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Suicidal Tendencies has always been a punk / metal band that was a little bit weird and goofy, despite their name.

The vocalist, Mike Muir, has always been the driving force behind the band. They first came across my radar via the video for “Possessed To Skate” from Join The Army in 1987. You can definitely see the humor in this video!

Their next album How Will I Laugh Tomorrow, When I Can’t Even Smile Today was probably their first major breakthrough…when they started becoming much more of a metal band than a punk band. Soon after that album bassist Robert Trujillo joined the band and they put out probably their best and most successful album Lights…Camera…Revolution.

The interesting thing about that album was how Trujillo’s bass brought a new sense of funkiness to the proceedings. Rocky George’s guitar with his bass was a pretty amazing combination. Here was their big hit from that album “You Can’t Bring Me Down” which is a pretty good example of the style:

At that point, Mike Muir wanted to explore funk and funk-metal more, so he decided to start a side project called Infectious Grooves. It was influenced by early Red Hot Chili Peppers and the lyrics and overall aesthetic was much more lighthearted and fun than Suicidial Tendencies.

Infectious Grooves consisted of Muir and Trujillo along with guitarist Dan Pleasants (who ended up eventually replacing Rocky George in Suicidal Tendencies when he left to play with Fishbone), and Stephen Perkins (of Jane’s Addiction fame) on drums.

Their first album The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move…It’s The Infectious Grooves is today’s pick!

There’s definitely a ton of fun rock on the album, mostly written by Muir and Trujillo: “You Lie…And Your Breath Stank”, “Stop Funk’n With My Head” (where its debatable if they actually always say “funk” in the chorus), and “Punk It Up” are all highlights.

They even convinced Ozzy Osbourne to lend a hand on vocals for the first single released from the album called “Therapy”:

This collaboration actually lead to Robert Trujillo leaving Suicidal Tendencies to join Ozzy’s band…which eventually lead him to being the bassist of Metallica in the early 2000s. So Infectious Grooves is actually an interesting catalyst in the history of major rock bands, even though it seems like it is just a footnote.

The album also contains some fun skits with a singing reptile called Aladdin Sarsippius Sulemenagic Jackson III.

The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move…It’s The Infectious Grooves is a fun party record that I come back to often when I need a pick me up.

Earlier this week, Gabe Serbian, drummer for San Diego grind-punk weirdos The Locust passed away. He was only 44 years old.

The Locust, and Gabe’s drumming specifically, was a huge influence on me and my own playing in the early 2000s. I was completely immersing myself in what was casually called “Brutal Prog” around that time which was a combination of progressive rock with more heavy influences like punk rock, grindcore, and death metal. On the grindcore end of things, there were basically 3 bands I considered the pinnacle of this idea: Daughters, Agoraphobic Nosebleed and The Locust. All 3 of them released excellent albums in 2002, coincidentally enough: Daughter’s self-titled, 7” record, Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s mind-boggling Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope and The Locust’s magnum opus Plague Soundscapes. Given the recent circumstances Plague Soundscapes is this week’s pick, but the other albums are well worth checking out if you’re into this sort of thing.

The Locust’s take on the sound involved very short bursts of songs, with heavy guitars, screaming vocals, very spazzy synthesizers with pummeling drums. Not for the faint hearted…this is not background music by any stretch of the imagination! An overwhelming tornado of sound with tons of details to unpack. When they played live, they also donned insect costumes to give them a pretty menacing appearance.

When Gabe Serbian first joined The Locust, he was playing guitar. However, he switched to drums in late 2001, and we’re all better off for it. The man was an incredible drumming machine. Completely powerful, overwhelming and complex was the name of his game. When he played live, he put his entire body into it and would basically pass out from exhaustion at the end of their short, yet blistering sets.

I saw them live twice during this time…and luckily both of the shows are preserved on YouTube!

The first one was at the More Than Music festival in Columbus, Ohio in 2002:

They shared the stage that day with Melt-Banana and Mastodon (Remission had just come out!). An unbelievable day of music.

The second show was at The Fireside Bowl in Chicago, IL the next summer in 2003:

In between those two shows Plague Soundscapes came out so it’s very representative of their sound and approach at that time.

Later in the band’s career they lengthened their songs and added more progressive elements (Safety Second, Body Last and New Erections). However, I think the Plague Soundscapes era was probably their high-water mark.

Synthesizer pioneer Klaus Schulze passed away earlier this week at the age of 74. He was a founding member of Tangerine Dream (though he left before they discovered the sound they were most famous for).

As a solo musician, he was mostly known for his long-form, ambient, spaced-out compositions (His 1975 epic Timewind being one of my favorites from his extremely long discography). He also famously had a fascination with Dune and released several recordings inspired by it (including working with Hans Zimmer on last year’s Dune soundtrack).

One of the more interesting things he was involved in that hasn’t got the same amount of hype was a progressive rock / jazz fusion super-group he was a member of in the late 70s called Go.

Go (which translates to “Five” in Japanese) was formed by another synthesizer trendsetter, Stomu Yamashta.

One of Stomu’s claims to fame was that his live album from 1971 The World Of Stomu Yamash’ta was the first commercial digital recording ever made! A hard-to-find classic.

Anyways, the members of Go were pretty amazing:

  • Stomu Yamashta - percussion and keyboards
  • Steve Winwood (Yes, THAT Steve Winwood) - vocals and piano
  • Michael Shrieve (Santana’s drummer) - drums
  • Klaus Schulze - synthesizers
  • Al Di Meola (Return To Forever virtuoso) - lead guitar

How can that possibly be bad? The answer, of course, is it isn’t bad. It is excellent.

They released two studio albums in their brief existence, but my favorite recording of theirs was the live album from 1976 called Live From Paris, which is today’s pick.

This is an awesome recording of a sadly forgotten group of star musicians that really needs greater recognition for their performance together.

Basically everything that is great about the individual members is showcased in this recording. Lightning fast guitar runs? Al Di Meola has you covered. Soulful singing and piano playing? Enter Steve Winwood. Powerful, funky drumming? Michael Shrieve to the rescue. Spacey keyboards and textures? Stomu Yamashta and Klaus Schulze fit the bill.

Semi-related: I’m going to close today’s pick with footage of Santana’s awesome performance of “Soul Sacrifice” from Woodstock, complete with 20 year old Michael Shrieve’s ridiculously outstanding drum solo. Because I will never pass up an opportunity to reference it in some way:

After you soak in that footage, proceed on to enjoy Live From Paris!

Pianist Brad Mehldau is someone who refuses to be pigeonholed. While he is world renown for his jazz trio and his association with saxophonist Joshua Redman his overall work encompasses a much larger scope.

He has been known to dabble with rock formats and compositions over the years. For example, here he his performing Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”:

His latest album, Jacob’s Ladder is heavily inspired by 70s progressive rock. In fact, the title is in reference to the Rush song that first appeared on Permanent Waves.

The first song on the album “maybe as his skies are wide” is part of the lyrics of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” sang in a chant-like way with Brad’s beautiful piano and some skittering drums underneath.

It then segues into “Herr und Knecht” which Mehldau claims is inspired by modern metal / djent bands like Periphery complete with some metal-like screams. Very cool stuff.

Later on the album is a fantastic cover of Gentle Giant’s Cogs In Cogs (from The Power And The Glory) stretched out into a lengthy 3-part interpretation and extrapolation.

The band does the same with Rush’s “Jacob’s Ladder” itself later in the album.

Sandwiched between those two is a crazed cover of Rush’s Tom Sawyer (with Chris Thiele of Nickel Creek fame!) that has to be heard to be believed!

The final track “Heaven” includes interpretations of Yes songs (including the “Life Seeker” and “Wurm” segments of “Starship Trooper”) and some nods to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

This quite possibly will be one of my favorite albums released all year. It is both paying tribute to the past while being innovative and futuristic at the same time.

Set Jacob’s Ladder on repeat and play it loud!

After The Police broke up, drummer Stewart Copeland was mainly focused on writing movie soundtracks, jumping off of his success of The Rhythmatist. However, he eventually got the itch to play rock again and looked into starting another band. He teamed up with virtuoso bass player Stanley Clarke, who was best known with his association with Chick Corea and Return To Forever.

They agreed that they wanted the group to have a female singer, and after holding a long series of auditions chose the then unknown vocalist Deborah Holland. Not only was she a very gifted singer, reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt, she was also a great songwriter. This seemed to be a perfect fit.

They originally were called Rush Hour and convinced Andy Summers to play guitar. However, he thought it would be compared too much to The Police with his association, so it was short-lived. After he left, they became known as Animal Logic.

They never fully settled on a full-time guitarist, but Michael Thompson and Rusty Anderson appeared with them in concert and on their two studio albums.

The band had a pretty unique sound. Stanley Clarke’s jazzy basslines, mixed with Stewart Copeland’s funky and powerful drumming and Deborah Holland’s poppy, country-inspired vocals on top is a pretty intoxicating combination.

Here they are appearing on The Late Show With David Letterman in 1989:

Copeland is really swinging for the fences here. I don’t think he can ever play a subtle beat. I also love the ending with the massive single stroke drum rolls. A master.

Here is another great live clip of them performing on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1991. Same deal: Great song? Check! Beautiful singing? Check! Unbelievable bass? Check! Slamming drums with machine-gun drum roll ending? Check!

Unfortunately, after their 2nd album they broke up. Stanley Clarke wanted to focus on his own soundtrack work (He worked on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Boyz ‘N The Hood, Passenger 57, and What’s Love Got To Do With It in pretty quick succession after the breakup.)

Deborah Holland went on to a solo career that had some solid moments, but never regained the popularity of Animal Logic.

Stewart Copeland, of course, remains awesome to this day.

Animal Logic’s 2nd album II is this weeks pick.

Dave Mustaine has always been the face of the thrash band Megadeth. He is the front-man / songwriter and the only person to appear in all lineups of the band since their formation in 1983. However, he always surrounded himself with extremely proficient players which helped in their overall sound and success. This is especially true where a fair share of the fancy guitar work and soloing was done by the guitarist who is not Mustaine in the group at the time.

In the early days of Megadeth (‘84-‘87) this slot was filled by Chris Poland. He appeared on Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good! and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?. Poland’s fancy playing is all over these thrash metal classics and really helped shape their sound.

Here he is playing with the band in 1987 in once of his last appearances in the group keeping pace with Mustaine:

Unfortunately he was fired soon after because of his alleged drug abuse. This was overall great for Megadeth because this lead to their most successful / classic Mustaine / Ellefson / Friedman / Menza lineup that created Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction and Youthanasia which contained the band’s biggest hits.

This didn’t mean that Chris Poland went away. He recorded a instrumental album called Return To Metalopolis in 1990. He plays all the instruments except for the drums which were performed by his brother Mark Poland. While this is a thrash metal classic, it didn’t reach any kind of mainstream acceptance.

So Chris Poland decided to make it into an actual band that would try to appeal to a larger hard rock audience. Bassist Dave Randi and guitarist / vocalist David Judson Clemmons joined the Poland brothers as the group Damn The Machine.

They only released one self-titled album in 1993, which is today’s pick.

The album really should have been bigger than it was. It is not unlike Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction in that it takes thrash metal and makes it radio friendly and less frantic. Listening back to it in 2022 it still sounds like really fresh music to me, and the guitar playing (especially the solos) are pretty jazzy and amazing.

They released one single from the album, “The Mission”. The video is pretty wild to watch now as it certainly seems more relatable in the wake of the COVID pandemic. The internet proves to be extra awesome in this regard because this clip also includes tantalizing footage of the hosts of MTV’s Headbangers Ball in all their early-90’s glory:

Damn The Machine toured with world to support the album, opening for Dream Theater but due to the lack of success broke up soon after.

Since that time Chris Poland went on to form the jazz fusion group OHM. He also briefly rejoined Megadeth in 2004 to record The System Has Failed but was again fired due to disagreements with Mustaine before they were even able to tour behind the album. Opportunity missed.

He is still a pretty amazing guitar player though. Here is some killer footage of him soloing at the NAMM convention in 2020:

Damn The Machine remains a cool, obscure hard rock gem that deserves wider recognition.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer were pretty confounding in a lot of ways. They were pioneers in the early 70s of adapting classical music into a rock context. Their songs were complex, with tons of room for long-winded instrumental sections and virtuoso playing.

The fact that they were hugely popular is pretty amazing. 1973’s Brain Salad Surgery (which featured the 30 minute epic “Karn Evil 9”) sold well over 500,000 copies and charted just outside the top 10! The tour for the album included an appearance at California Jam in front of 350,000 fans and was aired on ABC!

Its hard to believe, but the bulk of their best material was released in a very short period of time. From their self-titled first album in 1970 to Brain Salad Surgery they released 5 albums.

Afterwards they basically lost the plot and never matched the quality nor quantity of their material. I’m a pretty big ELP fanboy, so I can find things to like on pretty much all their albums since (with maybe the exception of their last album In The Hot Seat which was dreadful front-to-back), but there is no question that their first 5 albums are beyond reproach and have not been bested. “Works Volume 1” might come close to keeping pace with the others if it wasn’t for Greg Lake’s awful side of the album filled with sappy ballads.

It’s hard to believe so much great material was made in such a short span of time before flaming out. The situation is muddied further by the fact that those first 5 albums have been re-released and repackaged in countless ways since (Greatest Hits, Box Sets, Anthologies, “Definitive” Editions, “Deluxe” Editions, re-titled albums with the same material and on and on). So it looks like their catalog is impenetrable, but if you’re just diving in any of their first five studio albums are all you need.

If there is one album I go back to most frequently, it is probably their self-titled debut album, which is today’s pick. Why? Because it’s not too overblown and showcases all their strengths in easy to digest pieces.

It starts off with “The Barbarian” which takes no prisoners right out of the gate. Carl Palmer’s machine-gun drumming, Greg Lake’s fuzzed out heavy bass and Keith Emerson’s organ and keyboards dancing all over it. It shows that Bela Bartok can rock if you let him.

I tend to think that Emerson, Lake and Palmer were basically a keyboard-fronted punk band at this time intensity-wise and “The Barbarian” reflects that.

To further bolster my case check out this version of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk” from 1970, where Keith Emerson famously stabs his organ with actual knives and throws it all over the place:

It is followed by Greg Lake’s ballad “Take A Pebble” in a nice concise version (later live performances stretched it out to marathon lengths).

They get back to heavy morphing of classical pieces with Leos Janacek’s orchestral piece “Sinfonietta” titled “Knife Edge”. Probably one of my all-time favorite ELP tunes.

On side two of the original record they stretch out with their first epic called “The Three Fates” which leads into the Carl Palmer penned “Tank” which is basically a drum showcase.

It ends with perhaps Greg Lake’s most famous and popular ballad “Lucky Man” which you can still hear in rotation on classic rock playlists.

Overall it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest rock band debuts of all time.

The common consensus among classic rock fans is that Alice Cooper had a lapse of time in the early 1980s where he didn’t do anything of note and it is considered that 1986’s Kip Winger-featured Constrictor is a comeback album. I dispute this notion.

In that time frame I believe he put out some of his more unique and challenging albums. Much of them inspired by new wave and punk rock…basically abandoning his classic hard rock sound. Particularly the trifecta of albums Alice Cooper refers to as his “blackout” albums: Special Forces, Zipper Catches Skin and DaDa. They are called the “blackout” albums because Alice Cooper has no recollection of writing or recording them because of his cocaine abuse during that time!

Of these three albums, I believe the middle album, Zipper Catches Skin is the strongest and is today’s pick!

Like I previously alluded to, the album is basically a combination of classic heavy metal with new wave. Sort of if Grand Funk Railroad and The Cars joined forces to make music. It is simultaneously amazing and ridiculous. The Steve Miller Band was doing something similar around this time with Italian X Rays, but I think Alice Cooper did the style better than his contemporaries.

The album starts off with a song written from the perspective of Zorro (complete with castanets!) and just gets more insane from there.

For example, there’s the Steven Spielberg / E.T. tribute song “No Baloney Homosapiens” which really lives up to the bizarre title and theme. Additionally a kind of new wave power ballad “Adaptable” is about as close as Alice ever got to a love song. “Remarkably Insincere” is the polar opposite: a song that explains how he lies to his significant other with lyrics that border on Weird Al Yankovic levels of ridiculousness.

The only thing close to a “hit” on the album was “I Am The Future” which was included in the pre-Family-Ties Michael J. Fox movie Class of 1984. It probably is one of the more straightforward songs on the album.

Finally, the album closes with “I’m Alive (That Was the Day My Dead Pet Returned to Save My Life)” in which the title kind of speaks for itself.

Alice Cooper never toured behind the album and none of the songs have ever been performed live, so this album truly lives on as some sort of awesomely obscure time capsule in his discography.

One other fun bit of trivia about this album is that the drummer is Jan Uvena. He only appeared on this one Alice Cooper album, and joined the shred-metal band Alcatrazz (who’s membership included Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai) soon afterwards.

Jan Uvena eventually left the music industry and now manages a U.S. Cellular store in Walpole, MA. Perhaps you have bought a phone from him.

Hard rock / hair metal band Extreme was always more cerebral than other bands in the same genre. While their first album was a Van Halen-inspired affair (guitarist Nuno Bettencourt could have definitely given EVH a run for his money) they soon started widening their horizons.

Their 2nd album, Extreme II: Pornograffitti had kind of a storyline, but to the average listener it just sounded like a collection of hair metal and funk metal songs. They ended up having a couple humongous hits with the ballads “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted”. So naturally, when it came time to record their follow-up….they decided to record a full blown progressive rock concept album!

One of the inspirations for this might have been Nuno working with Dweezil Zappa on his solo album Confessions. He contributed vocals and guitar to many of the songs on the album, including an absolutely bonkers cover of “Stayin’ Alive”. It contains no less than 6 guitar solos by Dweezil Zappa, Zakk Wylde, Steve Lukather, Warren DeMartini, Nuno Bettencourt and Tim Pierce. It needs to be heard to be believed:

Anyways, back to the next Extreme album, which was called III Sides To Every Story. It was broken into three sections: “Yours”, “Mine” and “The Truth” (hence the name of the album).

The “Yours” section is mostly hard-rockers, many songs with a political message. “Rest In Peace” was one of the album’s singles, but the rest of the songs in this section are even better and basically piledrive the listener the whole time. “Warheads” is heavy and clever and “Peacemaker Die” even includes a snippet of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The “Mine” section contains the introspective ballads including two of the other singles from the album: “Stop The World” and “Tragic Comic”. Even when making an over-the-top progressive rock album, they knew what paid the bills.

Finally, “The Truth” section is when they completely go all-in on the concept. A 22-minute suite called “Everything Under The Sun” which is broken up into three movements, features a 70 piece orchestra, shifts through many time signatures with the whole band (especially Nuno) playing their butts off (in true prog rock fashion)! Its another one of those instances where I cannot believe a major label backed and paid for this, but I’m glad they did. A truly stunning tour de force.

Somehow, this album wasn’t as successful as Pornograffitti. Go figure.

Drummer Paul Geary left the band soon after. For their tour in 1994, they hired former Annihilator drummer Mike Mangini (who later went on to be a member of Dream Theater). I saw them on tour with Bon Jovi around this time. They played like their hair was on fire for this tour, as evidenced by this awesome clip of “Warheads”:

As a funny aside, Mike Mangini was also at one time known for being the “World’s Fastest Drummer”. He held the record of playing 1203 single strokes in 60 seconds for a while. Here is some hilarious footage of that, where he’s basically playing lightly on a little drum pad in a feat of endurance and pretty much no musical value:

I saw him attempt to break this record at a NAMM Convention one year and it was about as non-exciting as this video in-person.

Anyways, because the album didn’t sell as well and grunge was taking over the world, Extreme scaled back their ambitions for their next album Waiting For The Punchline and went on hiatus soon after.

Singer Gary Charone became the singer of Van Halen and Nuno Bettencourt put out solo albums, played in Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party (who I caught at Lollapalooza in 2007 which was surprisingly good) and was the touring guitarist for Rihanna.

Sadly, none of this reached the heights of III Sides To Every Story and I believe this remains the band’s high-water mark.

Jan Akkerman is a virtuoso guitar player from the Netherlands. He originally came to world renown as a member of the progressive rock band Focus.

Focus had an unlikely top-10 hit in 1973 with the song “Hocus Pocus” from their second album Moving Waves. It is a absolutely monstrous progressive rock tune with crazed yodeling and flute throughout. How this became an international sensation is mind boggling, but very cool.

If you haven’t heard “Hocus Pocus” before, you’re in for a treat. Here is a completely killer version of it on when they performed it on NBC(!!!) at the height of its popularity:

Later that same year, Jan Akkerman put out a solo record called Tabernakel. To say it was different than what Focus was doing at the time is an understatement.

On Tabernakel he plays mostly acoustic guitar and lute! Turns out he is a pretty phenomenal lute player. While he did include a reworking of “House Of The King” from Focus’ first album, overall I’m sure this confused the core Focus fan base.

Most of the first side of the album consists of pieces from the Renaissance and Baroque age. His playing is equal parts beautiful and mind blowing in it’s effortless complexity.

The second side consists of “Lammy”, a 14-minute progressive rock epic. Here he is joined by bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice who were originally in the excellent boogie rock band Cactus. Bogert later rose to fame playing with Jeff Beck. Appice became a member of The Vanilla Fudge and backed Rod Stewart. So you can get a sense of the rock power that they lend to this song. As if that weren’t enough, “Lammy” also includes a choir and orchestra.

Before you dive in to Tabernakel I also urge you to partake in this excellent footage of Jan Akkerman in 1975 showing off his formidable lute skills playing the John Dowland composition “Fantasia”:

With that appetizer out of the way, your expectations are set to properly enjoy Tabernakel in all its glory.