New music from classic rockers Harris, Kiss, Aerosmith

By Tom Von Malder | Nov 18, 2012
Photo by: Universal Music Enterprises Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, center, has released his first side project, “British Lion.”

Owls Head — Steve Harris: British Lion (UMe CD, 52:12). Most people know Harris as the bassist, occasional keyboardist, backing vocalist, primary songwriter and co-founder of the legendary British rock band Iron Maiden. He has appeared on all their albums and, with guitarist Dave Murray, been in the band constantly from the beginning. Now, after decades as Iron Maiden, Harris has released his first solo disc, yet it actually is a side project with another band, called British Lion. In the early 1990s, Harris managed and wrote with the band British Lion. From that band for this effort come vocalist Richard Taylor and guitarist Grahame Leslie, the latter on three tracks. David Hawkins is the main guitarist here. The album was mixed by Kevin Shirley, who has handled Iron Maiden, Journey, Rush and Led Zeppelin.

What I like about this album is there is a lot of space on the songs, rather than an all-out assault approach (see Kiss below). For example, the opening “This is My God,” one of a half-dozen highlights, takes its time developing. It is a diatribe against the perils facing the current generation. The next track, “Lost Worlds,” is notable for Taylor’s mostly vocal ending. “Karma Killer,” with its clashing cymbals, is a ‘70s rocker, while “Us Again the World” really plays up Harris’ bass behind the verses. Hawkins adds some nice guitar on the chorus. Another highlight, “The Chosen Ones,” is an uplifting rocker with a nice long instrumental section that features a sweet guitar. There’s a melodic opening to the rocker “A World Without Heaven,” which again has a nice instrumental break. “Judas,” about someone who has been flirting with belief, but now feels let down, is more of a basher, while “Eyes of the Young” falls into the pop rock category. The album ends with the slower tempo of “The Lesson,” which includes strings. Grade: A-

Kiss: Monster (UMe CD, 43:43).
Paul Stanley (producer, vocals, guitar) and Gene Simmons (bass, vocals) are joined by lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer -- no Ace Frehley or Peter Criss -- on this throwback to their legendary mid-Seventies days of “Destroyer.” In fact, on the opening “Hell or Hallelujah,” Simmons sings a refrain “Lay down! Stay down!” that echoes “Get up!/Get down!” from “Detroit Rock City,” the iconic track from “Destroyer.” Heck, Simmons even sings on the stomper “Back to the Stone Age” that “I’m going back to the Stone Age/back where I belong.” “Wall of Sound” is literally that, but tight. Most of the highlights come late, but an early one is “Freak,” which, frankly, is more of a song than the other tracks. More classical Kiss sounding on this, the band’s 20th album, are “Shout Mercy,” “long Way Down,” “Eat Your Heart Out” and “Outta This World.” The latter lets guitarist Thayer sing (not the best move on an otherwise fun, chucky track). “All for the Love of Rock & Roll,” which is Singer’s sole chance to sing lead, is more pop rock,” while the closing “Last Chance” is rock pop. The album is neither great nor bad. What it is is typical Kiss. Grade: B

Aerosmith: Music from Another Dimension (Columbia CD, 68:04).
It took Aerosmith 11 years to come up with this album, and vocalist Steve Tyler a two-year sting on “American Idol” to realize how much he missed the band, but Boston’s bad-boy, dysfunctional rockers are back. Of course, the music is hardly from another dimension -- that title seems solely used to tie in with the science fiction-themed album cover art, andc is responsible for the spoken intro and outro that makes it as if we were listening to an old science fiction TV anthology show. No such luck. We actually get a hodgepodge, with maybe four highlights, but a lot of good guitar by Steve Perry (whose lyric writing is very weak here) and Brad Whitford. The single “Legendary Child” celebrates the band’s own legacy. Also on the plus side are the rocker “Out Go the Lights” (the horns are a nice touch, along with the harmonica and the extended coda with Perry’s guitar and a multitude of backing vocalists), the ballad “What Could Have Been Love” and “Street Jesus” (another lengthy track with a rollicking instrumental break, and rewrites “Toys in the Attic”). “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” is an out-of-nowhere Tyler duet with Carrie Underwood, “Lover A lot” is redundant and goes nowhere and the Diane Warren ballad, “We All Fall Down,” does nothing. Perry sings and wrote “Freedom Fighter” -- and invites actor Johnny Depp to sing backing vocals (Depp is a guitarist, so this really doesn’t make sense) and the actually painful-to-listen-to “Something.” The disc closes with the slow “Another Last Goodbye,” with Beatles-like piano and strings. and one fine Tyler scream. Grade: B-

Green Day: !Uno! (Reprise CD, 41:48).
This is the first of three new Green Day CDs, with “!Dos!” due Tuesday and “!Tre!” moved up to December. After excursions on two long-form projects and Broadway, Billy Joe Armstrong and crew work hard to claim back their hard rock-punk roots on this satisfying album. They thrash way on “Nuclear Family,” then go more mid-tempo for “Stay the Night” (“I’ve got to know if you are the one who got away”). The band lets its influences come through throughout the album as well. “Carpe Diem” echoes a David Bowie song in its melody chorus (think “this is our last chance”), while “Kill the DJ” has a bit Clash-like chorus tempo change and guitar. I hear a bit of Iggy Pop in the vocal delivery on “Troublemaker,” which features a bouncy guitar opening, and some Irish to the closing “Oh Love,” with its nice melody. In another punkish number, “Loss of Control,” Armstrong sings, “I’d rather go to the funeral than to this high school reunion.” Beware that there is lots of the “f” word in the lyrics throughout. Grade: A-

Queen: Greatest Video Hits (Eagle Vision, 2 DVDs, 134 min.).
This collection of 33 Queen music videos is an absolute must. Queen always was a very visual band and an innovator in the music video format. Here, the videos have been restored and remixed in 5.1 Surround Sound, and there is audio commentary by lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. The first disc focuses on the 1970s, as the music video started to evolve into an art form. Included are “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” and “Flash,” from the film “Flash Gordon.” Disc two presents the 1980s, including “Radio Ga Ga,” “I Want To Break Free” and “Under Pressure.” The music sounds great, as always, and the videos are highly entertaining. Grab this one. Grade: A+

One Direction: Take Me Home (SYCO/Columbia CD, 42:23).
Overall. I like this better than the debut album, but there is no hiding that there is heavy formula work here. The five lads, who were put together as an act for the British version of “The X Factor,” never emerge as individuals here, like two or the more famous boy bands in history, The Beatles and The Monkees. Still, there is no denying the catchy power of the hits “Live While We’re Young” -- so bubbly, it makes it literally hard to stand still -- and “They Don’t Know About Us.” Writers and producers Rami Yacoub, Carl Falk, Savan Kotecha, Ed Sheeran and McFly’s Tom Fletcher are all back to work on album number two. Other collaborators are Dr. Luke, Shellback and Toby Gad. The boys themselves co-write several tracks. Other highlights, in addition to the two hits, are “Kiss You,” with lots of chorus bounce, and “Back For You.” There’s a Queen-like “We Will Rock You” backing on “Rock Me,” and “I Would” has perhaps the album’s best line in: “I can’t compete with your boyfriend/He has 27 tattoos.” Best of the softer tracks is “Change My Mind.” There is acoustic guitar on the love song “Little Things” and an electronic beat opens “C’mon, C’mon.” Grade: B+

Glee: The Music Presents Glease (Columbia CD, 24:49).
It has been quite some time since the last album by the “Glee” cast and this is based on the two episodes in which New Directions prepares for and puts on “Grease” as the school musical. There are only nine tracks on the brisk album, including a maudlin solo by Darren Criss on “Hopelessly Devoted To You” (not his only buzz kill performance on the series this season; there was the horrid way-to-slow piano version of “Teenage Dream”). Criss fares a bit better on “Beauty School Dropout.” Newcomers Blake Jenner (Ryder), Jacob Artist (Jake Puckerman) and Melissa Benoist (Marley), as well as Amber Riley (Mercedes), are featured on “Born To Hand Jive,” which is fun. Jenner and Chord Overstreet (Sam) perform “Greased Lightning,” which has a big instrumental section. “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” is first performed by newcomer Becca Tobin (nasty cheerleader Kitty), and then reprised by Benoist. While different, both have a perfect voice for the song. Kate Hudson (New York dance teacher Cassandra)sings “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” along with Naya Rivera (Santana) and Alex Newell (Unique). The best comes last, with Cory Monteith (Finn), Lea Michele (Rachel) and others on the bright “You’re the One That I Want” and another group number in “Summer Nights” (which lists Damian McGinty as Rory in the booklet, but he was nowhere in Thursday night’s episode, leading me to think they used a recording from last season for this track). This is not the best “Glee” album release, but it is adequate. Grade: B

Dave Fields: Detonation (Field of Roses CD, 63:13).
Earlier this month, blues-rock guitarist/singer-songwriter Fields played Rockland’s Time Out Pub. This third album highlights Fields’ two major influences, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. The Hendrix style is heard on the opening “Addicted to Your Fire,” a bluesy number in which the singer’s lady of interest has “that 9-1-1 attraction.” There’s a heavier Eric Clapton-esque feel to the opening of “In the Night,” a highlight, along with the well-played guitar on “Prophet in Disguise,” the reggae-wah wah mix on “Bad Hair Day” (featuring organist/rapper Delmar Brown)and the lengthy instrumental “Lydia.” Alligator recording artist Joe Louis Walker contributes guitar and backing vocals on “Doin’ Hard Time.” The album, produced by David Z (Prince, Johnny Lang, Etta James, Buddy Guy) lyrically touches on many subjects, some unusual, such as the alien abductions in “Better Be Good.” The album is always entertaining and has a lot of variety. Grade: A-

John Williams: Lincoln original motion picture soundtrack (Sony Classical CD, 58:54).
This film marks the 40th anniversary of the collaboration between composer Williams and director Steven Spielberg. For the film about our president during the Civil War (portrayed on screen by Daniel Day-Lewis), Williams has written a mostly understated, but effective score. One gets a sense of the wide-openness of our Heartland in “The People’s House,” and even though “Getting Out the Vote” sounds like an election piece, it sounds like a dance with a fiddle. “The Blue and the Grey” comes across like a wordless song, while “Rally Round the Flag Boys” is sung during “Call to Muster and Battle Cry of Freedom.” There’s banjo on “The Race to the House,” while “Equality Under the Law” is stately and “Freedom’s Call” is very melodic. “The Petersen House and Finale” has the full-bodied main theme and very nice piano, as it extends to 11 minutes. The disc closes with Randy Kerber’s piano solo. The score is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Choir. Grade: B+

Thomas Newman: Skyfall original motion picture soundtrack (Sony Classical CD, 77:31).
For 25 years, John Barry composed wonder scores for the James Bond films. When I listen to “Goldfinger,” I can just visualize Sean Connery as Bond driving along the coast. And while, Newman is a successful and talented writer of film scores, I have to admit that I just don’t get it with this one. The score does nothing for me. Other than one note (a fakeout?), Monty Norman’s classic Bond theme is not heard until the 22nd track. There’s some propulsive drumming on “Silhouette,” but the only track I truly liked is the very last one, with both electronics and Middle Eastern flavor. I also dislike that the theme songs are no longer included on the soundtrack album. However, Adele’s “Skyfall” single -- and she gets it; the song ties in nicely with earlier Bond themes, such as “Thunderball” -- is available as a CD single (Columbia) and worth getting. Grade for score: C

Comments (1)
Posted by: Christopher Veilleux | Nov 19, 2012 17:57

i have the new aerosmith cd,ita a cross between "Rocks"& "Get a Grip"some head bangers ,some mid tempo "radio" stuff ,and a few ballads.on the delux edition 3 bonus trax Tom Hamilton sings on one,Steven on one,and JOE PERRY sings the other,Steve Perry used to be the singer of Journey,you know the You Tube resurected band with 3 original members,Aerosmith still has all 5 after 40 yrs,so they must be doing something right,

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