Archive for August, 2010

British Steel – Judas Priest (1980)

Posted in Album review on August 29, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

British Steel is the sixth album by the band Judas Priest. It was their first album to appear in the US Billboard chart and it reached #4 in the UK Pop Album chart. British Steel is perhaps the best example of what the new wave of british heavy metal was all about.

British Steel was recorded at Tittenhurst Park, home of  John Lennon and later Ringo Starr. This album has a more accessible and commercial flavor then its predecessors in both music and lyrics.

Everything that defines 80’s heavy metal is included here. Long gone are the last traces of blues, characteristic of the genre in the past. The music here sits comfortably between the groove of AC/DC and the sophistication of Iron Maiden. It’s packed full of unforgettable riffs on driving beats. Of course Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight steal the show. Grinder, Metal Gods, Rapid Fire, The Rage and Steeler are other very strong tracks. United is perhaps the only weak moment.

British Steel was remastered in 2001 with bonus tracks, definitely the way to go.

British Steel is unquestionably the metal gods at their peak and a historical landmark in heavy metal music. I definitely recommend starting here for a first taste of the band.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

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Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969)

Posted in Album review on August 25, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Abbey Road was the last album recorded by The Beatles (Let It Be was the last album released). It went straight to number one after its release and stayed at the top for 17 weeks! The Rolling Stone magazine voted it the 14th greatest album of all time. It’s amazing how a falling apart band is able to release such a great record.

It’s very difficult to choose a favorite Beatles album. They’re all perfect but I have to say Abbey Road has the best production of them all. Of course a lot of the credits go the George Martin. Also, Alan Parsons was credited as assistant engineer. Abbey Road and Let It Be were the only two albums recorded on a 8-track machine recorder instead of the old 4-track recorders.

I’m not going to highlight any songs from this album. All I have to say is that the Beatles are the cream of the crop and their music is timeless. You can’t go wrong any of it.

The photograph on the album cover is perhaps the most famous shot of the band. It helped propagate the “Paul is dead” urban legend. It also made the zebra crossing a tourist attraction. Interesting to note that the parked Volkswagen beetle had its license plate stolen several times because of the photo. Now the car is on a display in a museum.

With regards to the Beatles, I don’t have to tell you that any of their albums are essential recordings, right? The whole Beatles catalog has been finally remastered through a meticulously 4-year process. That’s the version of the Abbey Road I recommend to own.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Fly Like An Eagle & Book Of Dreams – Steve Miller Band (1977-78)

Posted in Album review on August 20, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Fly Like An Eagle and Book Of Dreams are the brainchild of american guitarist and songwriter Steve Miller. They’re the definition of album rock and a perfect example of 70’s classic rock. I estimate that I have probably listened to these albums at least a couple of hundred times. They’re that good. In fact, I don’t know which one is better because they were both recorded at the same time and even considered to be released as a double album. That’s why I’m reviewing both together.

Steve Miller had the most incredible guitar schooling during his early years. At a young age, he had lessons from both T-Bone Walker and Les Paul. They were friends of the family! He also had jam sessions with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. During his early twenties his band became the backing band for Chuck Berry. What a incredible resume!

With this strong blues foundation coupled with the psychedelic movement of the 60’s he started his own brand of space rock that lasted until the early 70’s. At that point, he decided to drop the psychedelic tendencies and go a little more pop and simplistic with The Joker. It wasn’t until Fly Like An Eagle and Book Of Dreams that his vision became fully realized.

The songs from both albums were recorded in several sessions with different musicians at a couple of different places. There was a point that Miller almost canned the whole project from dissatisfaction. In the end his persistence paid off. Fly Like An Eagle, Take The Money And Run, Rock’n Me, Jet Airliner, Jungle Love, True Fine Love, Swingtown, Serenade, The Stake, Dance Dance Dance, Wild Mountain Honey, Winter Time are remarkable classic rock radio staples we all know.

Fly Like An Eagle 30th Anniversary deluxe package is the way to go. It has remastered sound with bonus tracks and a dvd concert. I own a re-mastered import of Book of Dreams. Hopefully this album will also get a domestic deluxe treatment soon.

Fly Like An Eagle and Book Of Dreams are albums that you can most defintely listen to all the way through without skipping anything. So make you also don’t skip these two albums from your classic rock collection!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Breakfast In America – Supertramp (1979)

Posted in Album review on August 11, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Breakfast In America is the mega-smash release by the group Supertramp. In the face of internal turmoil, the band hit the big time and achieved massive commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. Breakfast In America became their biggest selling album with more than 18 million copies sold worldwide.

Despite having roots in progressive rock, Supertramp created material here that sounds very pop-oriented with very little self indulgence. In fact, I like to look at Supertramp as a pop band with prog rock leanings. Besides pop and rock, I also hear a tad of jazz here and there. To me, the most distinctive sound feature on the album is the use of the Wurlitzer electric piano on a number of songs.

Breakfast In America has very few weak moments. The pop hits The Logical Song, Goodbye Stranger, Take The Long Way Home and Breakfast In America definitely stand out but this is still a nice album to listen to all the way through.

Keep in mind that this album has been re-mastered a couple of times. The latest revision is more desirable because it has the original album art restored.

If you have good taste in music Breakfast In America sounds delicious and can only be served by Supertramp. Bon Appétit!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Rising – Rainbow (1976)

Posted in Album review on August 10, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Rainbow is one of the most under appreciated hard rock bands of the 70’s, always in the shadow of Deep Purple because of shared similarities. Still, they had undeniable talent and held their own very well. Rising is the band’s second album and perhaps their proudest moment. The number one issue of Kerrang voted Rising as the #1 hard rock album of all time!

Rainbow’s debut was a mixed bag. So this time around, Blackmore decided to re-vamp the band and replace almost all the musicians with the exception of Dio. This line up was much more talented than the previous one and it shows on the recording. Note that the album was produced by Deep Purple’s engineer Martin Birch.

Rising clocks at around 34 minutes and only has six tracks, a little on the short side. However, every single song here is a winner with no fillers. It features a nice balance of straight rockers and longer more involved pieces. I really like Tarot Woman, Run With The Wolf, Startruck and the 8-minute long masterpiece Stargazer featuring the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

The first CD releases have a slight different mix of the album. Is not the same mix as the original LP. The 1999 remasters have fixed this problem. As always, go for the remastered version of the album.

Rising is an excellent album and can stand next to anything from Deep Purple’s catalog. You must own it!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Kiss – Kiss (1974)

Posted in Album review on August 8, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Kiss is the debut album from the american band of the same name. Along with Destroyer, this is their best studio album. Without the presence of a hit single or any radio support. Kiss sold around 75,000 copies soon after its release. How did they do it? Word of mouth by non-stop performances. Of course, great music had something to do with it as well…

This album is a classic example of what 70’s hard rock is all about. It’s full of catchy melodies and memorable guitar riffs with nothing too intellectual or provoking. Just how it should be, plain, unadulterated rock and roll.

Along with the rest of the band’s catalog, this album has been digitally remastered. The track listing is amazing. Crammed full of songs that became concert staples and included in many anthologies. There are seven special songs: Strutter, Nothin’ To Loose, Firehouse, Cold Gin, Deuce, Black Diamond and 100,000 Years. Interesting note, before the band had any record deal, five of these songs were included the band’s original demo tape. This tape was produced by non other than Eddie Kramer. The studio owed the band a favor for some unpaid work they’ve done. It might be interesting to hunt down this tape.

The album cover has a couple of interesting stories. The band always did their own makeup by themselves but Peter Criss tried using a professional instead for the cover photo. It looked awful! Obviously he went back to doing the make up his own way. Another story is that Ace Frehley, trying to impress the other guys, spray painted his hair silver to look cool. It took weeks for that to come out and he had a skin reaction to it.

Kiss sound just as fresh today as it did back then. You can’t miss this album from the hottest band in the land.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Moving Pictures – Rush (1981)

Posted in Album review on August 8, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Moving Pictures is Rush’s most popular and commercially successful album to date. It best represents a period of the band and it may even be their best album. It sold over four million copies and hit #3 in the U.S.

The band was at the top of their game. It uses the formula of the previous release, Permanent Waves, of radio friendly music but still retaining a progressive edge. This balance worked well and the songs became highly listenable and accessible. I always recommend this album for those that are not big fans of progressive rock. In fact, the music on this album is borderline progressive and crosses over mainstream sometimes.

Like all releases from Rush, the music here is intelligent and entertaining. The first four songs are the radio standards and also more immediate: Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ and Limelight. The other three songs are the kind that get better and better every time I listen to them. That happens a lot to me when listening to progressive rock music.

A little trivia, the beginning melody on the song YYZ spells its title in Morse code.

Rush’s old catalog has been remastered in 1997 so it’s the way to go. The original cd pressing is missing the first beat of Tom Sawyer by mistake. Always go for the remasters!

The band just recently announced that they will play this album in its entirety on their next tour. This is truly a great album. If you have the slightest interest in the band you can’t miss this one!

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto