Category: Rock & Roll

re:View – Aftermath of the Lowdown, by my musical hero of a lifetime

Oh my proverbial God. The most anticipated album of the decade* is here. After some ten years of announcing and postponing, Richie Sambora has released his third solo album, Aftermath of the Lowdown.

I’ve been in a state of permanent bliss for the last two weeks, just enjoying the luxury of being able to listen to the music I’ve been waiting to hear for so many years. And trying to form an opinion in the context of having spent half my life listening to his “old stuff” – the two previous albums Stranger in this Town and Undiscovered Soul, from the early and late 1990s respectively. So this is mostly preliminary thoughts on an album I plan to become very familiar with.

Despite being the first of Richie Sambora’s albums released on an indie label, it is his most commercial sounding to date. Yet, at the same time, it’s probably his most personal.

Compared to the 1990s stuff, I would say he sings a little less about love these days, and more about life – in a voice that’s clearly less romantic and a good deal more cynical. But that’s hardly a surprise, considering all that he’s been through in the last half-decade. Thrown off track by a divorce followed closely by his father’s death, he suffered a spell of addictions and rehab while the nasty gossip headlines piled up.

It was certainly the kind of stuff that leaves a mark on a life, but also stuff that seems to have inspired a more personal songwriting than we’ve ever heard from Richie Sambora. But throughout the confessions and the regret – at their most vocal in songs such as You Can Only Get So High and Seven Years Gone – you see a man who still embraces life, who has pulled himself back to his feet and turning over a new page. Taking A Chance On The Wind, Weathering The Storm and Learning How To Fly With A Broken Wing may be somewhat soppily titled songs, but their upbeat celebration of second chances leaves you filled with a sudden happiness that’s hard to shake off.

Besides, it’s nice to see that the King of Swing has kept his charm and cheek throughout the bad times. Sugar Daddy says it all. He has also included a song for his teenage daughter Ava, which – although performed largely in the kind of thin, just-off-the-key voice that has become the trademark of all the indie kids these days (and which I don’t dig at all) – is a very sweet and touching number. The last song on the album, World, is quite a break with the style and so Beatles-y that I initially mistook it for a cover of a lesser known Beatles song. But it’s indeed an original – an easy giveaway of his musical influences. “Wearing my heroes on my sleeve,” he says.

Image via @therealsambora

Overall, my first impressions are pretty good indeed. I’m not yet ready to yell “totally amazing”, but that’s fine, because a) it’s a bit difficult to adjust to the new sound having had the two previous albums as constant companions in my life for the last 14 years and b) it’s always taken me a good few proper listens to appreciate Richie Sambora’s music to the max. (This is the point where I confess that, after listening to Stranger in this Town and Undiscovered Soul for the first time, I put them away and didn’t bother for a good year before I eventually got into them.)

So I’ll definitely have to listen to Aftermath for a few weeks before I can commit to a full opinion. But for now I’m pretty damn happy that Richie Sambora is back.

And after his gig in London this month, you’ll hear me yelling “totally amazing” for the rest of the year.

* as far as I’m concerned, anyway

How my photo came to feature in Richie Sambora’s new video

As I may have mentioned previously, Richie Sambora is my personal guitar, singing and songwriting hero. His two solo albums have been a constant companion since my teenage days. Life changed, my tastes in music changed and bounced back, but those 22 songs from Stranger in this Town (1991) and Undiscovered Soul (1998) remained on top of my playlist throughout.

The more excited I was to find that, after fourteen long years, Sambora’s third solo album is to be released. In the run-up, his PR team thought out a totally interactive, socially networked competition: The first single, Every Road Leads Home to You, was released free of charge and the fans were asked to submit photos they associate with the lyrics via Instagram.

A selection of photos would be used to make the video for the song. Well, not the proper, official music video – for that they preferred to have Mr Sambora strolling, bleached blond and guitar over one shoulder, through the desert for four and a half minutes. Meanwhile, the fans’ creative contributions were used in the official lyric video – as I’m told, another new-is marketing effort undertaken by various labels. Presumably to pre-empt all those fans making their own lyric video, via Windows Movie Maker and Comic Sans, over the next few weeks.

And since I’m a hopeless fangirl, I dutifully instagrammed my photo into the Samborasphere. And one of them now carries the vital phrase “I’m” of the refrain line “When the bridge is burning and I’m losing my faith”, right after the solo, at three minutes thirteen, of the official lyric video. Staying in the frame for about a third of a second.

But, hey, my photo is in Richie Sambora’s video.

The lonely little bench sits on a hidden bit of beach just outside Zadar, in Croatia.

Why I can’t wait for the end of this summer. [Hint: \m/]

If you know me you know that I’m a summer child, that I’m in danger of freezing to death as soon as the temperature drops below 20°C, and usually spend September to April holed up in my blanket fort, raging and ranting about the rain and the snow and the early nights.

But this year, I can’t wait for the autumn and winter months to kick in. Why? Well, there are five reasons. Five reasons of a very rock & roll nature.

5.) The best new folks on the London scene
Acoustic folk may be an unusual choice for me, but from the moment I first heard Morrissey & Marshall play a tune in the back room of a pub in January 2011, I have been completely mesmerised by their music. I knew right then and there that the charismatic duo from Dublin couldn’t be far from headline gigs and a place in the charts – and now they, indeed, seem to be on their way to exactly there with the release of their debut album in early 2013. If you check out the songs for download on their Facebook page, you’ll see why I absolutely cannot wait to hear an album full of their perfect harmonies and thoughtfully uplifting lyrics. My top one to watch for the next year!

Watch this – it’s the best ten minutes you’ll invest in something today.

4.) All’s new in Kamelot
New album, new lead singer, new tour: Big changes in Kamelot Nation. I’ll have to admit I didn’t particularly keep my faith in the two years since singer Roy Khan left amidst much drama – although I’m now rather gutted to have missed the band’s gigs with Fabio Lione of Rhapsody of Fire fame on guest vocals. (Which, in retrospect, seems even more stupid considering that Rhapsody are way up among my favourite bands, too.) But there you go, my punishment to fit the deed. In any case, Kamelot has now found its new king in Seventh Wonder frontman Tommy Karevik. The new album is out in October – the band’s third concept album to be precise, so all the more reason for excitement – followed by a London gig in November. And from what I’ve heard about the new guy so far, the legend of Kamelot is set to live on. I’m defo holding my breath.

Still, let’s keep alive the memory of Roy Kahn, one of the best voices in metal.

3.) An Arctic city break
And while we’re on the subject of favourite bands, Sonata Artica is one I hold so dearly in my heart that I’ll be jetting out to Munich in November to finally catch them live on stage. Admittedly, that’s quite a way to go for a gig. But since the UK has no power metal scene to speak of and consequently most of my bands just don’t wash up on these shores, I have no choice but to go to where my music is being played. I’ve been waiting for years to hear these guys live, and to witness with my own two eyes (and not via a TV screen) the epic solo-battles of keytar and guitar. Besides, the Munich trip has the added benefit that I’ll be headbanging it out with my dad, who is my number one partner in crime when it comes to music anyway.

Let’s watch some epic guitar/keytar battling. Feel free to freak out/jump around.

2.) The Bluesman returns
It’s been fourteen years, and he’s been announcing it for most of this time, but now it’s actually happening: Richie Sambora releases his third solo album, Aftermath of the Lowdown, in September. The first single [YouTube] is already out for download, and while it does sound more commercial and not as soulful as his old stuff, I remain in the hope that this was just the teaser to get pre-orders from all the Bon Jovi fans in, and the rest of the album will be more in the good, old Bluesman tradition. His previous solo albums, Undiscovered Soul and especially Stranger in this Town, are among my very favourite music of all time, so I’m really rather excited about this. Which brings us straight to…

1.) …and he’s coming to town!!!
Not only is Richie Sambora going on tour with his new album and sans Bon Jovi, but he’s stopping by in my town. Now, if you take into account that this is my all-time musical hero, and I have never had a chance to see the Bluesman live, and have been waiting for the opportunity for the past twelve years, you can probably see why this is simply the best thing that will happen this year.

And while we wait, let’s chill with some vintage Bluesman stuff.

There you go. All my favourite musicians and bands, new albums and gigs all over the place. This is why my freak-out-o-meter will be bursting out the top of the scale constantly for the next five months.

One million reasons to not watch The X Factor vs. the one reason to watch it this year

Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t find me within a mile of a TV set showing The X Factor or one of its similarly idiotic clones.

I say “under normal circumstances” because, although I passionately despise mass-produced pop music and the artificially made pop stars that generally serve as a vehicle to its producers, with the start of this year’s X Factor series, special circumstances seem to have arisen:

Janet Devlin.

Janet Devlin at her X Factor audition (before that awful makeover where some idiot stylist smoothed out her beautiful hair)

It’s a shame, really, that she’s having to try to get signed via the Simon Cowell machinery which – should she win – will probably land her captivating voice on an album full of soul-less production-line pop songs that will be heard and forgotten as soon as the Christmas sale is over. Because this incredibly talented, elf-like and utterly likeable young woman deserves a career of making her own music and being her own, beautiful self.

I sincerely hope that, no matter what the Cowell Commercialisation Cult churns out this time, Janet will be able to “get there” and be a successful artist on her own terms.

Check out the audition video and you’ll see what I mean.

And due to these special circumstances, I’m now spending my Saturday evenings watching a programme I’d vowed I would never support, and spending 35p a week on text vote.

Well. I’m a sucker for a good voice.

re:View – The 2011 Eurovision live tweet-blogging thing

Last year’s Eurovision live tweet / blog review was mostly a result of watching the final partly out of boredom and partly in protest against a) my granny hanging up on me mid-conversation so she could watch it and b) my general annoyance with the event and everybody being all excited about it. And it turned out to be a lost more fun than I’d thought. Mostly because the entertainment factor was greatly enhanced by the integration of twitter into the viewing experience.

So this year I’m actually quite looking forward to watching the final. (Boyfriend looks less than thrilled.)

And here we go.

Seeing the presenters brings back painful memories of watching TV at home. Anke Engelke (the one in the dress that looks like she slaughtered a flock of swans and then rolled around in their blood-soaked feathers) was pretty much our first successful female comedian on TV. Which was enough for her to become famous, without actually being funny. And Stefan Raab, the butcher-turned-TV presenter who at some point started to consistently write / sing / produce the most appalling music, and yet somehow managed to become incredibly influential in the country’s music scene. The blonde – no clue. But she must be wearing at least twenty rolls of aluminium foil.

Anyway. Here are my thoughts while watching the 25 acts in the final, taken straight from my twitter timeline.

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re:View – 2010 Eurovision live(ish)

I don’t usually watch the Eurovision Song Contest. Why? Let me say it with the words of Jon Bon Jovi, ca. 2003:

Eurovision? Oh, it was amazing. Twenty-seven bad songs.

(Well, probably about as many bad songs as you’ve put out in the last decade, sweetheart.)

But this year I’m watching Eurovision. Why? Mostly because my grandma just ditched me on the phone to go watch Eurovision. And I figured I can’t be less informed than my grandma.

So here’s me watching twenty-seven okay, twenty-five bad songs. Which aren’t even all that bad so far. And since my remote Eurovision viewing company has ditched me, too, I’m having a little Eurovision twitter party all by myself. Like the little twitter slut I am.

And here goes my simultaneous attempt at blogging the whole thing live. Which is already kind of failing as the songs are too short to watch, listen, and tweet about them. I haven’t even got time to grab my coffee from the table across the room. And I need to pee! Whatever happened to commercial breaks?

All right, we just have the pleasure of seeing Spain again (with that performance, I wouldn’t even have noticed something went wrong the first time!) so the live blogging has officially failed. But at least I can catch up now before the, uhm…exciting part starts.

Here’s the Girl with a Pen Eurovision re:View in 140 or less characters, brought to you straight from my twitter timeline:

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