Jeff Caudill talks about his new EP “Reset the Sun”.

Former Gameface front man Jeff Caudill is back with a new EP titled “Reset the Sun”. The six track EP is a bit of a departure from Caudills emo/rock sound and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jeff recently about the new sound, the special Record Store Day release of the EP and his summer tour plans.

Adam Lawton: Tell us about the new EP set to release on Record Store Day?

Jeff Caudill: It’s a concept record, an alt-country road record. The story is about about guy who made some questionable life decisions and is struggling with forgiveness and starting over – and the idea that no matter how far away you go, you can always come back.

AL: Was this release originally designed to be for RSD?

JC: No, but I’m really happy that it worked out this way. I’m a total vinyl nerd and I love Record Store Day so this is kind of the best thing ever. I’m releasing this EP on my own label, Fortunate Son, but my friends at Revelation Records are helping with distribution. They submitted it for RSD and it seemed that the stars aligned.

AL: Being this project is quite different from your work with Gameface were you nervous about exploring new genres?

JC: Well, I’ve always loved this kind of music. Even in Gameface I kind of leaned into the ‘twang’. I put out a couple solo records before this that have a more singer-songwriter vibe so I’ve been working towards this. But yeah, if people are expecting Gameface, they might be wondering what’s going on.

AL: What was it that appealed to you to go the way of the singer/songwriter as opposed to starting a new band?

JC: I’m always writing songs. It’s what I do. I just don’t get paid to do it. The way my life is these days, it makes more sense to just keep going and let the band members come and go as they may. Keeping a band together is tough. I’m enjoying playing with new people, and I enjoy playing solo. I think the solo artist thing allows for more versatility and freedom.

AL: Are there plans to tour behind release?

JC: I hope so. I have some tentative summer plans for some solo acoustic shows on both coasts. I’m also getting a backing band up to speed now too so who knows? As long as I’m playing music in some capacity, I’m happy.

John Doe discusses his new album “The Westerner” and his book “Under the Big Black Sun”

(Photo Credit: Jim Herrington)

John Doe is a singer, songwriter, poet and actor. He is probably best known for his work with the seminal Los Angeles punk band X which formed in the mid 1970’s. 2016 has been a busy for year for Doe as earlier this year he released his first solo album in five years titled “The Westerner” along with a book chronicling the L.A. punk scene titled “Under the Big Black Sun”. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with John recently before his performance in Ithaca, NY about the idea behind his new album and what it was like revisiting the stories contained in his book.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “The Westerner”?

John Doe: My friend Michael Blake who wrote “Dances with Wolves” and several other books was like a brother to me. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and over time couldn’t remember anything. It bugged the hell out of him but we remained close through everything and I would always go up and visit him. We influenced each other a lot in art and writing. Howe Gelb and I were reconnecting around the same as I was writing songs about Michael and using him as a character. I like what Howe has done with different peoples sound as well as his own in Giant Sand. He has really refocused the sound coming out of the Tucson area. I wanted the songs to have space and reverb so working down there seemed like the natural way to go. I had the title “The Westerner” sort in my mind as someone sent me a Doors record. The Doors were also Michaels favorite band so I began looking up stuff on them and my connection with that band goes way back. I was searching the internet and found an image done for one of their record store day releases. Shepard Fairey is the artist who did the piece and he and I have been friends for some time so I asked if he would redo the piece for me and he said yes. The original photo was shot at the Rose Bud Reservation by Aaron Huey who has an organization called “Protect the Sacred”. This was one of Michael’s main charities so it was great to be able to tie all this stuff in with the album. The album is a tribute album but it’s not sad.

AL: Was the idea to do a new solo album already in your thoughts prior to Michael becoming ill?

JD: Everything happened very organically. These days I sort of sit back and look at my watch and say “Holy shit it’s been 4 years since I made a new record” (Laughs). I always am writing bits and pieces of things but it just so happened that Michael was on my mind and I started to see how things were happening and I began tailoring things with what was going on. I loved the song Exene wrote called “Alone in Arizona”. It seemed to be kind of about Michael even though it really wasn’t. I am a big fan of Chan Marshall especially her albums “The Greatest” and “Sun”. I started doing the song “A Little Help” and realized it was similar to “The Greatest” and asked Chan if she would sing on it with me. With the song “Go Baby Go” I reached out to Debbie Harry as X had toured with Blondie and I had asked her before that if I ever had something I thought she would be good for would she do it. That song is a fun rock song and it worked out great. I am very fortunate that I am still around and that people want to come and play.

AL: Having been in the music industry for some time now aside from digitalization and the internet what has been the most notable change?

JD: MTV was really big when it first came out. All the other stuff out there I don’t really concern myself with. I have Instagram and my manager does Facebook so I have a small to moderate presence with social media but if people really want to see me then I think they should come out to show as I am generally hanging around. There is so much great music out there these days that it’s hard to rise above the static. Think of the old music business like an hour glass. You had the music at the top, at the pinching point was the business at the bottom was the public. Over time the shape of the industry changes to where now it’s square. There is just so much stuff flooding people ears these days.

AL: What can you tell us about your new book “Under the Big Black Sun”?

JD: Tom DeSavia who is the co-author and my sweet heart were both telling me that I should write a book. I thought it was going to be just too much work so I didn’t really pay attention to them. One day I had this brilliant idea about how the scene in L.A. was about community and collaboration. With that I knew that I wouldn’t have to write this book all by myself or suffer the pain if people didn’t like it I could just blame it on somebody else. (Laughs) I didn’t have to be the authority on things. I liked book such as “Please Kill Me” and “We Got the Neutron Bomb” however there is not a lot of fact checking that goes into oral histories. Los Angeles was sort of a romantic place in that era so I thought it was important to have it be its own character. I really feel that everything that is Los Angeles from the weather to the cars affected the way the music sounded. After Tom and I decided to do it we got a book deal and things became real. We got paid a pretty good advance and then we knew we really had to go through with it. We started getting people together and selecting topics based on what was important to that scene and what would make people care. The big one was it was that what happened was a cultural revolution. That was Exene’s big part of the book. Dave Alvin was part of the roots scene which got pulled into punk rock so he is the expert there so, that’s where he tells his story from. Robert Lopez was in a Latino band called The Zeroes. He was not out at this time but he was obviously gay so he was able to talk about that aspect of things. Jane Wiedlin talks about where people lived and how that played a role. By doing things this way we were able to give the book a much broader perspective.

AL: The book shines a light on the L.A. punk scene as it was/is often overshadowed by what was going on in New York and London around the same time. Can you tell us a little about that?

JD: I think at some point the media picked up on The Sex Pistols and few other bands that were young and/or un-experienced who said “Fuck You”. The media then said “Ok, Fuck you” which caused them to not cover things as much. When the L.A. scene finally came around about a year and a half later they possibly had enough images and maybe had made up their mind that we weren’t going to play ball. I think bands like Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones just wanted to be part of music and have a career. That’s what we wanted also. It wasn’t until the hardcore scene that people felt like they had been abandoned leading to bands doing things on their own. That’s when labels like SST started popping up. Everyone had sort of a chip on their shoulder and over time L.A. punk has started to carve out its own niche which has been good. Twenty or thirty years ago I would have probably been pretty bent out of shape about how the L.A. scene was looked upon but these days I couldn’t care less.

AL: Was there a present rivalry between the two coasts/scenes because of this?

JD: Sure. I think there was a healthy rivalry between New York and L.A. and L.A. and San Francisco but it wasn’t anything to wild. I do remember Exene getting into a fight with Handsome Dick from The Dictators once. (Laughs) What we loved about the whole thing was that almost all of those bands came out to Los Angeles to play at The Whiskey. We saw The Ramones, Blondie, The Damned, Television and a few others who played out our way regularly.

AL: What was it like for X when they would travel to the east coast?

JD: It was rough at first. Exene’s sister got us three shows in NYC in 1978 after we put out our first single. We basically drove from L.A. to New York with all of our gear, played three shows and then drove home. There is a little of that in the book but it was sort of a lukewarm reception. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein came to the shows at Studio 57 and later on we got to be pals with The Ramones. It took a little while because everyone thought L.A. was just swimming pools and Farrah Fawcett. You weren’t just given a Mercedes when you moved there. It was a pretty hard scramble. It was cheap to live there at the time though so there were a lot of young people with nothing to do but create stuff.

AL: What was it like revisiting a lot of the memories from that time period, especially the ones around the time of the death of Exene’s sister?

JD: That specific event wasn’t hard to dig into as I had experienced it so deeply in the beginning. It changed everything for Exene and by relation me too. It wasn’t too hard to look back. I don’t necessarily wish I had kept diaries or anything. It might have been good? You sort of start channeling towards a certain direction and things start to come back. I think it’s all about the details. I worked with everyone who wrote for the book and I always asked for more details. I think everyone was happy to tell their story and I was surprised by quite a few of them.

AL: With your current solo tour coming to end do you have planned for the coming year?

JD: The fortieth anniversary of X is coming up next year. We have the initial schedule which consists of around one hundred shows! Usually we do between thirty and fifty shows a year so this is quite a bit more. I think it’s great! Forty years ago we put a big investment into the bank of punk rock. At the time everyone though it was bullshit but we all have been able to make pretty good careers out of that initial investment. We are one of the few remaining punk bands from that time with its original members. Everyone is healthy now which is really great. We also will be looking to put out some live material and if Exene will write some more lyrics will put out some new songs as well. (Laughs)

Book Review: Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”
Author: John Doe w/ Tom DeSavia and Friends
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 227 pages

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” was written by X vocalist/bassist John Doe along with help from Tom DeSavia and laundry list of who’s who from the late 70’s and early 80’s L.A. punk scene. For the first time in one place the true story of a scene often overlooked is told in all of its gritty and grimy detail by none other those who experienced it and by those who helped create it. This is not your typical memoir however as this book tells not only of how the scene began and developed but also how it went on to change music forever.

Before I get into my review of the book I want to point out that if you are unfamiliar with the scene this book documents or the bands that appear grab a copy of Penelope Spheeris film “The Decline of Western Civilization” as a majority of the people’s names and a lot of the places featured in the film coincide with those who are also in the book. After a very brief forward by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong we are quickly whisked back to the not so glamorous side of Los Angeles. Just a few brief years before hair metal would dominate the sun set strip bands like X, Black Flag and the Minute Men were the bands to go see. John Doe does a great job recounting his stories from this era with vivid detail and truthfulness that make you want to keep turning the page. As an added element to Doe’s story there is often even more colorful commentary provided by other musicians or friends who were there to experience everything as well. Not only does this add different angles to a previously told story but it fills in gaps with intricate firsthand accounts. For me this only pulled me further into the already captivating story. To go along with the stories there are several black and white photo sections which are chocked full of rare photos that by themselves are worth the price of the book.

From cover to cover Doe and DeSavia and crew nail it. Aside from actually being around during this specific time I don’t think you could get any closer nor could it be anymore real. There were a few times when I wished Doe had kept going from his perspective as sometimes when the story teller switched you were in a sense re-reading some of what was just told however, that aside “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” is a great book for not only punk rock fans and music but for those wanting to learn about a period of time in Los Angeles that isn’t sugar coated with all the normal glitz and glamour LaLa Land is often associated.

Robben Ford talks about new solo album “Into the Sun”

Robben Ford is a highly accomplished guitarist who has collaborated with everyone from Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison and Kiss. He was also named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century” by Musicians magazine. Robben recently released a new solo album titled “Into the Sun” and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with him about the album, its creation and Robben’s roots in music.

Adam Lawton: You have a bunch of guest performers on your new album “Into the Sun”. Can you tell us about those and what you feel each artist brought to the tracks they performed on?
Robben Ford: The whole notion of having guests on the album really came from my management. I just started working with new management and when they first brought this idea to me it was something that I didn’t really want to do. I am a little precious about my work as it’s sort of like a painting you do and then someone comes along and adds something else to your work. It may not always feel like that but it can. I decided to listen to them and it turned out to be really great. I am so pleased with the result. The first one’s that come to mind are Keb’ Mo and Warren Haynes. I have known both of those guys for many years now and had the chance to work with them both on several different occasions. Both are great guys and easy to work with so having them be a part of the project was a no brainer. Sonny Landreth was another great one and someone who I had actually already planned to have on the album. We have known each other for quite some time but never had the chance to really spend a lot of time with one another and I saw this as the chance. I actually played on one of his records in the past. Also on the album are Robert Randolph, Tyler Bryant and ZZ Ward. The song Robert does with Keb titled “Justified” is great! The two of them sound great on there. Both Tyler and ZZ I checked out on YouTube after they were suggested by management and I liked them both. ZZ was the one person who came in and recorded live with us in the studio. Everyone else we sent the music to. My only instruction to them was to just play. All of the collaboration was really successful. I was afraid that having so many guests might break up the continuity of the album but that wasn’t the case.

AL: Did giving those guest performers such simple directions provide for a lot of back and forth collaboration?
RF: I really just let them play to the tracks. From there we did whatever editing was necessary. It did take a little finesse on my part though in order to balance to the two guitar parts out. I had asked everyone not to play to me as I had already laid down my guitar part for each song. I sort of said give it a listen then go through with my part off and just play. Again everything worked out and I am really happy with it.

AL: Where does writing a song start for you?

RF: No matter what I think in the beginning things always end up turning out differently. I think that is true with any creative process really. It has to change. I tend to just sit down and start writing songs. In this particular case I wrote with my friend Kyle Swan. Kyle is really out there and at the same time really good. It is hard to pin down exactly what he does but it is super creative. I like his energy and where he is coming from. I found out recently that jazz music is our common thread. He went to school for jazz and in to a lot of the greats. Even though jazz isn’t what you’re hearing that background is there. Jazz has always been an undertone for my music. Kyle also helped me break through some lyric barriers as I am sort of a traditionalist in the way I write. I like to be clear and for a story to have a beginning, middle and end. I am also a little bit of a perfectionist as well.

AL: Is it hard to let another artist in during the writing process?
RF: When it comes down to it I want my material to be really good. I am always up for collaborating with other artists to get a song to where I want it. It’s one of those things where I am not actively searching for people to work with but it is something that I think about quite a bit. I have worked with a variety of people over the years in different ways but a really successful collaboration I would have to say is the one Michael McDonald and I had for a few years. Michael is the only other person I have written with a lot. We did quite a bit of material a lot of which has never been heard. I was really happy to find Kyle Swan as I like to see his creativity. Kyle thinks way outside the box so much so that sometimes I have to reel him in.

AL: Looking at things from a gear perspective you are sort of traditionalist in that you predominately use vintage equipment. Is it hard to stay true to those vintage roots with the constant progression of technology?
RF: I don’t find it difficult at all. I find it more difficult to change. I haven’t found any good reasons to change to new equipment. I am using Dumble Amps which do everything I need. I have actually used the same amplifiers on all my recordings since 1983. I like vintage guitars so I really have no interest in modern guitars what so ever. Pedals and such I just see them as the salt and pepper of my sound. They just add a little bit here and there however they are not my sound.

AL: Looking back on your career is there point in time that you felt was most beneficial to your career as a whole?

RF: Probably the two years I spent with Joni Mitchell. When I joined that group I was 22 years old with very little experience. I had practically none when it came to playing with experienced players. Up to that point I played in small bands with my friends. When I joined that band suddenly I was playing with people who had far more experience. They were all very kind to me and I was able to learn from them during that time. Joni was probably nevermore brilliant or beautiful as an artist as she was at the time I joined her band. It was a completely unbelievable and rewarding experience working with her. I would do it all again if I could.

AL: Is it fair to say that this experience was what made you want to go further in your career as a musician?
RF: Had I not had that experience I am not sure what would have happened. It’s hard to say because the trajectory I had in my mind was that of a blues guitarist trying to learn jazz. Entering into the “Pop” world and being around a group of people who were very supportive certainly affected me. Had I not been around that I probably would have gone the way of many of my contemporaries and been more of a jazz oriented player with blues as my background.

AL: What type of plans do you have in the works for the coming months?
RF: I am going to be out on the road the next couple of months. For a full list of dates people can check out my website at www.robbenford.com but I start touring in April here in the States and then I will be over in Europe for a couple weeks before heading back to the States for some shows on the west coast. People can also check out Robben Fords Guitar Dojo for a variety of guitar related lessons and material. I partnered with a great company that helped put this out and it’s a lot of fun to do. I will also be doing another guitar camp in the Catskill Mountains this year at the end of August so that’s another thing I am really looking forward to.

Dave Lombardo talks about new album with Philm called “Fire From the Evening Sun”

Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo is back with a brand new release from his band Philm. Titled “Fire from the Evening Sun” the album is a blending of music styles ranging from full on thrash to progressive rock and everything in between. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Dave recently about the bands sophomore release and their plans to take their unique sound on the road.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on how this album came together?
Dave Lombardo: We are a very productive group. We tend to do a lot of improvisations when we are together and we record those. From there we do what I call “trim the fat”. We take out all the pieces that don’t really work and only focus on the high points. From there we create the traditional elements of the song such as the verses and choruses. When we are done we like to the songs sit for a bit before Jerry goes in and works on the vocals. The material on the new album is songs that we have been working on since we recorded our first album “Harmonic”. A lot of these songs were written during the mix down of the first. How we go about our song writing is pretty interesting. There is not just one person who brings in material and they dictate how the song is to go. We are very collective.

AL: Can you tell us about the different style you guys took on “Fire from the Evening Sun” as compared to “Harmonic”?
DL: There are some production differences between the two. I also feel this album has a more straight forward and in your face approach related to the sound. With “Harmonic” that was a more laid back and experimental album. On the first record I let guys come in and play whatever that wanted. With the new record I feel like I had a little more say in making sure the songs were concise and aggressive. There are a lot of different approaches you can take when making an album. The next album we might decide to throw everyone a curve ball and do something completely different from the previous two albums.

AL: Do you prefer creating music out of improvisation as compared to more traditional approaches?
DL: It’s more fulfilling. When you do things this way it’s more organic and less thought. When you improvise you are creating on the fly. You have to come up with something really quick as there is really no time to think. You play what you feel. That’s how all of this music was created. These songs came from three people improvising with one another. I think doing things this way gives the songs a certain level of excitement.

AL: Being involved as an artist and a producer on both of the bands release do you ever find it hard balancing the two roles?
DL: It’s not difficult but I will take that producer hat off within the process but at the same time I have to be able to make decisions on issues as they come up. Having worked with so many amazing producers and song writers I am able to do what I do by consciously and subconsciously using their approach. The guys in the band know how I work and I will tell them before we start what I am feeling. Most of the time we are all on the same page and do what is best for the material.

AL: You brought in outside help to mix the album this time. Can you tell us about that decision?
DL: When you are a producer you have to step out and let others take control for a second to ensure things are not one sided. I brought in Robert Carranza to mix this album because I felt that the mix wasn’t where it should be. Robert did a great job and shortly after Tyler Bates offered to master it. It was actually Tyler’s idea to bring in Robert to do the mixing. I appreciated his input and was thankful for the advice.

AL: Tell us a little bit about the two singles the band has released thus far?
DL: We have released “Fire from the Evening Son” and “Train”. “Fire from the Evening Son” is a song we chose because it has a very thrash metal feel. I believe that’s what fans want from me. They want something aggressive in my drumming and my band. I think that’s what this song is about. The song has a great drive and shows our versatility. Both songs I think have that signature sound I am known for.

AL: When you take this material out on the road will there be elements of improvisation or will you be sticking to what is heard on the album?
DL: We are going to be doing what is heard on the album. We can certainly get up on stage and show people how improvisation is done but I don’t think they are ready for that yet. All the songs we are playing live are complete songs from the albums. We have 6 songs done for the next album. They don’t have words just yet so sometimes we will go out and do some of the new material for an encore. We play around on those and try some different things.

AL: Can you tell us what the tour plans are for you guys?
DL: I would like to start performing here in the States as soon we can. I would love to tour the world with this we just have to find a booking agent who is this with us whole heartedly. We have done four shows in Europe as well as some shows in Colombia and Ecuador. We also have some things planned for November as well.

CD Review: Mastodon “Once More ‘Round the Sun”

Mastodon
“Once More ‘Round the Sun”
BMD Fox Records
Produced By: Nick Raskulinecz
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Don’t let the opening seconds of “Tread Lightly” fool you. While the acoustic guitar may lull you into a state of peace, the heavy guitar licks that Mastodon have meticulously churned out for over a decade lurk around the corner; ready to pound and enchant. “Once More ‘Round the Sun” pushes Mastodon farther from their murky sludge metal roots, but progresses once again into a more experimental sound that showcases their ability to mold, but remain durable to their changing appetites.

Lately Mastodon has created an accessible, mainstream appeal while continuously maintaining that heavy metal template they implemented back in 2002. “Once More ‘Round the Sun” is their most melodic release to date and solidifies the fact that Mastodon is still successful when sailing into uncharted territories because they never stray too deep. While remaining diverse, they’re still nestled into their own sub-genre they’ve seemingly created in a myriad of metal categories by blending thrash, doom and a stray pinch of alternative.

On their sixth studio album, they appear to be perfecting their guitar structuring and resurrecting more of their haunting hooks on solos. The drumming continues to be unpredictably manic and catchy, while the vocals have traveled into cleaner territories and set up camp. Straying away from the growls has big one of the biggest complaints over the years by fans, but this path has led to a more popular tone that’s more approachable to audiences. Mastodon has enlisted Nick Raskulinecz as producer to help craft a hard rock sound that slyly pays homage to some of the early 90’s rockers that were birthed during the post-grunge era. “Once More ‘Round the Sun” is commercially acceptable without forsaking any of the originality Mastodon has long cherished.

The track “Motherload” encompasses this album’s direction while “Chimes at Midnight” steps back into the ferocious sound that Mastodon has riled up crowds across the world with. Their hunger for experimentation is heard most in “Aunt Lisa”, a trippy song that fluidly changes tempo and cheerfully climaxes on a gleeful pep rally chant by the Coathangers. Every song has an epic flair built up by simplistic yet powerful choruses and juicy riffs that induce head bobbing. Mastodon is still a relentless beast that craves inventiveness with every evolution.

I’ve told people this Mastodon’s “Crack the Skye”: They are no longer a band for metal masses, but instead a treat that should be enjoyed by everyone who’s ever loved music; a possible gateway drug for someone looking to dip their feet into metal music. Mastodon’s expanding sound prevents them from being mundane, but it’s slowly filling a worrisome thought bubble in my head. I have to ask myself after another successful outing, when will Mastodon finally peak and release a bloated mess that’s unbecoming of their usual, beautifully woven metal masterpieces? If “Once More ‘Round the Sun” is any indication, it’s not anytime soon and it may never happen.

Track Listing:

1. Tread Lightly
2. The Motherload
3. High Road
4. Once More ‘Round the Sun
5. Chimes at Midnight
6. Asleep in the Deep
7. Feast Your Eyes
8. Aunt Lisa
9. Ember City
10.Halloween
11. Diamond in the Witch House

DVD Review “Strawberry Shortcake: Fun Under The Sun”

Actors: Andrea Libman, Anna Cummer, Ashliegh Ball, Britt McKillip, Ingrid Nilson, Janyse Jaud, Kathleen Barr, Paul Dobson, Scott Mcneil, Shannon Chan-Kent
Director: Bob Hathcock
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: May 13, 2014
Run Time: 71 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Growing up in the 80’s and having a younger sister, I had been exposed to the world of “Strawberry Shortcake”. The franchise was rebooted in 2009 with the CGI animated series “Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Bitty Adventures” based on the “Strawberry Shortcake” Franchise. Now I have a daughter of my own and she loves this new series. The animation is great. It is very colorful, fun and also educational. If you have a little girl, this is highly recommended for sure. We have had this for only two days now and already have watched it at least five times. So I have a feeling we are going to be getting a lot out of this DVD.

Official Premise: Join Strawberry Shortcake and her berry best pals on some sweet sunshine adventures! Blueberry makes a berry big blunder when she overhears Strawberry and thinks her friend is taking all the pals on a tropical vacation. After Blueberry makes some very funny attempts to make things right, Orange Blossom tries to build the girls their own fabulous resort. When they all work together to make it Berry Bitty City-style, it’s perfect…so perfect, in fact, that TV host Mavis Maraschino decides to do a segment on Cherry Jam right then and there! Will the girls ever get the Fun Under the Sun they’ve been dreaming of?

There are three episodes including on this DVD. “No Blueberry is an Island”; “Where the Berry Breeze Blows” and “The Berry Best Vacation”. Fox also included a digital copy of this and it has already been downloaded onto our iPad. There is really not a ton here in terms of special features but wasn’t expecting much for this kids release. There is a music video for “It’s A Beautiful Lovely Wonderful Day” and some printable coloring pages. If you want more of this show, like my daughter, season four of this show is set to air this year, so I had my DVR set and can’t wait for the new episodes. Hopefully Fox has a few more DVDs releases in the cards for this year!

Concert Review: The Doobie Brothers “2013 Tour” – Mohegan Sun Arena

The Doobie Brothers: 2013 Tour
Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, CT
July 3, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

“We decided to play a little rock and roll this evening.  Are you up for that, Connecticut?”

And, with that, the Doobie Brothers delivered as promised: nearly two non-stop hours worth of straightforward rock classics with instantly recognizable riffs that have been the band’s calling card for over 40 years. The focus of the 18-song show consistently stayed on the band’s most prolific era of the 70’s when they churned out anthems such as “Long Train Runnin’”, “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, “China Grove”, “Jesus is Just Alright and “Take Me in Your Arms”, all of which feature the founding vocal/guitar duo of Tommy Johnston and Patrick Simmons – both of whom are still part of the group’s current eight-member line-up.

The mellower Michael McDonald era of the late 70’s and early 80’s was only represented by the inclusion of an extended version of “Takin’ It to the Streets” that featured an impressive keyboard intro from Guy Allison, vocals from Simmons and bassist John Cowan, and a rippin’ sax solo from Marc Russo. It was a wise choice for the set list not only because of the song’s popularity as a hit, but because its inherent funky groove matches the Johnston-era classics that dominate the current touring band’s repertoire. They pull off the tune flawlessly live – so well, in fact, that the concert version almost outshines the McDonald original.

As far as newer material is concerned…well…the Doobies don’t really have much of it. The group has only released one studio album over the past decade: 2010’s reunion with longtime producer Ted Templeman, “World Gone Crazy.” While that album is fairly tepid in comparison to the band’s multi-platinum mega-sellers from the 70’s, the two songs performed from it at this show – the title track and “A Brighter Day” – work quite well when played live and are a good addition to the band’s set list of classics.

With all of the driving guitar rhythm provided by the band’s four axemen and the percussive power of dual drummers Tony Pia and Ed Toth, it’s easy to forget that one of the key ingredients to Doobies music is intricate vocal harmonies that flesh out the songs and provide them with the richness that makes them worth savoring. To that end, the show’s overall sound was impeccably mixed, something that was especially evident when all four of the band’s frontsmen, Johnston, Simmons, Cowan, and endlessly-versatile instrumentalist John McFee, delivered the four-part a cappella harmony outro to “Black Water.” As much as it is truly amazing that these guys can still belt it out as clearly as they did when they recorded the song in 1974, it’s equally impressive that the 2013 tour’s audio crew was able to make every aural nuance sound as clear as possible within the context of a live show.

The music of the Doobie Brothers, when at its best, manages to effectively blend elements of rock and roll, country, bluegrass, soul, funk, and blues to produce songs that never pidgeon-hole themselves into an era and subsequently become dated. At their core is an element that is truly timeless: they’re fun. Given the band’s sheer exuberance while onstage, it’s clear that the Doobie Brothers themselves are still having a blast touring and energetically jamming out to these classics. As they proved to the Connecticut crowd, you don’t necessarily need fireworks to kick off a 4th of July holiday party. All you have to do is listen to the music. All the time.

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[NOTE: Big thanks go out to the guy who first introduced me to the Doobies – and music in general – my father, Tom Picton, for his invaluable assistance with this article. ]

 

CD Review: Sevendust “Black Out The Sun”

Sevendust
“Black Out The Sun”
7Bros Records
Producer: Morgan Rose, Clint Lowery
Tracks: 13

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Sevendust are back with a brand new full length album titled “Black Out The Sun”. This is the bands 9th studio album and the follow up to the bands 2010 release “Cold Day Memory” which debuted at #12 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart. “Black Out The Sun” was produced by Morgan Rose and Clint Lowery and is also being released via their own label 7Bros Records. A much darker sounding and heavier hitting album than we have heard from Sevendust in the past.

From the word go “Black Out The Sun” repeatedly puts your senses through a meat grinder. Songs such as “Cold As War” and “Dead Roses” feature Lajon Witherspoon’s signature melodic meets gruff vocal style backed by the always impressive instrumental section of Morgan Rose, Clint Lowery, Vince Hornsby and John Connolly. While songs like “Till Death” and the album’s first single “Decay” kick things up a notch before being slowed down by the soulful acoustic/electric number “Got a Feeling”.

“Black Out the Sun” does a great job covering a lot of musical ground while still staying true to the sound that made the band what they are today. The album features straight forward production and mixes which sonically make for a good listen. Both new found fans and long time Sevendust listeners will want to bring home a copy of “Black Out The Sun”.

Track Listing:
1.) Memory
2.) Faithless
3.) Till Death
4.) Mountain
5.) Cold as War
6.) Black Out the Sun
7.) Nobody Wants It
8.) Dead Roses
9.) Decay
10.) Dark AM
11.) Picture Perfect
12.) Got a Feeling
13.) Murder Bar

Blu-ray Review “Steven Seagal Double Feature: Attack Force / Into the Sun”

Actors: Steven Seagal, Lisa Lovbrand, David Kennedy, Danny Webb, Matthew Davis
Directors: Michael Keusch, mink
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Run Time: 192 minutes

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

When it comes to Steve Seagal, I am always first in line. His films in the last 10 years haven’t been groundbreaking but I still dig them.  These films included in this double feature, “Attack Force” and “Into the Sun”, are nothing unique and far from his best films to date but I still have enjoyed them when they were released. After Seagal had a brief comeback with “Exit Wounds” and “Half Past Dead“, aka his “rapper phase”, his films have since been solely heading right to DVD. These films are no different and if you are a fan of Seagal you know that they fun and entertaining….if they were presented well.  This release has way too many issues and I wouldn’t recommend it at.  Even if you are an insane hardcore Seagal fan, be prepared to be letdown.

“Attack the Sun” Official Premise: Steven Seagal is back in this high-octane, action thriller! When Marshall Lawson (Seagal) loses his striketeam in a cold-blooded and seemingly random attack, he takes it upon himself to investigate the suspicious circumstances of the brutal killings. Soon he uncovers CTX Majestic, a covert military operation so secret, that now the military wants Marshall eliminated. Resolute in his pursuit, Marshall engages in a merciless battle with a drug dealer operation that appears to be secretly funded by a rogue arm of the military.

“Into The Sun” Official Premise: Action superstar Steven Seagal is back in this nonstop thrill ride! When the governor of Tokyo is murdered, it falls on ex-CIA agent Travis Hunter (Seagal) to track down the responsible terrorists. However, the plot to kill the Governor is only the beginning of a web of corruption and violence. Hunter discovers a plan by a rising Yakuza leader to build an enormous drug-dealing network with the Chinese Mafia. With time running out and the Yakuza determined to see their plan through, Hunter must thwart the operation and get out alive.

The 1080p transfers on both “Attack Force” and “Into the Sun” looks good and both films have a decent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, but that is not where the problem lies. “Attack of the Sun” has issues with dialogue syncing and looks like a bad “Godzilla” movie. I am not sure why this wasn’t addressed before distributing.  It makes the film very hard to watch unless it is just background noise.  But that isn’t even the worst of it, most of “Into the Sun” is in various different languages, mostly Japanese I believe, and get this…there are no regular subtitles for the non-English languages.  So you miss most of what is being said.  Now given there is an English SDH track but then you have to even watch the English dialogue subs…and badly subbed to boot. There are no special features included either for this release. Although it is available at less than $10 bucks, this is a solid pass!

Sevendust's Morgan Rose talks about new album "Black Out the Sun"

Morgan Rose is the drummer and a founding member of the heavy metal group Sevendust. The Atlanta, GA group formed in 1997 and have since released eight studio albums and toured the word over playing their own unique version of melody infused metal. The bands ninth studio titled “Black Out the Sun” will be released in March of this year and Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Morgan about the release and the bands touring plans.

Adam Lawton: What can we expect from the new album?
Morgan Rose: For me personally I think it is my favorite record. Usually when you finish a new record it tends to be your favorite. This was the first time we went in with no expectations and wrote from scratch. We wrote this as a band instead of people coming in chunks of material or fully written pieces. We weren’t going to be second guessing ourselves and we took our time. The record is pretty raw but at the same time the feedback I have gotten so far is that it sounds like old Sevendust.  We didn’t reinvent the wheel but we did semi-reinvent our band.

AL: Did you enjoy working as a group more so than everyone bringing in various pieces?
MR: I liked doing it that way. There have been times when Clint or someone brings in a riff and we would lay some sample beats on top of that. If I end up liking those 80% of my job is done. (Laughs) Other times if I am not completely sold on something I at least have the idea in my head and can go from there. I get excited working both ways. It just really depends on how things play out. We have done everything from me saying a drum part to having Clint show me how to program things as I am a Dinosaur when it comes to that stuff.

AL: With band taking a year off was it hard to get things going again?
MR: Not really. We did change the start date a few times of when we were going to start on the album. Things started off a little strange as we weren’t all ready at the same time. We all have our own lives and Sevendust is a priority but everyone was sort of moving on with other things. It took a little bit to get everyone to agree on a date. Once we did everything went perfect.  The year off did wonders for us. I don’t think anyone really enjoyed the idea of taking a year off but it ended up being a great decision.

AL: Have you guys thought about doing any videos for songs of the new album?
MR: We actually just did one. We shot a video for the song “Decay”. The gods were definitely not trying to let us do that video. I have no idea how we actually got it done. We had to cut our rehearsal schedule short, things cost more than expected, we had some really mysterious weather then there were delays at the airport among other things. Everything was pointing to us not doing the video but we pulled it off. I think it’s going to turn out amazing when it’s all done. We shot it in this 1800’s mansion that I am sure is haunted as shit! The video is sort of based around things that haunt each of the band members. Mine happened to be women. I enjoyed filming my portion of the video quite a bit.

AL: You and Clint did some of the producing on the album. What is the hardest part for you when producing your own band?
MR: There are many different facets to producing. I have dealt with so many things and liked little pieces of each one. There’s producers who get their hands dirty and help with songwriting and things and there are guys who help keep the peace when members get amped up. Then you have guys that are sonically amazing but they couldn’t tell you how they do it. The hardest part when we are doing it is your kind of the boss in a sense. You are putting your trust in someone to make a record according to what your vision is. We have been together for 20 years and we don’t have a boss in this band. People think we have a boss there is not. Everyone has certain roles they take on. When we get in a room together we all have a say but someone does have to take lead. At times things can get testy but we didn’t have any problems this time around.

AL: Can you tell us about the bands upcoming tour with Coal Chamber?
MR: Right now we are out on tour with Lacuna Coil and Avatar which has been great. Once we wrap up with that we hit the road with Lacuna Coil and Coal Chamber. That tour will start towards the end of March. We will be doing shows before then but that line up won’t start until late March. We had some shows in Australia with Devil Driver and Dez Fafara and I were hanging out and he mentioned that he was thinking of doing some Coal Chamber shows. He told me that if they are planning on doing shows in America then the right thing to do would be to do them together.  I was all for that! Things took a little while as Devil Driver tours really hard but this is going to be massive. I think a lot of people are going to be in to it. I think the tour is going to make people scratch their heads.

AL: Do you have any other projects going on right now that you can tell us about?
MR:  I produced an album for a band called Devise. I don’t know if they are going to stick with that name or not though. That project is going really well and I can’t wait to see the reaction of people when they hear it. Candlelight Red’s new stuff is almost done being mixed and their new single should be out very soon. I am really proud of that record. When I get a little bit of free time I am sure me and Clint will be doing some dates with Call Me No One. As we get older I don’t know how much longer we will continue touring. I don’t see us stopping anytime soon but I don’t think I am going to be 60 out here playing like this. I keep dabbling in stuff to see what I could do next. We are just going to be really busy this year.

Blu-ray Review “Outpost: Black Sun”

Actors: Richard Coyle, Julian Wadham
Director: Steve Barker
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: XLrator Media
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Run Time: 99 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

This year has been a busy year for Nazis in horror films.  First we had “Nazis at the Center of the Earth”, then we had “Iron Sky” feature.  Both were ok but not amazing.  “Outpost: Black Sun” falls into the same category.  The film does deserve credit for its scale, which looks a lot bigger than it should. It also packs some decent gore and zombie effects.  XLrator Media is getting a name for itself though by releasing neat little films like this and they are officially on my radar. But what it comes down to is whether or not though the film is good, this has Nazi SS zombies…it has to be worth at least a rental just for that.

Official Premise: The year is 1945, the closing stages of WWII, and a German scientist is working on a frightening new technology that has the power to create an immortal Nazi army. Flash-forward to present day, and a NATO task force is deployed to Eastern Europe, where a sinister enemy is mercilessly killing everything in its path. But this is no ordinary foe…it’s a super-human army of zombie Nazi Stormtroopers. Defying overwhelming odds, a small band of soldiers venture deep behind enemy lines to uncover the source of this evil power and prevent the rise of the Fourth Reich.

The release comes as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.  The Blu-ray 1080p transfer looks nice for a low-budget horror flick, since the film is also very dark.  The audio is also decent with the surprising decent score through it s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.  The special features though are lacking a lot.  There is only one short featurette called “The Making of Outpost: Black Sun”.  Though if you are a fan of the film, be sure to check out the mobile game “Outpost: Defense”, available on the App Store.