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So Where Is the Spandex and Hairspray?

April 26, 2008

It must be difficult to be a rock star. Seriously, I don’t think I could do it.

I’m not talking about these flash-in-the-pan, one hit wonder crappy nu-metal bands. I’m talking about bands that have been around for 20+ years and who are still putting out quality music. How does an artist dig that deep into him/herself and find song after song?

I’m asking this question because a few of my favorite bands from the 80’s have released or are going to release some new music in 2008. I’ve been blessed to get my greedy mits on all these albums have been overjoyed that my heroes, for the most part, still have the magic of great song writing!

The overwhelmingly tough feat of writing new material while still maintaining a back library of popular songs is what I would consider the most difficult part of being a musician. Your fans expect a certain sound and quality and attitude, and it would be hard not to be boxed into that expectation. How would you grow in your musical talent and try new things while keeping your fans, who have supported you most of their adult life, happy and willing to buy your music? Trying to keep these questions in mind, I’ll review five of my favorite bands from the 80’s who are still creating new music.

Return Of The PrideThe venerable White Lion was a force to be reckoned with in the mid-80’s. Their songs were full of big guitars, catchy choruses and sing-along-hooks. C’mon, just listen to Wait from their first album and you find pure pop-rock goodness! White Lion has returned with Return of the Pride and of all the new releases, this is one I have the most mixed feelings about. It is an alright album, but it has none of the flavor and fun of White Lion’s previous recordings. Maybe it is because Mike Tramp is the only original member left. His vocals are good, but honestly, I have listened to this album a couple of times through and just don’t feel the need to listen to it again. Tramp’s vocals are good, and the music is good, but the album as a whole isn’t compelling. White Lion was a band with a very unique sound and I expect them to still sound that way. Too bad for me I guess. This will probably be an album I pop in the ‘ol iPod in 2 or 3 years and enjoy greatly. It will grow on me I’m sure.

King’s X has never really had a musical hiatus. They’ve been a prolific band over the years, changing their sound a little when the grunge era started, but reverting to their “signature” sound with their album entitled Ogre Tones. I’ve been a huge fan since Out of the Silent Planet was released in 1988 but fell off the wagon after Dogman (1994).

XV

I’ve since been listening to King’s X back catalog of music and really like everything except their grunge sounding records. Fortunately for us, King’s X new album, entitled XV, is a return to roots of sorts. It has the trio’s sound, earmarked by Doug Pinnick’s bouncing bass grooves, Ty Tabor’s harmonic guitar, and Jerry Gaskill’s great drumming. The choruses are full of those great hooks that King’s X is famous for and the songs are endearing and soul searching.

Early on King’s X was labelled as a Christian band, but they stoutly declared that as a misnomer. When frontman Doug Pinnick revealed that he was a homosexual, many “christian” fans deserted the band. Reading through the lyrics of XV, one can see some of the pain and emotional struggles that the band has gone through. I love lyrics that are thought provoking; King’s X is definitely a thinking man’s band. If you love great music coupled with great poetic lyrics, then check out XV.

Whitesnake was known to absolutely every rocker back in the great days of the 80’s. If the first few notes of In the Still of the Night were played to anyone about 35 years old, I almost guarantee that said fellow would know the song for sure. Even before attaining huge hair metal success, Whitesnake had garnered much praise in the late 70’s for their bluesy, gritty hard rock and roll.Good To Be Bad

Whitesnake is back and better than ever with their brand new album Good To Be Bad. Whitesnake is back in a huge way! This record is absolutely amazing. It has everything a Whitesnake fan could ask for: David Coverdale’s amazing vocals and that awesome bluesy rock guitar. Although Coverdale can’t reach all of those high notes of yesteryear, he still can belt out those songs with gusto. Of all the new albums being released, I’d have to say this is the one of best quality. It is just a great rock and roll album!

Good To Be Bad doesn’t stray too far from Whitesnake’s roots. It has that classic Whitesnake sound, but Coverdale is the only remaining original member. That is amazing that the band can still capture that “classic” magic at the same time growing into a much better sound.

Of all the bands releasing new albums, Dokken was perhaps my all time favorite 80’s metal band. The team of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and, Mick Mars was an unstoppable force. I love every early album released by Dokken and sometimes think they have the quintessential 80’s metal sound.

Saying that, I’ve been looking forward to Dokken’s new release, Lightning Strikes Again, for quite a while now. When I finally got my hands on a promo version of the album, I was giddy with anticipation.

Lightning Strikes AgainCould Dokken relive the past? Dokken has been releasing albums since their 80’s hey-day, but those records lack the magic of early Dokken. When George Lynch left to for the Lynch Mob, Dokken ceased to be a brilliant band.

Don Dokken and Mick Brown both appear on the new album, but George Lynch and Jeff Pilson do not. I say that because I was a little confused when I heard the first song…..it sounded very, very much like classic Dokken! This is where I get picky and even confuse myself. I love the classic Dokken sound, but should that sound be there without George Lynch?

Lightning Strikes Again is a good album. Don Dokken’s voice just can not hit those high notes that need to be sung to truly capture the classic Dokken sound. If he could sing like he did in years past, maybe I wouldn’t mind the guitar sounding so much like George Lynch.

I’m curious to read more Dokken fan’s reactions to this album. Maybe it will be like White Lion’s album and grow on me the more I listen to it. It is hard to find time to listen to something that doesn’t stand out because there is so much great music being released!!

Def Leppard’s new album, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, definitely caught me by surprise. This is a fantastic record!

Songs From The Sparkle Lounge

I wasn’t expecting much. I liked Def Leppard’s last release, but, like Dokken, it seems as though Def Leppard lost most of their 80’s magic. I consider Pyromania to be required listening for any rocker! I listened to Hysteria so many times that I wore the tape out!

Songs from the Sparkle Lounge is a great album. It is fun to listen to and blends that classic Def Leppard sound with modern rock and roll. I can’t stop listening to it!

Def Leppard has had their share of line-up changes, but this band still has the makings of greatness. I hear they will be touring with Whitesnake and I pray that they will come to central California! I would love to see that concert!

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2 Comments
  1. April 29, 2008 3:43 am

    I definitely have to get the big “D”s of the review. Dokken and Def Leppard are two of my biggest faves from the heyday.

    However, I think you mixed up Mick Brown’s name with that other Mick from… I forgot now… eh, some motley band of musicians, I guess!

  2. April 29, 2008 3:52 am

    Oh, BTW… If you haven’t seen the Leps in concert, dude I highly recommend their show. They are the most excellent showmen and stagemasters. I saw them during their “Seven Day Weekend” tour (Adrenalize) and it was just an awesome show. I had so much fun that night!

    Also, it makes sense that they still have their old magic, for the most part. “Yeah!” was a great return for them, even though it was their sound mixed with their favorite cover tunes.

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