Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Albert Carey Project ~ Tens Cents Short Of A Dime

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock, country rock, blues rock
Label: Deja Blue
Year: 1999
Home: New York

Members: Albert Carey ~ vocals
Al Pitrelli, Johnny Gale, Tommy Byrnes ~ guitars
Frank Carillo ~ guitar/mandolin
Tony Perrino ~ organ
Andy Ezrin ~ keyboards
Danny Miranda ~ bass
John O'Reilly ~ drums
Tony Harnell, Danny Vaughn, Jody Gray ~ b. vocals



There's always a place for bluesy country tinged rock a la the Allman Brothers or Kansas. That also seems to be a trend today with many former rockers rediscovering themselves via the heartland/breadbasket constituency of music. Bon Jovi, Jewel & Bret Michaels of Poison, for example, have all donned cowboy hats to the chagrin of older fans. While the blues have always been the backbone of rock & a good jumping off place to rediscover when a musician needs a boost of inspiration. But, there's a few musicians out there who play bluesy rock naturally & one can feel the difference in authenticity. They're not doing this to rekindle their career, but because they love the groove & sound. Vocalist & former bassist AC on his one solo outing is one of these musicians. One might not know the name, but AC toured behind guitarist Mick Ronson in his 70's solo band after Ronson left David Bowie & the legendary Spiders From Mars. AC, never in the spotlight like his former bandmate/boss, has left his youthful rock side behind to return to rootsier music & created this album that seamlessly fuses folk, blues, country & rock with an all-star cast. Joining him in the studio are members whose resumes include Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, TNT, Rainbow, Kenny Vance of Jay & The Americans, Queen, Blue Oyster Cult, King Kobra, Meat Loaf, amongst countless others. Plus, many of the participants here have played together countless times over the years both in bands & sessions from their earliest days in the club to the present day. The musical experiences of the participants is wide, but they all share the same roots in the blues & that love creates a powerhouse blues-rock country-tinged album that weaves from electronic blues to acoustic country. All the songs are originals except Traffic's "Empty Pages" where AC sounds like an early 80's Eric Clapton vocally. Actually, had Clapton not taken a more commercial direction in the last decade since his From The Cradle album this is the type of blues album he'd probably be making. It's exciting, edgy & white boy blues at its best that both takes from the past yet allows the participants to incorporate their own nuanced playing with a large dose of rock. The only problem with this album is whose on what track as the liner notes don't give that identification. This album was a one off collection of musicians, but AC can be found performing its songs with his band the Sophisticato's, while he also has the blues outing Blues Manchu with drummer Dennis Cotton of the Duke Robillard band & lead guitarist David Malachowskiis from Shania Twain. In his own bands AC plays guitar in addition to singing.

(No video available)

Megadeth ~ Still Alive ... And Well? (live/hits comp)

(Click on heading to visit official website)
Style: thrash, live, greatest hits
Label: Sanctuary
Year: 2002
Home: n/a

Members: Dave Mustaine ~ vocals/guitars
Al Pitrelli ~ guitars/b. vocals
David Ellefson ~ bass/b. vocals
Jimmy DeGrasso ~ drums



It's not that this is a bad album, but it has limited appeal & being half reissues means it never revs up into being a necessary album for either fans or non-fans, let alone it's entertainment factor is cut short once the reissues start the second half. It's sometimes forgotten today that for a few years thrash giants Megadeth broke up. This album is an immediate post-break-up tribute, one could say, to the once final & now oft forgotten line-up featuring original members Dave Mustaine & David Ellefson plus new faces in guitarist Al Pitrelli, over from Savatage, Alice Cooper, Widowmaker with Dee Snider, Asia & Trans-Siberian Orchestra, & drummer Jimmy DeGrasso from Y&T & White Lion. Pitrelli & DeGrasso had been playing together since their earliest club days & would continue to play together after Megadeth in the jazzy O'2L led by Al's then wife Jane Mangini on keyboards with the rest of that band formed with members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Still Alive ... & Well? creates a tribute via being half live tracks & half songs from this line-up's one album The World Needs A Hero released the year before. For the live part it's a half dozen hits from past albums but just with the new line-up lending their interpretation. It's a cheat at trying to make this a greatest hits package. Pitrelli holds his lines well & perhaps challenging himself as a player more than he had in other bands making his time in Megadeth some of the fastest & most complicated playing of his career, while DeGrasso turns in some great drumming in that special Megadeth approach where the drums do more than just play the beat but actually echo the melody lines. But, here neither player really gets to show off. The World Needs A Hero was being written before Pitrelli's entrance in 2000 while the rest of the repertoire for the tour that followed was also other people's music. There's no music here that allows Pitrelli's unique melodic style to shine through that would be an interesting foil to the trademarkable Megadeth rhythms. The story is told that for the tour Mustaine wanted to get back to the studio versions moving away from the variations that had occurred playing the songs over & over in concert. Pitrelli thus is called upon to copy the original versions, holding back his interpretations & is thus a bit of a place holder in the Megadeth story. This also means that the live versions here might not be as exciting or surprising as live versions with previous guitarist Marty Friedman & Pitrelli comes off looking at less of a guitarist than he is. In turn this live album becomes unessential listening. It's the wrong line-up to be immortalized in a live setting. Further this line-up had already released the superior two CD & DVD Rude Awakening, the first Megadeth concert album. This is a line-up already immortalized in a far better package of a full concert versus a few song snippet taken from what would turn out to be their final two concerts in November 2001. Megadeth is a strong live entity but this line-up was never allowed to breathe & in these six songs this is a record of what is now an anti-climactic last show where nobody knew it was going to be their last show & thus it was just another end of the tour show before the holidays. Further, this would be the last album with bassist/founding member David Ellefson for nearly a decade, though at the time this was released Megadeth was a non-entity so at the time it was the last album for all the members. As for the other half of the album it's made up of six studio tracks all from this line-up's lone album & most fans probably already own that much heralded return to form album. It's an unnecessary reissue of an album that's around a year old. This album reminds me of Alice Cooper's Classicks, like this released to fulfill a label contract, where half the album was old tracks live with a new band, featuring Pitrelli no less, & the new tracks from that band. But, the new tracks were from three albums, while the tour was a comeback in a way that this Megadeth line-up didn't end up being, let alone it's Cooper's three albums versus Megadeth's one album. In the end, like Classicks which cashed in on already overly cashed in final albums before a label departure, this also feels like both a tribute but more so an unnecessary & unglamorous cash-in.

Neil Young ~ Are You Passionate?

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: soul, funk, classic rock, Canadian, folk-rock
Label: Reprise
Year: 2002
Home: n/a

Members: Neil Young ~ guitar/piano/vocals
Booker T. Jones ~ organ/vibes/b. vocals
Donald Duck Dunn ~ bass/b. vocals
Steve Potts ~ drums/bongos/tambourine
Frank Sampedro ~ guitar/b. vocals

Additional: Tom Bray ~ trumpet
Pegi Young, Astrid Young ~ b. vocals
Billy Talbot ~ bass
Ralph Molina ~ drums/b. vocals



For some reason the title of this album fills me with more worry than not. It's beside the fact it doesn't rate on the list of oft mentioned NY albums, as NY is indeed passionate in his music, though via his unique socially minded, sometimes spiritual & sometimes drug influenced lens. He is passionate by not being deliberately gushy love song passionate, so to let us know what he's feeling right with the title puts me on guard with worry. "You're My Girl" opens the album with a 1960's Motown/Stax guitar backbeat that rhythmically goes nowhere with all the melodic movement in the organ & bass line & is NY in an experimental moment that's a bit discerning. Yet for another album he's trying for something incredibly far from his comfort zone on so many levels & as has happened before & since the good results are few though the idea looks good on paper. You can't fault NY for always trying & not caring about his career with far more musical experiments that most bands attempt to the point of being more unpredictable than Madonna or Bob Dylan. "You're My Girl" is a nice filler song, but the fact that the rest of the album continues in the same musical vein & all songs basically end up sounding like this opener makes the anti-climactic factor & overall disappointment high. This is NY doing 1960's R&B/funk with very little to make it his own. His jagged guitar solos that go on endlessly are gone replaced by quasi-melodic tame little glimmers. Comparing this album to his later work with Pearl Jam NY doesn't even sound like he's having fun or feeling particularly creative beyond just wanting to share with his listeners his wonderment with classic funk rock, a genre far from his own folk rock roots. While any lyrical wonders, which is usually where NY can make-up for any bad musical choices, are completely lost in an arching melodramatic mood of too much passion for one album. NY has soul, but when he tries to play soul, even with a top notched band that are experts & pioneers in the genre, it's a strange sell that is too tame for its own good. The only thing that makes this album distinct is the fact of who that top notched band is. Co-producing with NY is part of the legendary Stax house band in famed organist Booker T. Jones & bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, also known as Booker T. & The MG's & who were both featured in the Blues Brothers films as the house backing band & with the Motown crew in Chicago created the funk/soul sound. Drummer Steve Potts has been a member of the reunited band since 2002. For two funk musicians that decades earlier were trendsetters here they've played this style so much they can do it in their sleep & that's what it sounds like. Nobody is driving anybody anywhere overly creative, only overly old hat & passionately maudlin. This is sad as NY had been engaging Jones & Dunn as his backing band while touring throughout the previous decade, but there's not much interplay here to make that evident. Perhaps doing other songs from NY's catalog the trio grooves, but here the songwriting provides little creative space. It would be more interesting to hear a typical NY folk album with this line-up, instead of a one & only NY soul/funk album. But, when you play with the legendary Booker T. & The MG's who doesn't want to play soul? You kinda can't blame NY for trying.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Aerosmith ~ Done With Mirrors

(Click on heading to visit official website)
Style: classic rock, hard rock
Label: Geffen
Year: 1985
Home: Boston, Massachusetts

Members: Steven Tyler ~ vocals
Joe Perry ~ guitar/b. vocals
Brad Whitford ~ guitar
Tom Hamilton ~ bass
Joey Kramer ~ drums



Joe Perry & Brad Whitford's return to Aerosmith got the boys reinvigorated & facing the right direction for a big comeback that would keep them flying high for years with more certified hits than they'd ever had, though this wasn't the comeback they were hoping it would be & has since fallen into obscurity pushed there as much by critics/fans as the bandmembers who feel it incomplete. Done With Mirrors, most famous for being originally released with everything from the liner notes to the music being reversed & essentially unlistenable/unreadable, may not be the planned comeback they wanted, but it's a good strong step away from where the immediately previous albums sank. Standout "Darkness" hearkens back to the successful early days of Aerosmith with its soft vocals, piano & snapping fingers cool cat opening, while also foreshadowing what was on the horizon in future albums with a strong memorable melody line & musical variety. Aerosmith rarely gets credited with having one of the great rock singers or one of the top guitar heroes or the most amazing rhythm section, but they do get credited with having good weaving guitars & grooves & a powerful vibe where the whole is stronger than the parts. Their secret is in interesting uncluttered melody lines, musical variety & sing-a-long memorable lyrics. "Darkness" is a perfect example of the band on a creative high. If this album fails its due to the fact that the songwriting isn't always really that interesting (for example, "My Fist Your Face") with the band throwing out lyrics that sound good because of the way they're sung not for what they say, much like what Marilyn Manson does. While the arrangements are trying but not quite the memorable grab your ear riffs that Aerosmith would later put out. The band would become too experimental & throw too much into the pot with albums like Music From Another Dimension, but here things are still quite the opposite being a bit too restrained if anything. "Let The Music Do The Talking" is a superior cleaner version versus the original that was the title track of a Joe Perry Project album that suffered from being cluttered. Aerosmith would later get cluttered with their albums & the results would suffer with feeling like a personality crisis with too many sounds, solos and dynamics, but those days are still in the distant future for 1985. Done With Mirrors is Aerosmith getting their footing again, but what would make their later albums better is the experimentation that would happen, the variety beyond just guitar rock which basically this album is. The synthesizer heavy "The Reason My Dog" is an interesting song for its non-guitar focus. This album would be followed by Permanent Vacation that would put the past behind the band & make them bigger than ever with the hits "Rag Doll", "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" & "Angel", while that would be eclipsed by Pump with the standout "Janie's Got A Gun" & "Love In An Elevator" where Aerosmith's particular brand of tongue-in-cheek raunchiness would turn them into one of the biggest band. Done With Mirrors is a nice little effort that will be interesting for fans that came later to the band, but probably more of interest to early day fans.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Joe Lynn Turner ~ Slam

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock
Label: MTM
Year: 2001
Home: New Jersey/Japan

Members: Joe Lynn Turner ~ vocals
Akira Kajiyama ~ guitars
Paul Morris ~ keyboards
Eric Czar ~ bass
Kenny Kramme ~ drums



JLT's post-Rainbow career started out a little predictable. His 1985 debut Rescue You with the former keyboardist of Foreigner in tow ... sounded just like Foreigner but JLT in tow. It's follow-up Nothing's Changed would come a decade & about forty guest sessions later as a backing vocalist, along with stints fronting numerous bands including Deep Purple & Rising Force. With guitarist Al Pitrelli regularly by his side playing & composing for a handful of albums JLT would turn out by the book hard rock with Nothing's Changed & The Usual Suspects being prophetic album titles as to what could be expected musically. Solid albums, good playing, a firm grip on the East Coast/New York hard rock sound versus the glam oriented L.A. rock, but nothing particularly exciting or climactic or breaking expectations. Reliable is a key word ... top notch reliable. The session gigs would continue to help pay the bills. Then in 2001 JLT released his seventh album Slam. This would be a turning point in his career with his heaviest album yet. Instead of a large group of rotating musicians which was the normal set-up since his third album, JLT zoomed in on the trio of bassist Eric Carr, keyboardist Paul Morris & drummer Kenny Kramme. In the guitar role would only be Japanese guitarist Akira Kajiyama who had appeared on the previous album & would continue a relationship with JLT. Kajiyama is a very different guitarist than the melodic Pitrelli & the other guest guitarists who had appeared on JLT's albums including Mountain's Leslie West, while taking all the parts challenged the music in ways that just overdubbing a solo or rhythm doesn't. Whether deliberately or not, Kajiyama, also acting as co-composer, would turn this from a JLT vocal album with friends into a guitar album with tons of solos & wild playing. In many ways the album feels like it's Kajiyama's game, not JLT's, but yet there's also this feeling that Kajiyama respects JLT's music & is actually just helping push it into new musical directions, the natural course of any musician's career. JLT comes at the challenging new music, the closest to metal he'd recorded yet, with some amazingly expressive vocals that match the guitar playing par for par. He sounds rejuvenated & renewed, let alone challenging himself vocally with screams & shouts & even different tonal styles (for example, "Deliver Me" & the title track). "Bloodsucker" opens the album which is not just a harsh sounding title to add to the JLT catalog, but recalls Deep Purple with a thriving guitar line. It kicks the album off in high gear & an hour later nothing lets up. As much as the other album titles set the tone Slam does the same. Some songs are a little more traditional JLT but fans won't mind what is a slump for this album but a high gear song for any other album, though the second half the album does begin to run out of creativity & begin to feel imitative of what was already played. That being said, you won't be shutting the album off early though. JLT met Kajiyama years earlier when the guitarist released a Japanese tribute album to Rainbow. Kajiyama would appear on JLT's Under Cover, Vol. 2, Holy Man & Slam & the two would co-release Fire Without Flames with Kajiyama playing all the instruments. He would also tour behind the Hughes Turner Project in 2002 featuring JLT alongside former Deep Purple bassist/singer Glenn Hughes.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Swim The Mind ~ Waterfall Walls

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: alt rock, prog rock
Label: self-released
Year: 2010
Home: Connecticut

Members: Cisco ~ guitar
Nick ~ vocals

Adam ~ bass
Alex ~ drums/percussion



It's usually pretty obvious when a band is more than casually influenced by Alice In Chains ... because they sound like them & do it well, or more properly play music in the same spirit of the rhythmically & vocally dynamic Seattle enigma. Then there are bands that name drop Alice In Chains but sound nothing like them. Thus, the influence is either obvious or just nice PR to grow a fanbase. Perhaps it's partly because STM open their debut album with "The Drought" which is reminiscent of "Dam That River", from Alice In Chain's Dirt, but STM turn & weave with driving rhythms that move from single guitar to dual to little pop up solos taking on the feeling of Alice In Chains but fully making it their own emotionally dynamic beast. STM is like an orchestra where everyone works together versus here's the guitar part, here's the drum part, here's another disconnected part. For STM the instruments seem to echo & shadow each other. "The Drought" & many other songs on the album are verse/chorus/verse/refrain/etc but they rarely feel like it as the arrangements has enough textural flow where the parts don't jarr against each other but flow through & into each other. At times the song is in your face & other times it whispers, with all the instruments & the vocals falling in line not dominating. One doesn't often talk about arrangements in a rock context as the form is dominated by rhythm section with solo guitar over it & vocals over there, but here the arrangements here are amazing & highly textured ... just like Alice In Chains. But, where they weave with "The Drought" they also throw in something unpredictable with the angrily shouted "The Rope & The Pole" which hold backs with the refrain to keep the tension & magic of the effect successful. Early Live also comes to mind whose music at times sounded like rushing waves. This reference comes to the fore with the instrumental title track that isn't so much water rushing but feels more like a percussion based extended opening to the Live-esque spiritual ballad "Becoming One". "Zard Norp" is another instrumental sequeway that sounds like fantastical sounds from a factory or machine. A fascinating interlude & I usually find instrumentals disruptive to an album's flow or unnecessary. The album does veer a little long & a little repetitive as the songs don't always stand up with distinctiveness, but STM have given such a great new twist to the foundation laid by Alice In Chains the result is a solid album well worth hearing. They do indeed live up to their name of swimming the mind, that is musically.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The World's Greatest Metallica Tribute

(No official website)
Style: hard rock, heavy metal, trash, industrial, surf, techno, tribute
Label: Tributized
Year: 2004
Home: n/a

Members: Jon Oliva, Eric A.K., Eric Bloom, Billy Milano ~ vocals
Scott Ian, Lemmy Kilmister, Mike Clark, Al Pitrelli ~ guitars
Rob Trujillo, Tony Franklin, Phil Soussan, Bob Balch ~ bass
Dave Lombardo, Aynsley Dunbar, Gregg Bissonette, Vinny Appice ~ drums
Agent Orange, Apoptygma Berzerk, Sloppy Seconds, Dee Dee Ramone band, Funker Vogt, Vice Squad, Luciferion, Holocaust ~ n/a


If One Way Street: A Tribute To Aerosmith is producer/guitarist Bob Kulick helming a great tribute album, this is the opposite of the coin & anything but what it's title suggests. After doing Lulu & St. Anger one can probably guess Metallica like this tribute album to themselves. They'll be in a minority ... though they're probably used to that by now when it comes to their opinions. Here Kulick takes a couple approaches & none of them work any musical magic creating an album for collectors or diehard fans only. On One Way Street he placed together random rock musicians to do one off recordings. That again occurs here on four of the dozen tracks, while the other tracks are the traditional tribute band approach of bands submitting their cover songs. The success of these will all be dependent on if you like the bands or not. Though, this album is heavily split as the four one off groups have all star line-ups, while the submissions are lesser known bands. While the bands completely take to re-interpretting Metallica versus the one-off line-ups aim more for duplicating or finding a balance between imitation & discovery. This means right next to a heavy metal song is surf or techno synth making a jarring listen. One Way Street is so success because it doesn't do this as all the songs are kept in the same rock mood, all being produced by Kulick. The fact that there's not much of Metallica left in many of these experiments makes it an even more jarring listen. Metallica is a great band whose sound lies on powerful rhythms & a particular mood, but in the hands of others the songs fall apart quickly ... particularly when a band like Apoptygma Berzerk decide to do a dance techno version of "Fade To Black" that makes the song unrecognizable, throws the melody out the window & is pretty much one step away from Erasure but less camp, gay & entertaining. When doing a cover don't kill the recognizable melody line, while replacing a complicated recognizable riff, rhythm or line with something incredibly dumbed down also should be avoided. If you don't have the skills to at least get the basics of the song than don't fake it. Nor is this approach interesting, as Sloppy Seconds demonstrates with a straight punk take of "Hit The Lights" that dumps anything recognizable about the song. Luciferion also demonstrates with a boring by the book chugging nondescript guitar black/death metal version of "Fight Fire With Me". Agent Orange does a punk-surf version of "Seek & Destroy" which demonstrates that taking the cliched surf riff & putting on a song does not make for something creative or interesting outside of the idea that what would it sound like if Metallica was a surf band. Do surf bands ever get bored playing the same riff over & over again? It all sounds as much alike as Yngwie Malmsteen taking solo after solo. Things get really adventuresome with Funker Vogt who do a goth techno take on "Harvester Of Sorrow" but it's more techno than dark & this is a song that should be more dark than techno. At least it's not Erasure, though not quite Nine Inch Nails. Dee Dee Ramone does a bland "Jump In The Fire". Finally I've found someone who sings like Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones/Faces, but worse. Holocaust does an eight minute "Master Of Puppets" that at least ends the album on a good note, but twelve tracks too late. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery & Holocaust prove that with this particular compilation. Well crafted, though too light weight a guitar solo. The best contribution & only one worth listening to is Vice Squad who turn in an upbeat "Enter Sandman" with an industrial edge, think Powerman 5000. The best part is the toy laser gun sounds during the solos. The only thing that makes this album worth getting is the non-submitted four one-off line-up tracks. Maybe it's the fact that these include some star musicians, but someone was smart enough in each line-up to realize what not to dump in the song & how experimental not to be. Though, none of these songs are great & just for the gimmick of hearing a certain musician. "Nothing Else Matters" is anti-climactic gutless ballad with Jon Oliva of Savatage/Jon Oliva's Pain in a lackluster vocal performance only interesting for how much it sounds like James Hetfield, while this is not a good song to show off Lemmy of Motorhead. Also in this is Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch & tour/session drummer Gregg Bissonette most famously of the David Lee Roth band. "Battery" is safe & tame, though its hard to ruin this song, with Metallica's third bassist Rob Trujillo playing alongside drummer Dave Lombardo of Slayer, guitarist Mike Clark of Suicidal Tendencies & vocalist Eric A.K. of Flotsam & Jetsam which would feature future Metallica bassist Jason Newsted. "Whiplash" demonstrates that while James Hetfield is an adequate singer he works for the music at hand, but when you hear someone with a harsher voice interpret the songs ... well, Hetfield suddenly sounds a lot better. Sorry Billy Milano of M.O.D.. While listening to the other musician one wonders is Metallica this monotonous with the guitars & this flat sounding? A poor showing from guitarist Scott Ian of Anthrax, bassist Phil Soussan of Ozzy Osbourne & Billy Idol & drummer Vinny Appice of Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell. "For Whom The Bells Toll" features with Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Al Pitrelli in one of his more rare heavy metal moments as his career has been more hard-rock that doesn't always push him with the speed or intensity. A decent show, though you can hear Tony Franklin of the Firm trying to spice up the bass line & mold it to his trademarkable fretless bass. Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult, who Pitrelli toured with for a month, turns in an adequate vocal showing, while acclaimed 70's session drummer Aynsley Dunbar takes up the beats also in a rare metal moment. This album has also been released under the name Metallic Assault