Interview with Carmine Appice and Album Review: Camine Appice – Guitar Zeus

photo courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Interview with Carmine Appice interspersed with Album Review of Carmine Appice: Guitar Zeus

Carmine Appice is a true living rock and roll legend. His credentials are practically unparalleled when it comes to accomplishments in modern music. He’s a drummer, vocalist, songwriter, author, educator, storyteller and, overall, raconteur who has done it all. Beginning his professional career in the ‘60s with Vanilla Fudge, Appice created the template for contemporary rock as we know it. Predating and paving the way for Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and a number of guitar and theatrically-based bands, Appice almost single-handedly forged the genre known as “stoner rock.” The drummer-vocalist was also a founding member of the bands Cactus and worked with Jeff Beck and VF bassist Tim Bogert in Beck, Bogert & Appice. Perhaps one of Appice’s most commercially significant musical stints was as a member of Rod Stewart’s band. It was there that he also wrote one of Rod’s biggest hits to date, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and the follow up “Young Turks.” During the ‘80s, Appice worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, Edgar Winter and led his own groups King Kobra and Blue Murder.

image courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

Currently, Appice is on the promotion trail discussing the re-release of a major recording project he began in the mid-‘90s called Guitar Zeus. In it, the drummer/producer brought together some of the finest guitarists of all time to collaborate on a multiple original song project that brought various genres of hard rock to the forefront.

“Actually, this idea started in ’95 and ’97 when I was working in a band called Mother’s Army with Joe Lynn Turner and Bob Daisley,” explains Appice. “I was doing searches for band names because it had been ten years since I did a solo album and I wanted to do something new.”

It took Appice a couple years to get a record deal for his new project, but, as fate would have it, he did a clinic at a music store with guitarist Brian May. At that time Appice came up with the concept of guest guitarists from various genres appearing on his solo album, so May ended up being the first artist he asked. Ted Nugent was also invited as well as the members of Kings X and many other artists.

“I finally got this deal out of Japan and I recorded it,” says Appice. “I did two records, and it cost me $100,000. I paid everyone who played on it the going rate and Guitar Zeus was released in Europe and Asia. It sold over 150,000 records worldwide. It was finally released in the U.S. in 2005 with a European label that eventually went out of business. I decided I wanted to re-release these albums because everybody that’s on it is big again.”

And there is a virtual who’s who of rock guitar on Guitar Zeus. The list will surely make any serious music and guitar fan salivate profusely. On-board are Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Richie Sambora, Steve Morse, Brian May, Ted Nugent, Slash, Neal Schon, Yngwie Malmsteen, dUg Pinnick, Pat Travers, Vivian Campbell, Jennifer Batten, Warren DeMartini, Elliot Easton, Bruce Kulick, Dweezil Zappa, Paul Gilbert, Leslie West, and many others.

“Of course, Brian May is huge now with all the movie stuff as well as Neal Schon with Journey,” says Appice. “But back in the ‘90s, grunge was big, and we were all dinosaurs. I spent most of the ‘90s working in Japan because a lot of folks didn’t wanna hear from guys of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and even ‘80s. I also had a bunch of tracks that never really made it to the American version of this project.”

Brian May and Carmine Appice; photo courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

Guitar Zeus features over 30 original tracks all digitally re-mastered by Stephen DeAcutis and executive produced by Carmine Appice himself. The core band on each track consists of all stars Tony Franklin on bass; Kelly Keeling on vocals, keys, and rhythm guitar; and, of course, Appice on drums. Highlights of some of the tunes include Brian May’s wah-wah guitarwork on “Nobody Knew,” Steve Morse’s dark proggy Jeff Beck-like licks on “4 Miles High,” Ted Nugent’s inspired feedback-drenched fretwork on “Days Are Nights,” Pat Travers’ re-make of “Do You Think I’m Sexy,” and many other performances too numerous to mention. It’s a very special digital release that will be available on all platforms along with special vinyl and CD editions.

“A lot of people will finally get to hear this that never heard it before,” says Appice. “There is a Soundgarden meets Blue Murder kind of vibe with the tunes that has a lot of guitar playing and jamming like the ‘70s. Each song has its own tuning and is unique. And there is a lot of ear candy on here where the mix moves the music around the speakers like in the days of The Beatles’ Revolver or Sgt. Pepper where sounds would move from left to right in your head.”

For all the information on Guitar Zeus and Carmine Appice, just go to www.guitarzeus.net and www.carmineappice.net.

This Weekend

On Saturday, March 30th, Appice will be teaching a Drum Master Class at the Trilogy Lounge in Seymour, CT. On June 29th, he’ll be performing as a member of Vanilla Fudge at the Boulton Center in Bay Shore, NY. Watch Carmine Appice’s website for additional dates, and be sure the double-check with the venue to confirm.

Single Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – “What It Is”

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: “What It Is” (Producer: Adam Hanington)

Jimmy Lee Morris - What It Is

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

The latest release from British singer-songwriter extraordinaire Jimmy Lee Morris comes in the form of a tight, nifty single entitled “What It Is.” Morris has previously released fine independent acoustic-based folk and pop that has always put the emphasis on wordsmithing and strong melody. This latest single adds an infectious beat to his resume that recalls everything from the Beatles and the Kinks to Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. The song is a pure collaboration of Morris’ ever present acoustic guitar as an anchor, with the addition of Hanington’s production gloss of synthesized keyboards and bouncy rhythms. The result is a tune that is extremely catchy and fun, with a nod to the ‘60s as filtered through a mid-‘80s lens. If you don’t start tapping your feet and gyrating in some form or fashion upon the song’s first downbeat, then you better check your pulse!

Looking Ahead

The “live” page of Jimmy Lee Morris’ website shows several dates coming up in 2019, including three in March: Friday, 1st March at Napoleon Inn, Boscastle, Cornwall (9:00 pm); Saturday, 23rd March at Crowhurst Park, Battle, East Sussex (8.30 pm); and Saturday, 30th March at The Jolly Sailor Inn, West Looe, Cornwall (8:00 pm). For dates April and beyond – and to check for additional gigs to be added – be sure to check the website.

Album Review: Tosha Owens – Wrong Side of Right

Tosha Owens - Wrong Side of Right

image courtesy of Tosha Owens

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Tosha Owens: Wrong Side of Right

Multiple award-winning singer-songwriter Tosha Owens hits it out of the park with this latest blues and soul drenched venture. Owens has been a consistent fixture on the Detroit music scene since the ‘80s, and this album proves she is not one to rest on her laurels. She and guitarist/producer/co-writer Brett Lucas are a great team that has crafted a dynamic set of songs that are sure to resonate.

Tosha Owens

photo courtesy of Tosha Owens

“You Ain’t Right” opens the album with a minor mid-tempo blues burner about a one-sided relationship. From the get-go, you know Owens is gonna give it to you straight. The title track “Wrong Side of Right” follows and picks up the pace, with some light funk as the singer talks about choices and those gray areas in between. “I’ll Just Say It” is a great ballad in the vein of Al Green. This features a smooth jazz touch from John Douglas on flugelhorn. Somewhat of a surprise is a deep cut from the Janis Joplin songbook called “Half Moon.” There are some great horns here along with Lucas’ funky guitar and a standout performance from Owens. Another highlight is the first-person account of one’s need to “pay it forward” in helping those less fortunate, with the very soulful “Cold in Detroit Tonight.” Pianist Evan Mercer kills on the Ray Charles ballad “Ain’t That Love.” It’s a fitting and sweet way to put a beautiful bow on this stellar dozen of superb modern and classic soul and blues-rock gems.

Live Performances

The “Shows” page of Tosha’s website lists her 2018 shows. Keep an eye on that page as she adds 2019 performances.

Album Review: Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke – Everybody Has a Purpose

Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

photo courtesy of Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Joe Kidd and Sheila Burke: Everybody Has a Purpose

Joe Kidd and Sheila Burke are a contemporary folk-rock duo that features stellar harmonies matched with skilled songwriting and heartfelt themes. In the five-plus years they’ve been together they’ve performed all around the United States, Mexico, and Canada spreading a message of peace, love and harmony.

Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke - Everybody Has a Purpose

photo courtesy of Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

Fans of classic acoustic and folk artists like Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Arlo Guthrie, and others will certainly appreciate this duo. But their music has a timeless and limitless quality that is sure to satisfy any age or era.

The title track “Everybody Has a Purpose” lays the foundation for their music, with a message of being an individual and finding one’s place in the world. Echoes of Jessie Colin Young, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell certainly come to mind.

Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

photo courtesy of Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

Another strong song represented here is Burke’s ode to a serviceman “Veteran’s Song (My Brother).” She has the voice of an angel and her depiction of a soldier who seems to be dealing with PTSD is powerful.

“Shadow At the End of the Road” stands out as well for its haunting melody and mood. It has a Byrds meets Buffalo Springfield kind of feel matched with marvelous vocals and a contemplative resonance.

The struggles of the working man are reflected in the Pete Seeger-like “Grandpa Was a Coal Miner.” Tunes like that and, basically, all their material is directed toward the common man, woman, and human experience.

Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

photo courtesy of Joe Kidd & Sheila Burke

There is a primary element to Joe Kidd and Sheila Burke’s music that is, at once, relatable and down to earth, yet spiritual and transcendent. The songs “Will Do” and “They Call it Romantic” are all that and are lighthearted and fun too.

Keep an eye out for this duo on the concert circuit as they keep a steady performance schedule throughout the year. Check their website for a list of upcoming performances, beginning with a Saturday, December 1st Rock For Tots benefit show at Freddy’s Bar & Grill in Clinton Township, MI.

Album Review: Thornetta Davis – Honest Woman

Thornetta Davis

photo by Bob Schultz; photo courtesy of Thornetta Davis

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Thornetta Davis: Honest Woman

She is often referred to as Detroit’s “Queen of the Blues.” And for good reason! Thornetta Davis has consistently won numerous awards in her hometown and abroad and, with this current album, shows she is as strong a composer and songwriter as she is a singer. According to the liner notes, this album was roughly 20 years in the making. And, while Davis always delivers a sincere and no-holds-barred performance, this is some of her more personal and powerful material to date.

Thornetta Davis - Honest Woman

image courtesy of Thornetta Davis

This is a full-length feature, with a baker’s dozen of all Davis originals. It’s a seamless cross-section of rocking blues and gospel-inflected R&B that truly is a showcase for what this world class artist is all about. “I Gotta Sang the Blues” kicks things off in an appropriate autobiographical vein. It’s an uptempo funky number that guests the legendary Kim Wilson trading vocals and harmonica with the Detroit diva. “That Don’t Appease Me” finds Davis boasting loud and proud in her defense from a man that did her wrong. This one really swings as well as rocks the house. “Set Me Free” changes the pace a bit, offering a jazzy feel, with great choral vocals and superb guitar from Saginaw blues man Larry McCray. Davis makes reference to Sam Cooke in her notes, and “I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright)” kind of rings with that “Change is Gonna Come” kind of vibe. Other highlights can be found in the spirited “Get Up and Dance Away Your Blues,” with horns by the late Marcus Belgrave, and the title track “Honest Woman” that features Kid Rock saxophonist David McMurray and intense revelatory lyrics from the singer.

Davis is joined by many of Detroit’s first-call session players and side musicians, including guitarist Brett Lucas, bassist James Simonson, drummers Skeeto Valdez, Todd Glass and Dave Marcaccio, keyboardists Phillip Hale and Chris Codish and many others. Simply put, it’s a solid release!

Live Gigs

Per the “gigs” tab of Thornetta’s website, she’ll be performing tonight, November 23rd, and tomorrow night, November 24th, at Kingston Mines in Chicago. Thornetta’s Facebook page also lists a March 2, 2019 show with Mike Wheeler at The Token Lounge in Westland, Michigan. I’d definitely keep an eye out for other live shows, too.

Album Review: Dave Kerzner – Static

Dave Kerzner

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Dave Kerzner: Static (RecPlay Inc.)

Dave Kerzner is a singer-songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist/producer/sound designer and developer with an impressive resume that includes duties working alongside such luminaries as Alan Parsons, Genesis, Neil Peart, Keith Emerson, Tom Waits, Smashing Pumpkins, Steven Wilson and Kevin Gilbert. He also has been a member of prog rock groups Sound of Contact and Mantra Vega and has released two solo albums, New World and the current Static.

On his latest endeavor, Kerzner shines his conceptual spotlight on contemporary society, with all its political and moral dilemmas in full effect. Sonically, this is a record that is very much of its time, where every track beams with full spectrum fidelity coupled with accomplished musicianship. Kerzner is joined by his core ensemble of guitarists Fernando Perdomo and Randy McStine, drummer Derek Cintron and backing vocalists Durga and Lorelei McBroom. And, although this is very much Kerzner’s baby, both his core and special guest musicians make this feel like a unified “band” project.

Dave Kerzner - Static

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Kerzner’s songs and stories are ripped from today’s headlines and infused with a somewhat cynical and jaundiced eye. Among the highlights, “Hyprocrites” sets things in motion via staccato guitar chords that punctuate the air. It is all about the political, partisan and moral divide that seems so prevalent at the moment. In it, Kerzner sings “Pointing at me, pointing at you, making us gorge on your point of view.” Also, “Giving to steal, standing to kneel, hurting to heal, failing to heal.” These are thinly veiled lyrics that immediately address the polarization in our society.

The title track “Static” sounds like a Pink Floyd outtake from The Wall. Perhaps that may be due, in large part, to the drum track, which is a sample of PF luminary Nick Mason. It’s kind of a dirgy and dark tale about the personal static we all feel in our dealings with each other on a daily basis.

“Chain Reaction” is a strong single, both from a chorus hook and melodic perspective. A real alt-rock feel combined with a progressive lead sensibility is at play here through the interaction of Perdomo and guest Chris Johnson’s guitarwork.

“Trust” is another standout track that features Beatle-esque harmonies and a strong Alan Parsons Project sensibility. The addition of cellist Ruti Celli provides an eerie baroque atmosphere to the song.

Dave Kerzner

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

There are some interesting instrumental sidebars as well in “Quiet Storm “and “Statistic.” These are vehicles for some experimentation and sound design manipulation.

Famed Genesis guitarist and solo artist Steve Hackett lays down some wicked leads on the provocative “Dirty Soap Box,” and the multi-sectioned “The Carnival of Life” takes the listener on a thrill ride that ends, as the album began, with the urging of the protagonist Kerzner for the populace at large to take a look at itself and reflect.

There are fourteen tracks in all. Static is best listened to as a comprehensive piece, however many of the songs do stand on their own. If you are a fan of such classic albums as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, you would be well-served to check this out.

Live Shows

Keep up with Dave’s live performance schedule via the “tour dates” section of his website. His next gig, per his website is March 3rd at the Progdreams Festival in The Netherlands. Watch Dave’s website for additional dates as they’re added.

[You may also have recognized guitarist Fernando Perdomo’s name. I reviewed Fernando’s CD, The Golden Hour, back in December. -GW]

Album Review: Quentin Angus – In Stride

Quentin Angus

photo by Desmond White; photo courtesy of Quentin Angus

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Quentin Angus: In Stride

Guitarist Quentin Angus hails from Eden Valley, Australia and has been based in New York City since 2010. In that time he received a PhD and is an Associate Professor of Music for the City University of New York. He’s released two previous albums as a leader, with his latest, In Stride, proving to be one of his most exciting and musically explorative to date. He is joined on the new album by bassist Sam Anning and drummer Ari Hoenig.

Quentin Angus - In Stride

cover photo by Desmond White; image courtesy of Quentin Angus

Perhaps the main thing one can take away from this album is the focused, yet very relaxed manner in which this trio interacts with each other. The inventiveness and complexity of the writing and arrangements combined with the intensity and execution seems mercurial and essentially effortless. Angus and company appear to be operating from one cerebral source, and the results are most impressive.

“Jingles” is a Wes Montgomery composition and sets things in motion at a vibrant pace. The sharp and succinct accents that bolster the melody come at you like an adrenaline rush. The tune is constructed tighter than a Swiss watch, with precise moves that shift from orchestral to all out swing. Angus’ mastery on the fret board knows no bounds as he takes this piece into an alternate dimension via athletic intervals and wide ranging octaves.

Quentin Angus

photo courtesy of Quentin Angus

They slow down the mood a tad for a lovely interpretation of The Goo Goo Dolls’ ballad “Iris.” The dreamy waltz-time feel coupled with the lilting melody makes this an ethereal delight. The trio plays the familiar head fairly straight forward while observing subtle alternate voicings and dynamics.

The title track “In Stride” is an Angus original. The tune’s brisk melody and tempo work in tandem to generate some real excitement, with a nice use of suspended chords and a wide range of harmonies. Hoenig and Anning provide plenty of space as Angus navigates some real in and out kind of playing.

Quentin Angus

photo by Desmond White; photo courtesy of Quentin Angus

The leader’s subtle political leanings rise to the surface, with the robust in-the-pocket track “One for Bernie (Sanders).” Hoenig initially lays down a funky beat and alternates with more open rhythms. Angus is at his most intricate and literate where every nuance is explored. The ebb and flow of overall dynamics from the band is nicely done as well.

Charlie Parker’s “Segment” is, perhaps, not one of the legendary sax master’s most well known works, but thoughtfully spotlighted here. This is a real jaunty one, which begins kind of funky and then breaks out into a lithe swing. Angus likes to get in the zone where you never know quite where he is going, but he is always on point. His solos are lively and melodic, and the mid-section is an added bonus sparked by the bass and drums.

“Droplets” is another Angus piece that blends a samba-like framework, with smooth and complex orchestration. Hoenig’s drumming is militaristic and fast paced, surely bent to keep you on your  toes.

Quentin Angus

photo by Desmond White; photo courtesy of Quentin Angus

Again, the band’s diversity and ability to seamlessly blend pop into their mix is displayed on Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” It’s a clever arrangement where Anning plays the initial melody on bass followed by Angus providing the “B” section. Hoenig kind of holds it all together, with a loosely framed pulse.

“Kinship” concludes the album, with another Angus gem. A bright and uplifting melody is powered by the leader’s stealth use of arpeggios and rolling chords. Anning and Hoenig give this a somewhat Latin feel that really caps things on an upbeat note.

Dare I say, Angus and company truly hit their “stride” on this wonderful album. It is a textbook treatise into what a tight knit and compact unit can bring to the table in terms of creating an inventive and original sound. Essential listening!

Looking Ahead

Angus’ next performance is tomorrow afternoon, Saturday, February 24th at 3:00 PM as part of the “Composers Now” Festival at the Shirley Fiterman Art Gallery in New York. Per the “Shows” page on Quentin’s website, he’ll be back at the same location on March 16th for a faculty recital. Be sure to check his website periodically to catch future live shows as they’re added. You can also keep up with the live performance schedules of the other two-thirds of Quentin’s trio on their websites: Ari Hoenig’s and Sam Anning’s.