where angels can't breathe no more
Some dare to go blind
Some stay behind

I hang on to a runaway train
No turning back
Tethered to a runaway train
Take me away
Torpid in the wind and rain
No turning back
I hang on to a runaway train
Take me away

Hang on to a runaway train
No turning back
Tethered to a runaway train
Take me away
Torpid in the wind and rain
in the wind and rain
I hang on to that runaway train

Monday, November 15, 2010

Johann Pachelbel - Canon in D Major

How Johann Sebastian Bach changed the world.

Part 1 of the music in review for November hinted at Bach’s influence on music to come after him, the most apparent piece of music that is credit to Bach though he never actually aided in its creation directly is the “Ave Maria,” by French composure Charles Gounod. Though creating this majestic masterpiece Gounod was very humble and stated that Bach should be equally credited for the song since Gounod himself had based the song heavily off of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier.” To this day if you search for the song “Ave Maria” it is still credited to both men though the “Well-Tempered Clavier,” was written over a century before the “Ave Maria.”

More profound of an impact by Bach was through fellow German composure Johann Pachelbel’s who wrote music in the same time frame as Bach. Pachelbel is most famous for the “Canon in D,” which you already know, whether you know it or not. The thing to note here is that the “Canon in D,” is very deliberately similar to Bach’s “Air For G-String.” While I am unsure of the details I gather Pachelbel and Bach were friends, because there is a clear parallel in song writing here.

Now the “Canon in D” is one of the most important songs ever, and I’ll tell you way, the Canon method. The Canon method is the very simple idea that every rhythmic instrument in a song should be introduced into the harmony individually and systematically. In other words, one instrument plays and is joined slowly by a second, than a third is introduced, then a fourth, and so on. This seems like very basic song writing doesn’t it? But someone had to do it first, and from the history books of music people seemed convinced that that first song to do this was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” As you listen to “Canon in D,” performed by the London Symphonic Orchestra, you should be able to hear that no instrument ever deviates from its simple pattern, the depth of the song comes solely from the variety of instruments coming together.

While I’m talking about influences I mentioned in the part 1 of this music in review that Russian powerhouse music composure Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was influenced by Bach’s work, well I must point out that Tchaikovsky’s “Canon in C,” is very similar to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” which is very similar to Bach’s “Air for G-String.” This should paint a picture of the kind of community this kind of music houses. Also just to remind you of how important this music is, back in the first half of the twentieth century people were convinced that Tchaikovsky was the epoch of music and that mankind had surely reached a finally climax is the art of music. This must have been considered true until Led Zeppelin came around and became the greatest thing since Tchaikovsky, and I am not joking when I compare Zeppelin to the classics.

So to summarize Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” you should notice the famous canon method, as well as its similarities to “Air For G-String.” Bach changed the world perhaps more so than anyone ever in music and that is no small accolade.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly


One day I’m totally going to buy one of these shirts;

Friday, November 5, 2010

Johann Sabastian Bach - Air for G String

Every month it feels like I’m playing catch up. There are lots of good things happening with music lately yet there is an even greater inventory of amazing music from the past that I would like to talk about. So I’ve decided that from now until the end of 2011 Colin Kelly’s music in review is a double feature.

Since it is the vast history of music that creates the greatest mountain of discussion for me to engage in I will start from a very early point this month. Let’s talk about Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Germany in 1685, meaning his music predates the other two titans of classic music Beethoven and Mozart but nearly a hundred years, and that makes sense given his strong influence on music on a whole.

My brother Niall once told me about a study that tested the stimulation music had on your brain, the idea being that music that stimulated you the most caused the greatest positive intellectual influence on you. They tested classical music only, because they were clearly trying to suggest good music had good influences on you and didn’t want something stupid thrown in to muddy the results. Of all the composures they tested on the minds of the listeners Bach’s music blew away his peers by stimulating the brain far more so than anyone else. What does this mean? Probably nothing, but it is an interesting study regardless.

The thing I have always found fascinating about Bach is that he is referenced so often for so many pieces of work that post date his death, from Gound to Tchaikovsky, Bach influenced nearly every classical musician who came afterward, more so than even the great Mozart and Beethoven. He even has influence on music now of days that we completely take for granted, but that is part two of this month’s review.

I have the habit of downloading lots of music and listen to it gradually over time as it pops up on random on my mp3 player at home, and while it was several years ago now, I remember Bach’s “Air For G-String,” playing for the first time on my computer like it was yesterday. I remember making it about one minute into the song and asking myself “is this Mozart?” who I am very fond of, and upon discovering it was Bach I grew a deep appreciate for the man. That is the thing about classical music it is a complicated music of details. There is so much going on in those precious classics between the instruments that it take a keen ear or a learned appreciation for the music to properly enjoy, it’s like fine wine or scotch which may taste strong or unpleasant at first but once you accustom yourself to the taste you feel a full array of flavour with each sip. Classical music works this way, you hear it and your mind slowly picks out the subtle connections each note shares with each other, and each second your ear is filled with an array of beautiful sound.

So enjoy “Air For G-String,” it is a song that gave birth to thousands of songs thereafter.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hellsongs - The Evil that Men do

Iron Maiden:
Way back in February Heath Gibson wrote - “Well I saw something that I am sure would interest you after this months song. Have yet to hear it myself but Hellsongs has a version of I Just Want You. only placed I have heard it mentioned but I am sure you will be able to find the actual song somewhere.”

Or course I had no problem finding an actual version of the song on the Internet, it’s the Internet. I love feedback from my music in reviews, so thank you Heath for introducing me to Hellsongs.

Hellsongs is a Swedish group that does acoustic covers of hard rock and metal songs, or “lounge metal” as they have dubbed it. You will recall I reviewed Ozzy Osbourne – I Just Want You, back in February, hence Heath’s recommendation, and yes I really liked Hellsong’s cover of “I Just Want You,” because I freaking love that song.

Hellsongs is a good example of how to do cover songs right. They clearly respect the originals because they do not have any gross misunderstanding of the lyrical content or style used to perform the songs, and since all hard rock and metal songs by nature are, you know, hard, the softer acoustic approach makes every song different from the original. For the most part Hellsongs chooses songs that could logically be slowed and not lose either the message or feel of the original. Ozzy’s “I Just Want You,” is a romantic song and slowing it down to emphasize those feelings works. Others songs they do are more daring, giving Metallica’s “Blackened” an almost upbeat melody based on the same chords is... different to say the least. The one cover I thought stood out as a fantastic example of their good work was “The Evil That Men Do.”

While listening through Hellsongs’ discography “The Evil that Men Do” stood out, and I started to starch my head thinking, “who are they covering? Sounds like Iron Maiden.” I was correct, it was Iron Maiden, and a song I had heard before but I didn’t put the two together until I looked it up, Hellsong’s cover is that different. By slowing down the tempo the rhythm of the song is changed radically, but it doesn’t end there, they mix up the structure of the song, the verses come in different times, there is a dramatic pause missing in the original, and since we have a woman singing instead of a man the gender of the lyrics are reversed. It’s a great cover, and may Iron Maiden fans everywhere have mercy on me for saying this, I actually enjoy it more than the original.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly
Iron Maiden:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition

I could do a music in review every day for several years before I’d run out of ideas. The major problems with doing so is that no one could possibly find me interesting enough to actually read through and listen to that kind of data overload, and also I imagine I would end up repeating myself a lot.

Anyway I got a lot of songs I would like to share with the world that I don’t think the world has discovered yet.

Regional popular trends are interesting in how they vary. In modern society the power of mass media sort of takes the music world by force, language barriers aside the popular music in one country is the same as another. My point is if you compared the top forty in Britain right now it would be similar if not the same to the U.S. top forty, and furthermore Canada’s top forty is probably very, very similar to the U.S. top forty. That is why I find differences so interesting sometimes, I need to point out I only even notice the difference when a song or musician gives me a reason too.

My big brother Sean is a pretty good source of odd ball pop music. He has a very good talent for stumbling upon songs that are different and delightful that I would never hear otherwise because they are never mentioned on regular radio, music television, or my usual channels of music discovery.

Upon his last visit to California, he came across a song that was very, very popular down there. According to him this song was on the radio all the time, and as you may have guessed from the vein of this dialogue, this song is a total unknown up here in Canada.

The Temper Trap is an Australian pop rock group who released their only album so far “Conditions” back in June of 2009, which raises the question, why is this song so popular a year after its studio release? The song in question is “Sweet Disposition,” if you have heard of it, good job, because I never heard anything about these guys until now. The Temper Trap is a decent group but this one song is clearly the stand out on the album, the beat is good and catching, as a pop song should be, and the vocalist is something crazy out of this world. This Indonesian singer has an incredible range on his voice, he sings very high and can change his pitch almost unnaturally, and it is defiantly his singing that is the icing of the cake of this song.

I would dare say this is how pop music should be, catching, and enjoyable, but I have a clear bias here, for all intents and purposes this is also a rock song, and in case you haven’t been paying attention that is my cup of tea. The band even goes so far as to label themselves as an “alternative rock band,” but I’m not buying that, The Temper Trap is really good pop rock, and that’s not a bad thing.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Mountain Goats - No Children

I’ve been in a pretty good mood for a while, and I think that positivity has come through on multiple recent music in reviews. I’m pleased with the happier themes in my life and music in reviews as of late, and I’m glad I’ve shared that with you, because now I’m about to share something horribly dark.

Several years ago I was suckered into going to a club during Goth night, and without going into details, though they are very funny assuming you are not me, I was in a really bad mood for very good reasons. My general discontent was only further aggravated by the overwhelming fakeness of everyone there. People were trying to be miserable, but they weren’t. Goths actually try to convince themselves and others, that being sad and miserable, is somehow totally awesome, and as someone who is often pissed off and miserable I can assure you, it is not. I’d rather be anything than lonely, miserable, and pissed off, and I quickly came to realize that Goth night that I was only person there who was legitimately miserable, and all these piss ants posers were in their own indirect way mocking me and my suffering. Have I shared this story before? I might have, I only have so many.

Like any sane person I do not enjoy dwelling in misery, but I can appreciate the poetry and emotional power of profound sadness. I can appreciate great despair the way we all appreciate a great tragedy, trying circumstances or painful downfalls we can all relate to or fear. Hardships can install us with powerful emotions that can not only entertain us but also allow us to reflect upon ourselves.

The Mountain Goats are real.

First of all The Mountain Goats are some strange folkish indie rock group from California, and while instrumentally they are nothing too innovative it is the lyrically content that makes them stand out. The beats of their songs are lively and comforting and overall very good, but their lyrics, oh god their lyrics, despair; despair would be a good way of putting it.

Before researching The Mountain Goats or really having any information about them whatsoever, I immediately knew the song writer(s) for the group had serious issues, real issues, real problems, resulting in real sadness. There is a certain quality to anything that is real that you can’t replicate. Emos and Goths might talk about their hearts of ice, or woe is them because their parents wouldn’t buy them a second car, but people who are truly depressed they say things like “I hope you die... I hope we both die.”

“No Children,” it a very angst ridden song. It describes a horrible situation two people have gotten themselves into, a marriage, not only totally void of love, but filled to brim with contempt for each other. It is a relationship that has limped well beyond the point of redemption leaving only mild comfort in the suffering of each other, existing just to continue to spite their respected spouses, neither one of them being strong enough to change their situation or simply leave.

It was no surprise to me to learn that the entire album “Tallahassee” which features the song “No Children,” was a concept album focusing around the terrible conditions the song writer experienced growing up in a broken home. That’s real pain, and as a result the songs have real angst, you can feel it in every tense jarring word that is sung and in its own morbid way, it is beautiful, beautifully dark.

There is something comforting about tragedy in stories insofar that it is not you. The contemplation my crazy brain goes through when I hear a song like “No Children,” is that I would never allow myself to ever let things get so completely out of hand. Still it is a pain I can relate too, we all can, because we can all understand the idea of being entrapped in dire situations that slowly consume our lives, most of us never feel such an tragedy directly, thank goodness, but we can all imagine it, and thus we can grasp those feelings and our hearts can share in the terror of the tale.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world;

- Colin Kelly

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ennio Marricone - Man with Harmonica

Two things, congratulations Granit on winning the world cup pool, Holland really pulled it off for you. Second thank you Granit for letting us watch “Once Upon A Time in the West,” at your place a while back, it was great.

The first thing that surprised me about “Once Upon A Time in the West,” was the fact that Charles Bronson was actually is a good movie, the second thing that surprised me was that a movie this amazing could have gone under my notice for so long. How I’m not a movie critic, though I could probably do that too, I’m a music critic, so let’s get to the point.

About four seconds into the film Granit turns to Sean and me and says “best sound track ever.” When you’re right, you’re right; it was in fact the best soundtrack ever.

While it may be far from original, every major character gets their own theme song. Charles Bronson plays the man with no name, but when he appears, every time without fail we hear the harmonica playing the classic death rattle. Every time Frank (Henry Fonda) appears we get an electric guitar with violin. Claudia Cardinale gets a beautiful operatic song. The final song, the great climax plays a mix of all three, appropriate too since the final duel is literally the coming of worlds between the protagonist Charles Bronson and the villain Henry Fonda, and it is finally revealed why the man with no name wants to kill Frank.

If you haven’t seen it, see it, if you have seen it, watch again. In the mean time listen to the climatic end theme “Man With Harmonica.”

Now you know where “Kill Bill” got its great score from, now you know the ultimate duelling song, now you know.

I don’t really have much else to say other than the Stampede makes me thing about cowboy stuff, which in turn makes me think about spaghetti westerns, that’s just now I operate. I consider it a good thing.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Slash & Beth Hart - Mother Maria

Nickolas writes;
“dude ur next music reveiw u should totally do something on compliation albums (i think thts the right word??) like slashs new album and dave grohls probot album u know rockstars workin with various rockstars is fucking killer shit dudeKEEP ON ROCKIN AND FUCKIN ROLLIN IN THE FUKIN FREE WORLD DUDE!!!!”

Terrible English aside, Nicky has a good idea. Compilation albums huh, well I can think of about a hundred examples, but in the event of trying to stay relevant let’s talk about Slash’s new album.

As you all know Slash was the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses before they broke up, and yes they are broken up, Axel hanging out with a bunch of idiots does not count. But yeah other than a couple of albums with Slash’s Snake Pit and Velvet Revolver, Slash has taken it pretty easy… I think. Well he’s not literally dying in elevators from alcohol abuse and then being revived by paramedics anymore, so he has calmed down to say the least.

Now Slash has a solo album out, and as Nicky pointed out, it really is more of a compilation album, every single song on the album has a guest appearance by another musician. I have to say, I think this was a really good move for Slash. We all love Slash’s guitar work, but I have never had any reason to believe that Slash could write and produce great solo music, maybe Slash’s Snake Pit would prove me wrong, but having only briefly listened to it I can’t be certain. Furthermore, like any group effort it shows variety, Slash shows he can create good music with different people, which doesn’t surprise me as Slash has been in three bands now, this album does serve to show a great example of just how much Slash can contribute to anyone’s style.

Highlights of the album have to be guest singers Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Astbury (The Cult), and Iggy Pop, also Fergie proves to be a delightful surprises singer one of the better songs on the album. But, I have to say the best song is not even featured on the basic studio album, but rather a bonus track, which you can get by buying the special edition of the album or by living in Japan or something.

“Mother Maria” featuring Beth Hart, is definitely my favourite song on the album. Who is Beth Hart? That is a good question; I don’t know. I think guest singers and musician team ups is good for another reason, discovering new talents. I don’t know who Beth Hart is but after Slash’s album I’m interested in her.

Regardless Slash has a decent album out, and those of you who did give it a listen may not have picked up the special edition of the album, so here is the bonus track that really sold me, Mother Maria.

And to answer Nicky’s question about rock stars working together on albums, the best thing to happen to music lately is Avantasia. The two newest albums produced by genius Tobias Sammet features guest musicians are almost every single track. I can’t rave enough about how awesome this Sammet guy is, and apparently every rock and roll star in central Europe agrees with me since all of them make appearances on “Wicked Symphony,” and “Angel of Babylon,” but I’ll get to those another day.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Zed - Renegade Fighter

Some songs just rock.

Some songs don’t really offer much more than a surge of energy and good feeling, and you know what William Dafoe said in 1986’s best picture “Platoon;” “Felling good, is good enough.” If William Dafoe said it, you can take it to the bank with confidence it is truth.

Everyone knows Australia’s solution to rocking out and how awesome they are, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone too much to learn that Australia’s closest neighbour New Zealand likes to kick ass as well. For long time readers, you’ll remember me talking about The Feelers way back in August of 2007. The Feelers are, as far as I know, New Zealand’s biggest rock group, but they did not write New Zealand’s most badass rock song; at least not as far as I know.

Simply calling themselves, Zed, this group of rock and rollers set out to achieve the near impossible, international notoriety and fame. When you live on a small island in the Pacific Ocean and you write music that is designed to be nothing more than cult classics, it is a great challenge to jump into mainstream popularity on a global scale. When you live in New Zealand your best bet is to try to win over Britain, and then see where it goes from there.

Where The Feelers were content to rule their home country as rock gods, Zed reached for the stars and set out for England.... Time proved The Feelers wise. While Zed as pretty vanished from the face of the Earth, The Feelers are still gods in New Zealand, even if no one else has heard of them, except me of course, but in many ways I have literally became that guy, you know, who knows stuff like this.

Zed only ever released one album, but in a weird way, they did achieve their dream of fame. The popularity of one of their songs soared through the Internet, and rocked its way into the hearts of nerds and rockers alike. “Renegade Fighter,” is a badass song.

Not to say the entire self titled album “Zed,” has no other good songs, they are all decent tracks, but “Renegade Fighter,” is special, very special.

If you listen to Renegade Fighter and don’t want to conquer the world with your own perpetual awesomeness, I would have to sadly inform you, that you are, in fact, very boring.

If you can’t rock out to lyrics like;

I’m a lover, I’m a winner, I’m a fighter,
Going to set your soul on fire.
I’m lover, I’m a renegade fighter,
Going to set your soul on fire.

I’m a lover, I’m a sinner, I’m a fighter,
Going to set your soul on fire.
I’m lover, I’m a renegade fighter,
Going to set your soul on fire.

Then yeah, you’re boring.

Now that I think about it, if you don’t have some hidden desire to be an actual renegade fighter in real life, then you really are boring.

That’s it, there’s nothing more to say, some songs just rock.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zakk Wylde - Way Beyond Empty

Last May I reviewed Black Label Society – In This River, that was a good review, I enjoyed it. So Zakk has done awesome work with both his badass metal band Black Label Society and with the man Ozzy Osbourne, so basically Zakk Wylde... is the ultimate man.

Not too surprisingly Zakk Wylde’s solo album is nothing shy of absolute greatness.

Before Black Label Society, when Zakk was still working with Ozzy, he attempted his first group act outside of Ozzy under the name Pride and Glory. The group broke up after one year and a self titled album.

But within one year span of “Pride and Glory” breaking up, Zakk released his only true solo album (that I know of) “Book of Shadows.”

I love Ozzy Osbourne and I love the heavy songs by Black Label Society, but I find Zakk’s acoustic tracks from “Book of Shadows,” particularly enjoyable. Maybe it’s just the style I personally prefer or maybe there is something about that one special album that makes every song really stand out, I’m not sure, but I thoroughly enjoy Zakk’s work, heavy and soft.

If I had to pick one track from “Book of Shadows,” and I kind of do since I don’t intend to share the entire album over email, it would have to be “Way Beyond Empty.” I love heavily sentimental soulful songs, I can’t help it, I’m huge romantic at heart; I know I hide it well. And that is just how I would describe Zakk’s singing style, soulful. He does not possess some amazing singing voice or anything he just gives it hell, and not too surprisingly when you really put a lot of heart into something it comes out beautiful. I pretty much have to say the same thing about Zakk’s performance on his Les Paul, he puts a lot of heart into his songs, and it shows.

I don’t have too much more to add... Zakk Wylde is the world’s greatest active guitarist.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly


When I was in HMV the other day buying Black Label CDs, I noticed Avantasia (January 2009 Music in Review) had a catalogue in the metal section now.

This made me happy, because I am very, very convinced that Avantasia – “The Scarecrow” was by far the best album of 2008, and I’m happy someone other than me bought it. Also the two LPs Tibias Sommet released as appetisers for the final album have been combined into one super album called “Lost in Space.” It includes a new version of the song, “Lost in Space,” which is even more rocking than the original.

I am pleased with this development.

So go to HMV and buy Avantasia - “The Scarecrow,” and “Lost in Space.” It’s as good as I make it out to be.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Neil Young - Keep on Rocking in the Free World

Neil Young is Canada’s greatest song writer of all time. There is no two ways about it, the man has written literally hundreds of songs, most of them good, many of them great, some absolutely amazing.

I had the good fortune of changing the channel to CBC showing the closing ceremony for the 2010 Olympics just as Neil Young took the stage and performed his heartfelt classic “Long May You Run,” a beautiful song of remembrance that is actually written about Neil’s first car believe it or not. Just goes to show what kind of visions and emotion a great song writer can evoke with an offbeat topic like that.

Neil Young has three dynasties in this musical discography, each one take place at the end of a decade and beginning of the next. In 1989 Neil Young released the album “Freedom,” with his greatest song (in my opinion) “Keep On Rocking In The Free World.”

Every time I hear someone going on about politics in music, and mistakenly giving idiot bands like Greenday or System of a Down credit for being such, I can only shake my head. Screaming about nothing or whining about nothing, sure doesn’t seem political or deep to me, but writing great music that has hidden messages that don’t beat you over the head with, that’s something to credit. Neil has such a talent to make the problems of others seem so personal and close to heart, he makes you feel the pain of others and more than just that he makes you reflect on it.

Of all the songs I’ve ever heard in my entire life “Keep On Rocking In The Free World,” is among the very best, but its more than just a masterpiece of politic commentary and personal anguish captured in poetry, it’s a kick ass rock and roll song with great guitar riffs.

It is one of the best songs of all time, easily one of my top five favourites.

If you can’t pick out all the references to problems in the world some being very relevant at the time, well you’ll just have to figure that stuff out for yourself. If you aren’t moved by this song, then I have even worse news for you, you are an inhuman drone. “Keep on Rocking in the Free World” is one of the lyrically richest songs ever written, if you don’t feel something, then there is something wrong with you.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ozzy Osbourne - I Just Want You

"There are no unlockable doors,
There are no unwinnable wars,
There are no unrightable wrongs,
Or unsingable songs.
There are no unbeatable odds,
There are no believable Gods,
There are no unnameable names,
Shall I say it again? Yeah.
There are no impossible dreams,
There are no invisible seams,
Each night when the day is through,
I don't ask much,

I just want you.
I just want you.

There are no uncriminal crimes,
There are no unrhymeable rhymes,
There are no identical twins or,
Forgivable sins.
There are no incurable ills,
There are no unkillable thrills,
One thing and you know it's true,
I don't ask much,

I just want you.
I just want you.

I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired,
I used to go to bed so high and wired,
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.
I think I'll buy myself some plastic water,
I guess I should have married Lennon's daughter,
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

There are no unachievable goals,
There are no unsavable souls,
No legitimate kings or queens,
Do you know what I mean? Yeah.
There are no indisputable truths,
And there ain't no fountain of youth.
Each night when the day is through,
I don't ask much,

I just want you.
I just want you."

It’s such a simple poetic scheme really. Effectively there are only two types of sentences present in the entire song, the verses containing nothing more than a collection of “There are no ____” examples, and the chorus “I just want you.”

Sometimes the simplest statements are most profound.

Everyone loves Ozzy Osbourne, so, me saying I really like Ozzy Osbourne is rather redundant, don’t you think? But I really like this song, it says a lot without trying, and to me, that is the best possible example of poetry.

Sometimes we waste thousands of words trying to convey the simplest of messages, even highly renowned writers are guilty of this, but effective verbal and written expression should be the opposite. A few short words saying everything that needs to be said.

Again, we all love Ozzy Osbourne, but it is easy to overlook just how good of a song writer, front man, and musician he really is. Ozzy’s antics and personality tend to overshadow the great talent he possesses, which in some regards is a bad thing, but in many more ways very intriguing and complimenting to his overall person.

“I Just Want You,” is little more than a list of conventionally believed impossible or near impossible challenges dismissed as plausible, and the humble request, “I just want you,” it reminds me that the things we really want are so very feasible when compared to all the other achievable goals that are also present to us. It’s very romantic. Don’t we all compare our own feelings of love to monoliths of the unbelievable?

Until next month, keep on rocking the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jeff Martin - The Kingdom

Growing up I listened to a lot of The Tea Party, to this day I have every Tea Party album, an honour that is shared only with Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. I have seen The Tea Party live on six separations including once at Cowboy’s for free (thank you Shane). In 2005 when The Tea Party broke up I was saddened, but I felt confident that something good would come thereafter.

Jeff Martin, lead singer, guitarist, and song writer of The Tea Party would start his solo career, and in 2006 he released his only solo album to date “Exile and The Kingdom,” most of you probably never heard about it, it received virtually no commercial advertising or support, but that’s why I do what I do every month.

“Exile and The Kingdom,” was not the finest album ever, it ranks a little less great when compared to the first four Tea Party albums, but right on par with their last two; all and all, it is a good 7-8 out of 10 album. The thing I found most enjoyable about the album was it FELT like Jeff Martin, it felt like part of his soul, I was very familiar with his works so I could just sense that every song on this album was something Jeff had wanted to do, it had his touch, his presence, it was authentic and pure, which would be the only possible complaint about the last two Tea Party albums someone could possibly muster.

The high point of the album has to be the final exert, “The Kingdom.” In a word, the song is beautiful, but also the song struck a deep cord within me when I first heard it, and now in a slightly different place in my life it strikes me again so sweetly.

Someone quasi close to me who also loved Jeff Martin and The Tea Party once told me, she thought the song “The Kingdom,” was so sad. I was baffled by her statement, I could not fathom how she managed to see something sad is something so optimistic.

Just listen to the lyrics and while the opening verse shares pain and regret, these things are given no more attention afterward. Jeff isn’t singing about past indiscretions, he is singing about wonder that is yet to be achieved. A return to fantasy, a great world laying in wait just ahead of us, and all we need do is step forward and embrace our wondrous destiny.

“Thy will, be done here. The Kingdom is calling you.”

The kingdom is calling you, makes me smile, I can’t help but feel a personal connection to those words. All my hard work and all my quietly and not so quietly done good deeds must have amounted to something, surely if I just reach out and accept what’s mine, it shall be so, and surely only something good awaits me.

I guess if we focus on our lives mistakes and only our mistakes, we could force some sort of perverted view of “The Kingdom,” as being a sombre song of sadness. But anyone who sees that is missing the whole point, “The Kingdom,” isn’t about the past, it’s about the future. For all of us a great future awaits, our kingdoms are just waiting for us to accept them.

Beautiful, simply beautiful.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly