Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Chosen Ones: Love Songs

Now that Valentine’s Day has come and gone like a rose in the spring time; there are plenty of love songs from bands yearning for a woman or lamenting a breakup. While some miss the mark due to the cheese factor, others prosper because of catchy guitar part, well-written lyrics, or a mind numbing chorus. Here some of the best love songs to swoon your significant other.

Scorpions: Born to Touch Your Feelings
Everyone’s favorite Germans have many awesome ballads. No one writes a love song like they do. They can easily conjure moments of being romantic and becoming intimate with the person you’re with. “Born to Touch Your Feelings” is no different with some of the best lyrics the band has produced and combined with the epic feel makes this the best Scorpions ballad. The flawless vocal performance by Klaus Meine coupled with strong guitars and a bombastic ending must be heard.

KISS: Every Time I Look at You
The Knights In Satan’s Service saw this as the follow up hit to 1989’s “Forever”, but it ultimately failed as a single. However, I find this song to be the stronger of the two because of the acoustic guitar part and Paul Stanley realizing this is the woman he wants to be with. It begins with a hint of sadness, but then blossoms to something uplifting and it works wonderfully. “Forever” is just too cheesy and this song is to, but it has the right amount without being saturated by it.

UFO: Love to Love
There is nothing cheesy or crooning going on here. British rockers UFO wrote this song for their seminal album “Lights Out” and guitar hero Michael Schenker delivers a hard guitar part before it develops into a majestic radiance with one of the strongest vocal performances by Phil Mogg. The orchestral accompaniment adds a nice touch to the proceedings and the emotional solo by Schenker caps off an already impressive song.

Vinnie Vincent Invasion: Love Kills
While this may not be classified as a track to perk your woman, this song is just too awesome to leave off. Featured on “ A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master”, this haunting ballad contains a creepy, acoustic riff while a Mark Slaughter wails like a man on fire in the chorus. The electric solo is very memorable and the track remains a standout on “All Systems Go.” Plus, the appearance by Freddy Krueger in the video scores some extra points.

Lynch Mob: Through These Eyes
After George Lynch left Dokken, he formed Lynch Mob with the wonderful singer Oni Logan. The ballad is very catchy and the vocal performance by Logan is excellent. The guitar part will stick in your head for days. It is also certainly better than most of the ballads Lynch’s former band produced too.

Helloween: In the Middle of a Heartbeat
One of the forefathers of power metal, the pumpkin heads has never really been that good at writing ballads. “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” and “Number 1” are downright awful and have soiled the pumpkin stew. That trend changed in vocalist Andi Deris’ first album with the band “Master of the Rings” as the classical approach works really well. The song seems a little melancholic, but it works and you can be sure to console your loved one if they shed a tear.

Paul Stanley: Tonight You Belong to Me
This standout from the 78’ solo album is the Starchild at his best. An acoustic intro building to the bombast of an awesome guitar riff works perfectly. Stanley has professed how he loves songs that start low and become loud. The song is beautiful with Stanley telling his woman that while she may be leaving; he still has her for one night and he plans to make the most of it.

Stryper: Calling On You
Ok, this song is very cheesy, but I love it. God’s favorite band produced this hit back in 86’. The song is poppy and Michael Sweet sounds like a puppy dog, but the track is undeniably catchy and I can’t help myself to sing along to the chorus. Other than that, it’s a sweet song (no pun intended) to play for your lady to call on her to love you.

W.A.S.P: Forever Free
W.A.S.P may be known for gritty and unapologetically gruesome with their stage antics and sex infused songs, but this track off their most mature work “The Headless Children” shows a different side of Blackie Lawless and co. It talks of a loved one who has passed on, but is now free to flow along with nature, but will always by their loved ones side. It’s a beautiful song, and it rocks too.

Cinderella: Coming Home
This is another cheesy tune, but it’s my kind of brand. I like the guitar part a lot and there is no other feeling like returning to a person who means much to someone’s life. “Coming Home” speaks for itself in the title and on top of that, the execution is flawless.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mild Tribute

Cover albums can be successes that pay respect to a band’s influence or be a mildly amusing affair that have faithful renditions of songs, but nothing more. Take Overkill’s “Coverkill” for example. The thrashers took their style of music and integrated it into some classic tracks and it made for a fun listen. With Iced Earth, their mix of power and thrash metal could translate well with some songs, especially with superb vocalist Matt Barlow in tow. Seeing Jon Schaffer dip into the well of his influences and some of his favorite bands is very intriguing, but we are left with something more fit for a jester, rather than the gods.

There is nothing offensively bad on here, it’s just there is nothing interesting added or spiced up to make the songs “feel” like Iced Earth. I suppose that makes sense for the Iron Maiden covers because Schaffer’s vision was derived much from them. “The Number of the Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” are a couple of the most iconic songs not just for Maiden, but for heavy metal. One or two listens are nice, but in the end they are not even close to being superior to Bruce Dickinson’s wailing vocals and the dual guitar treat of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. It also doesn’t help that Richard Christy’s mantic drumming has been reduced to keeping the beat and nothing more.

However, I was expecting some interesting developments in the AC/DC tunes and the Blue Oyster Cult tracks. The AC/DC songs totally miss the mark and it is odd hearing Iced Earth doing straight-up, hard rock songs. The BOC ones are more forgiving and I like the delicate vocal performance by Barlow and the nice guitar solo laid down by Larry Tarnowski. The thick guitar tone on “Cities on Flame” brings an extra edge to the chorus and provides an enjoyable listen.

The best cover is the Alice Cooper song “Dead Babies.” The creepy atmosphere is captured perfectly and the brooding bass by James MacDonough is capable of making the hair stand on the back of your neck. Driving guitars and Barlow’s range are spot on and is worthy of a five-star stamp. Schaffer dons the head microphone for “God of Thunder.” The KISS classic is made into the metal song it always wanted to be. Schaffer’s raspy vocals work well and the main riff slaughters just as it’s supposed to. This version is a little bit scarier than the original.

The metal forefathers make an appearance in the presence of the songs that bears their namesake “Black Sabbath.” The song “Black Sabbath” is known for its creepy atmospheres and shivering tones. Unfortunately, Iced Earth fails to replicate what the song goes for and simply does not do justice to the original. However, I do enjoy the amped up guitar kick at the climax of the song.

In the end, these covers are a disappointment. With a couple exceptions, they did not add to the songs that came before them. Instead of making these songs “theirs”, they simply did faithful versions. I wished they went outside the box and experimented more with their interpretations of some metal classics. With that said, the KISS covers and the Alice Cooper cover are exceptional and definitely worth listens. If the covers were as good as these, then Schaffer and co. could take their place next to the gods, but unfortunately they will have stick to being mere mortals.