"Leadhead's Lounge"

Album Reviews by Shane Copher
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Restless Heart - Greatest Hits: No End To This Road

RCA Records
This greatest hits package from Restless Heart is about what youíd expect. Thirteen of the band's biggest singles, along with three previously unreleased tracks. Long a fan favorite on country radio, the band's melodic sounds and vocal harmonies shine on hits like "The Bluest Eyes in Texas" and "Iíll Still Be Loving You." Plenty of their slower ballads are included, as well. A great collection of contemporary country, proving there is certainly No End To This Road.

Soil - Soil

Olympic Recordings, Inc.
This five track recording from Soil is an extremely impressive debut from some guys who have been around. Consisting of ex-members of Sindrome, Broken Hope, and Oppressor, this EP is head and shoulders above anything theyíve been involved in in the past. This is aggressive metal, with an "alternative" edge, masterfully played and mixed. There is not a dog in the pack, while "She" and "Broken Wings" border on brilliant. Fans of heavy music will eat this one up... donít miss it! 

Mike Ireland and Holler - Learning How to Live

Sub Pop Records
Marketed as "alternative" country, Mike Ireland is actually more "traditional" in his sound. There is a heavy Buck Owens/Dwight Yoakum influence that makes these tracks perfect for the honky-tonk crowd. Well-penned tracks and a clean production result in an album thatís worth searching for. "Biggest Torch In Town" and "Cold, Cold Comfort" are just a couple of the standout tracks on this excellent release. Iíve got a feeling weíll be hearing a lot from this country newcomer.

Cipher - Kingdom of the Blind

Eclipse Records
Progressive, aggressive metal, with harmonic overtones and blistering leads. Cipher keeps it ripping, without the monotony of their thrash-heavy contemporaries. The songwriting is strong, the performances clean, and the production is top notch, as well. This album boasts exceptionally strong vocals by Mark Shveima Jr., who has since left the band. Snatch this one up, as its thirteen tracks will surely get you moving. Great stuff!

John Anderson - The Essential John Anderson

BNA Records
Over the years, John Andersonís traditional styling and backwoods vocals have filled the airwaves, resulting in a string of country hits. This surplus of songs has resulted in several "greatest hits" packages, and this is another. Composed of tracks from the past five or six years, including the blockbuster "Seminole Wind," this will make a nice addition to your music library. 15 cuts, several of them chart-toppers, along with one new track, the Shawn Camp-penned "Clear As a Bell," make this a package worth picking up.

Motorhead - Snake Bite Love

CMC International Records
Finally, Lemmy and the boys are back, with their heartiest album in quite some time. I have been a hardcore fan of this band since Bomber, back in í79, and what they deliver on stage has not always been easy to capture in the studio. Snake Bite Love fixes all that, with a truly devastating sound, and tracks that sound written, rather than "thrown together," as on previous releases. From the opening barrage of "Love For Sale" to the final strains of "Better Off Dead," this album is pure Motorhead from start to finish. While not likely to knock Ace of Spades off anyone's list, the band's last few albums will pale in comparison. The band is tight, the tracks are strong, and Lemmy is at his gargling and growling best. This album is a killer!

Soulfly - Soulfly

Roadrunner Records
Max Cavaleraís post-Sepultura outfit carries a lot of the weight of his previous band, but with a less tribal and a bit more polished delivery. Still ultra-aggressive, Max and his bandmates rip through 15 tracks on this debut, no less than half that are killer. "Eye For An Eye" is the opener, and makes reference to the Sepultura split, while "Bleed" and "The Song Remains Insane" are straight ahead thrashers. Along the way, youíll find a variety of heavy rhythms and the kind of ferocity youíve come to expect from Mr. Cavalera. A strong debut.

Aaron Tippin - The Essential Aaron Tippin

RCA Records
Aaron Tippinís trademark "twang" has made him a favorite on the country scene. This collection of songs includes smash hits, along with alternative cuts, that span his entire career. From country boy anthems like "Toolbox" and "Workiní Manís Ph.D." to the "pop" strains of "...Radio," Aaron has made a habit of tearing up the charts. Along with the expected hits, this album includes some less familiar but equally impressive tracks, including my personal fave, "Many Beers Ago." A long-overdue collection of solid country music; with this one, you canít miss.

Aware 6: The Compilation

Aware Records
The latest showcase from Aware Records contains a fresh batch of cutting edge artists, nicely suited for the college radio crowd. Shawn Mullinsí "Lullaby" kicks this one off with a "narrative" cut, reminiscent of Lou Reed. Owsley offers up some Beatlesque pop, while Noel Hartough and Lackey lend modern alternative offerings. Rustic Overtones presents a couple of slightly "rap-py" tracks, while Cary Pierceís "Tower" lends a soft and melodic change of pace. Other artists featured are Greyboy Allstars, Blake Morgan, Mr. Henry, Bicycle, Webster Saltman, and the Ben Swift Band. The talents displayed here have all the freshness and vitality of past Aware alumni, Hootie & the Blowfish, The Verve Pipe and Better Than Ezra, but whether or not they can reach the same level of success, only time will tell; but itís easy to see that the label is doing its part.

Soak - Flywatt

Sire Records
Hot and sweaty alternative rock with a thundering foundation and solid songwriting throughout. The churning rhythms keep you moving while their power and angst slam you around the room. Top of the line offering with "Me Compassionate," "Braille" and "Do It" among the standouts. If this serves as any indication of Soakís talent, youíll be hearing a lot more from them in the coming months. Red hot!

Sara Evans - No Place That Far

RCA Records
I raved about her debut last year; now, with the release of No Place That Far, Sara Evans has done it one better. This album displays again her pure country vocals, while boasting a strong batch of tracks, from "The Great Unknown" to "Cryiní Game," thereís not a weak cut in the bunch. Saraís vocals offer shades of Patti Loveless, but with a sultry style thatís all her own and sure to take her to the upper echelons of contemporary country music. Brilliant!

The Residents - Wormwood * Curious Stories From the Bible

East Side Digital
A very strange release from these punk mainstays, Wormwood is a concept album of sorts, concentrating on some of the more bizarre and darker tales from the so-called "Good Book." From incest and matricide to child abuse and sacrifice, the subject matter is sure to offend some Christians, but The Residents have included easy references so anyone in doubt can look these tales up themselves. An ambitious project, but musically, a disappointment from past efforts. Definitely not for the mainstream.

R. Kelly & Celine Dion - I'm Your Angel

Jive Records
This CD single includes both the radio version and the extended LP version of this superstar duetís latest smash. Expertly written and arranged, as well as delivered, this has all the makings of a mega-hit and is sure to find its way into wedding receptions and prom rooms everywhere. All that and a bag of fries.

Gorguts - Obscura

Olympic/Slipdisc
After a long time in limbo, Gorguts is back with a vengeance. Obscura contains over an hourís worth of no-holds-barred, in-your-face metal, with pummeling rhythms and a piercing guitar attack. Not for the faint of heart, Gorguts is thrash thatís taken to the extreme and may be a bit too maniacal for mainstream metal fans, but it will hold a hallowed spot in the realm of the mosh-hungry hardcore, showing that thereís more to Canada than Molson and pike fishing. Ouch!!

Radiobaghdad - 665: Neighbor of the Beast

Onefoot Records
Radiobaghdadís newest release is a combination of speedy and traditional punk, with clever writing and sound playing throughout. "Truckers On Speed" picks up the pace with a heavier, more grinding feel, while "No Resurrection" and "Bordercross" are along the lines of NOFX. From bouncy to blurry, 665ís contents are both accessible and amusing, which makes this a great -- and fun -- release. Great title and cover concept, as well.

Don Imus - This Honky's Nuts

Bang II Records
Don Imusí radio comedy was the rage in the í70s, and this is a reissue of one of his early live shows. While surely humorous at the time of its original release, 1974, this album suffers now from being overly dated. The topical humor is obviously not as amusing as it was at the time, while much of the "more shocking" and vulgar material seems quite mild in todayís market. Unless youíre a comedy collector, Iíd steer clear of this one, as there are a lot funnier choices out there for your money.

Obituary - Dead

Roadrunner Records
This live release from thrashmasters Obituary showcases a host of their heaviest tracks recorded on the road. A blistering set from start to finish, well-recorded and with ample crowd participation and frenzy. This Tampa outfit can bang with the best of them, "Threatening Skies" and "Final Thoughts" are (un)living proof... this one packs a wallop!

Auberon - The Tale of Black

Black Mark Production
Gothic metal, with dual vocals, one gruff and grizzly, the other haunting and surreal. The drumming is top notch and the rhythms complex but steady. "The Dance" and "The White Ship" are two of the standout tracks on this metal opus. Auberon have yet to make much of a name for themselves on this side of the big pond, but this release should do the trick. Quality metal with enough bite to satisfy the thrashers and enough substance to stick around. Hunt this one down.

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe

Geffen Records
A lot heavier than the White Zombie stuff, Rob lets loose on this devilishly pleasing solo release. Powerful thrash with great musicians and killer rhythms. Toss in the usual satanic references and vulgarities, and youíve got a hardcore release with commercial firepower. Being all too familiar to listeners already, Rob Zombie will have no problem marketing this one; theyíll be flying out the doors. A solid release.

John Russo - Two Weeks From Tuesday

Musicreations Records
Bluesy adult contemporary boasting superb guitarwork and better than average vocals. The tracks range from soft balladeering to smoking blues, with great lyrics, production and delivery. Johnís voice is nicely suited to the material, and the material itself is top shelf. One of the most pleasant surprises Iíve come across all year, this is an excellent album with a great feel. Not a dog in the bunch.

Bruce Dickinson - The Chemical Wedding

CMC International Records
Another killer from Bruce Dickinson, The Chemical Wedding boasts great riffing and a hard rockiní foundation. Itís a throwback to eighties metal, which is a pleasant switch from the over-the-top thrash market of today. While I was never a big fan of Bruce when he was fronting Maiden, his albums since departure have been nothing short of brilliant. This one is no exception. "King in Crimson," "Killing Floor," and "Trumpets of Jericho" are among the most enticing tracks, showcasing Bruce at his best, and he's backed by a group of musicians that can more than hold their own in the metal marketplace. Donít miss this one!

Joey Welz - Retro Pop/Retro Rock

Caprice International Records
This release on Joeyís own label doesnít have much to offer that hasnít already been heard. He offers up a host of retro "hits," from "Sweet Pea" and "Last Kiss" to "Takiní Care of Business" and "Old Time Rock and Roll." Joey makes a solid effort to avoid playing "copycat" on these cuts and adding his own little twists -- the only problem is, youíll favor the originals. Sorry, Joey, itís a swing and a miss.

Lorrie Morgan - Secret Love

BNA Records
Secret Love is a diversion for Lorrie, as she tackles 11 standards with relative ease. Long a fan of her strong vocals on her hit country releases, they pale in comparison to the tracks covered here. As a country singer, Lorrie is one of the best, as a torch singer, she is incredible. >From "Summer of '42" to "An Affair to Remember," these cuts overflow with emotion, while Ms. Morganís rich, sultry voice draws the listener in. If youíre expecting twang, pass this by; if you want some seriously romantic and soulful delivery, donít miss this. Outstanding!

Blue Flannel - XL

Universal Records
This Columbus, Georgia newcomer boasts quirky rhythms, steady drumwork and nifty guitars, along with the occasional kazoo. The lyrics are at times hilarious, and the playing ranges from ever-so-soft to wildly intense. Tracks such as "Haviní a Bad Day," "Out of Habit," and "Not My Type" tend to defy categorization, while their liner notes explain "THIS IS NOT ALTERNATIVE." So for sake of argument, Iíll call them mild-core/pop! Whatever you decide, I think youíll find them quite enjoyable, and mildly amusing.



NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the print edition of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter.  These reviews are only available here in the online edition.


 

Lorrie Morgan - The Essential Lorrie Morgan

BNA Records
Lorrie Morganís sultry voice, and diverse sounds, have covered everything from hardcore country, to seductive ballads, each with equally satisfying results. This album highlights her vocal talents amazingly well, by including not only her hits, but fresh tracks, a re-recording of her fathers trademark, "Candy Kisses," and even a duet with her father which was recorded years ago, before Lorrieís own career took off. A great release which goes a long way to proving that Ms. Morgan is one of the premiere female vocalists, on the country scene today. Very Impressive. 

W.A.S.P - Double Live Assassins

CMC International Records
Unlike their previous effort, Live In The Raw, this album smokes for an hour and a half, plus! Consisting of material from their debut album, up to the present, this is a high energy, well recorded document of the bands history to this point. From the opening chords of "On Your Knees," this release kicks you straight in the face and doesnít let up Ďtil youíve been "Rock Ďní Roll(ed) To Death." Chris Holmes guitarwork is vicious, and Blackie Lawless has rarely sounded better. This live outing captures the shock metal kings at their peak, with a good selection of tracks, and strong performances throughout. I only wish they sounded this good back when I caught them live. Good stuff.

Iron Maiden - Virtual XI

CMC International Records
Maidenís latest doesnít venture far from their formulaic past. "Epic" length tracks, there are just eight cuts here, that cover a wide variety of subject matter, from virtual reality and science fiction, to "historical" subjects such as the Falklands war. Fans of the band will be pleased, though I doubt this release will draw much new attention to the band. The playing is tight, as always, and Blaze Bayleyís vocals are more relaxed than on their previous effort. Two tracks worth noting are the retro sounding "The Angel And The Gambler" and "The Clansman", a musical "Braveheart," if you will. Though it lacks any real surprises, Virtual XI is a solid effort.

Accept - The Final Chapter

CMC International Records
After 20 years and extensive lineup changes, this "poor manís Priest" is finally hanging up their hats. As a "tribute" to their fans, theyíve released this double live set of classic cuts to ease the passing. This 2 disc set features twenty tracks, from "Fast As A Shark" and "Breaker," to the more recent "Beast Inside" and "Death Row." This band has long been blistering on stage, and this outing captures their anthemic power, synchronized riffing, and wall shaking rhythms, as well as the frenzy of the fans. It benefits from a better than average live mix, and its coverage of a career, and not just their recent past. A great anthology for the headbangers, and a nice epitaph to one of the truly great live bands of our time. I, for one, will miss them.

Deicide - Serpents of the Light

Roadrunner Records
Fans of over-the-top death metal need look no further than Deicideís latest. Evil, wicked, and blistering, this black metal offering holds all youíd expect. Glen Benton, Eric and Brian Hoffman and drummer Steve Asheim take listeners on a journey through hell. Bashing Christianity and preaching their satanic philosophies has become this bands standard, but they manage to avoid the blood and guts mentality of most death bands, and keep the name-dropping to a minimum. This is as good an example of death done right as youíre liable to find. "Slave To The Cross" and "Believe The Lie" are first rate.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra - The Christmas Attic

Atlantic/Lava Records
This is the second seasonal outing for TSO, and is another holiday masterpiece. Picking up where Christmas Eve and Other Stories left off, this is another Christmas "opera" concept album. The story follows an angels assignment to return to earth and leave something behind for mankind. A young girl and a couple on the outs way heavy in the story.

Musically this epic offers an amazing blend of progressive metal, classical, and traditional holiday fare, blended to create a breathtaking modern symphony.

The mastermind of Savatage producer Paul OíNeill, members of the band team up with studio vocalists and adult and children's choirs, the end result being a modern holiday masterpiece.

While last year's offering held a harder edge, this release is no less impressive, both lyrically and musically. I still favor the instrumentals such as "Boughs of Holly" and "Appalachian Snowfall." TSO is a rare holiday treat!


John Hamilton - Two Step Texas Reindeer

Wizard Records
John Hamiltonís rich baritone lends itself well to a host of holiday favorites, along with a few new treats. The title track is a western swing number, catchy, and imaginative. "Ain't No Grave" and "Jesus Tree" are gospel holiday numbers, that bookend the bouncier fare in between. Trading the traditional strings for steel guitars and fiddles, this is a nice change of pace for the season.


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