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CD Reviews from 2015

PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 9:38 am
by TageRyche
A couple of leftover CD reviews from last year that I didn't get around to until now.

Blackberry Smoke

Holding All The Roses

Rounder Records - 2015

Fairly or not, Blackberry Smoke has been tagged with the line "Too Country for Rock and Roll, Too Rock and Roll For Country. The band certainly doesn't shy away from the association, but you have to wonder if it is true or not. Of course after listening to Holding All The Roses, the only thing that I thought was, "Does it really matter how you classify the music?"

As the band mixes rock, country and blues they churn out some amazing songs that simply deserve to be heard by as wide an audience as possible. In fact, aside from the rather boring "Woman in the Moon", every song on the album is outstanding.

When the band is rocking out on songs like "Let Me Help You (Find The Door)", "Payback's A Bitch" or "Fire In The Whole", they build the songs with an aggressive edge. When you hear that down home country twang shine through on songs like the title track, "Too High" or "Lay It All On Me", it comes with an air of authenticity rather than affectation. There's even a tasty little instrumental called "Randolph County Farewell", though when I first saw the title of that song on the CD package I was hoping it was a song with lyrics given the images said title conjured in my head.

But it isn't all just rocking out and country vibes here. The band is top notch and I love listening to singer Charlie Starr's voice. Starr also wrote most of the material on the disc as well. Lyrically, the album has some outstanding moments as well. The rollicking "Living in the Song" has a fantastic chorus: "It's like livin' in the words of a song / I've been runnin' from the hurt for too long / I don't know how to say I was wrong / All I know is how to be gone".

For me, the song that really grabbed me the most lyrically (and musically for that matter) was "Wish In One Hand". The band rocks out on the track, but also mixes in a rebellious sounding country feel at the same time. There's an edge to the entire set of lyrics and the chorus (which I'll let you discover on your own HERE) manages to be both poignant and hilarious.

Simply put, Holding All The Roses finds Blackberry Smoke enlivening the melding of both rock and country to a point that it no longer matters how you classify their music. You just need to listen, because the band, it would seem, is holding all the cards as well when it comes the future of the new age of "Southern Rock".

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Re: CD Reviews from 2015

PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2021 2:33 am
by TageRyche

Condition Human

Century Media Records - 2015

Given the state of Queensryche the past couple of years, you'd have to wonder if things were ever going to straighten out and see the band actually turn out some quality material. The bitter and drawn out split with singer Geoff Tate, the lawsuits, the dual albums released under the Queensryche name by both camps. It has been a complete and utter mess.

Since the band was at one point my all-time favorite, I was quite disappointed with the whole thing. Geoff Tate spent nearly 15 years (at least) making Queensryche (with the lack of pushback from the other members) into a shadow of their former selves. While I gave a slight edge to his Frequency Unknown album over the self-titled Queensryche disc from the other members, whatever goodwill he built up there was washed away by his album The Key released under the Operation: Mindcrime banner.

So you'll pardon me if I didn't have the highest of hopes for Condition Human out of the gate. This despite enjoying the first song they released prior to the official release date entitled "Arrow of Time". That particular track leads off the album and it is a clarion call to all fans of the band, current or lapsed, that Queensryche has their balls back.

Musically speaking, this is probably the hardest rocking album the band has done in years. They go about claiming their rock/metal bonafides with track such as "Guardian" and "Hellfire". Heck, on some songs that I didn't particular enjoy, I still found the aggressive nature (the song "Toxic Remedy" serves as one example) of the music somewhat compelling.

That's not to say that I didn't have some issues with the album. Their attempt at balladry, "Just Us" was dead on arrival and song like "Selfish Lives" and "Bulletproof" came off rather ponderous. The title track shifts back in forth in tempo, and while I enjoyed the more rocking parts of the song, when things slowed down the track became rather pedestrian.

As an aside, I didn't much care for the packaging design. The track listing on the back of the disc is nearly illegible and the lettering in the booklet for the song lyrics leaves something to be desired.

And then we come to singer Todd La Torre. Don't get me wrong, the guy can sing his butt off. He's got great pipes but the band seems bound and determined to not only recapture the sound of their earlier, more metallic years but make it sound like THAT version of Geoff Tate is still in the band. La Torre sounds like a dead ringer for Tate before he decided to become an artiste instead of a rocker. While others have moved on passed this particular point, I still maintain that if the band is to move on from Tate and the shadow of his distinctive vocal sound, La Torre needs to sound like HIMSELF, not someone else.

Of course, I have to come back around to saying that for the most part I enjoyed this album despite the flaws I describe in this piece. And everyone in the band has two prime examples of why they are "back" with the sound that launched their career with the tracks "All There Was" and the amazingly powerful "Eye 9".

Both songs are balls-out rockers and instantly transport the listener back to those days of yore when Queensryche put out metallic goodness that was unparalleled by many of their brethren. This album is, for me at least, the REAL official start of the Queensryche comeback. This is the kind of music they should've been making for many a year gone by. Perfection? No. But definitely on the road to winning back those who might've become disillusioned by the recent past.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars