A decade in Rock Music 2000 – 2009

A quick and light review of the past decade’s contribution to Rock and Roll

crowdSo that’s it over then, another decade consigned to the record books and not a bad one from a musical perspective. In ten whole years that have seen the ascendancy of celebrity status, famous for five minute pop songs and the untimely deaths of some of music’s great contributors, this article seeks to offer a pick from each of the past ten years jewels in rock music. All your favourites are in there and a few unexpected gems that are well worth a listen.

 The decade kicked off with two old time favourites offering up brand new material for our listening pleasure. AC/DC released Stiff Upper Lip, an album aimed more at established fans than those who were merely casual listeners. This does not detract from the good material found across the album’s twelve tracks and definitely worth a listen. Metal legends Iron Maiden also treated listeners to Brave New World, an album more noted for the return of lead singer and overall good egg Bruce “I rescue people in my plane” Dickinson than credible numbers to a Maiden set list.

In 2001 the world was shocked by the tragedy of the terrorist attacks in New York, nothing would ever truly be the same ever again. These events somewhat overshadowed most of the year’s contributions to music across the spectrum of variety. Aerosmith’s early March effort Just Push Play and Judas Priest’s Demolition provide ample listening for a year where things took on a little wider perspective.

The year of 2002 was sparsely populated by music from the classic rock and roll genre, possibly from the fall out of the previous year’s atrocities. Aging rockers UFO provided some light in the form of Sharks, a nice little album that more than deserves a listen. The year would also mark the demise of The Who’s bassist John Entwistle, the rock world mourned and Waylon Jennings, both very sorely missed by fans and music lovers alike.

2003 provided another opportunity for Iron Maiden to dust off their studded cod pieces and tour once more on the back of their album Dance of Death a typically over caricatured album that is now seemingly expected from the aging group, the eponymous track however is worth a listen. Classic British rockers Thunder also provided fans and new listeners alike with their album Shooting at the Sun which is remarkably refreshing from a band who enjoyed most of their success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thunder are an interestingly perplexing band, the song “Loser” from this album is a classic example of their roots being solidly in classic and hard rock with just the slightest pinch of metal thrown in for good measure. Anybody who enjoys this style of music should definitely give these Londoners more than a quick check out, you will not be disappointed. It should also be noted that this was the year of Snow Patrol releasing Final Straw that went multi platinum and arguably the age of new pop “rock” was born.

2004 was a huge year for music in general terms. The Killers jumped on the band wagon of the popularised yet not too heavy harder popular rock with their album Hot Fuss and the singles “Mr Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me” filling nightclub dance floors the world over. On the classic rock front Aerosmith offered Honking’ on Bobo an eleven track album form the American outfit that perfectly tides listeners over for their fill of sweaty, sleazy rock and roll harmonics, the (Formerly) Toxic Twins on form.

Judas Priest, those leather clad, motorcycle riding fiends from Birmingham, offered Angel of Retribution in 2005, an album notable for featuring the bands longest song to date “Lochness.” A descent enough hard offering from the band who continue to sell out tours the world over, masters of knowing their market and aiming directly at them with a gauntleted fist.

The year of 2006 was again a sparsely populated scene for rock music. This, however, never keeps a good rocker down for very long. Musical pleasures of this year included the return of the ever enjoyable Richard Ashcroft with Keys to the World and also heralded the popular arrival of the Arctic Monkeys with Whatever people say I am, That’s what I’m not, a classic case of a band seeing an overcrowded market and screaming at the top of their forced hoarse voices “Me Too!”

With the unpleasantness of the better part of seven years of distinctly average if not sub par classic rock being forced down fans throats it was a pleasure in 2007 to hear from Australia’s latest contribution to a scene they are famous for loving. Airbourne’s debut album Runnin Wild was just the medicine for all the placid outputs from previously thought immortals of the genre with its hard edges, bluesy riffs and more than one cheeky nod to godfathers AC/DC with their lurid love of all things nasty. 2007 Also contributed the first full album from The Eagles with Long Road out of Eden, an imaginative and brilliantly complex double disc set that keeps the aging country group at the top of many download play lists. Who could forget the reunion show of Led Zeppelin, also taking place the later days of this year.

By 2008, appetites had been more than wetted for the highly anticipated Black Ice from AC/DC. Offering a much more classic feel and return to the bands roots and heyday of the late 70s and 80s, the album sees the Young brothers on usual form with more than brilliant percussion from Cliff Williams on Bass and Phil Rudd returning on Drums. Brian Johnson is at his gargling best, the eight year lay off from touring and heavy singing showing benefit in his screeching voice across the whole track list.

Which brings us nicely to 2009, the year that was and, at the time of this writing, currently is. The return of the mighty KISS with Sonic Boom merely reiterated the fact that classic rock is here to stay. With the upcoming decade on the horizon and the sweet scent of beer soaked clothing and buzzing in your ears from the static, the future decade promises a whole lot more of rock music and beyond. Have a happy New Year Everyone

Jonathan Whitelaw

Do check out itunes or amazon for any of the albums/artists/tracks listed in this article.: http://astore.amazon.co.uk/0.-21?node=136,

Christmas time, an alternative rock playlist

Even rockers love Santa!

Robot Santa

Robot Santa (c) 20th Century Fox

It’s that time of the year again when the wonderful festivities of Christmas land fully loaded and sparkling in our laps, whether we like it or not. But as the repeated cheer of years gone by graces the television, here is an alternative playlist of Christmas songs available from our good friend Satan… I mean Santa.

Christmas songs, in general, like to concern themselves with only the finest aspects of the festive season. Whether that be mistletoe and wine, reindeer and sleigh balls tearing up a frosty scene or the warming, but deeply concerning for us men, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, there is no end to famous bands and artists who have contributed to the silly season. It is unsurprising that there is an endless the list of artists who have donned the tinsel and Santa hat in aide of selling albums. Paul McCartney no less has gone down in history as one of the most famous of these examples. His 1979 Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time is now almost synonymous with the late December nights and, here in the UK at least, drunken rampages of office decadence and tinsel clad party goers. Other famous contributors are The Pogues who, up until their 1987 Fairytale in New York had received moderate success were catapulted into the lime light, Kirsty MacColl taken along for the ride too. Now, thanks to digital download and music television the single has success on a yearly basis.

So in this time of sickening festive cheer, a small, but not unsubstantial list of songs can b collated to bring an alternative enjoyment to the hackneyed Christmas song. Kicking off this list is the aging stars of the frankly brilliant rockumentary, Spinal Tap. Christmas with the Devil offers harder listeners a little shine on Christmas from a much seedier, hedonistic view, perfect for warming one’s cockles. Speaking of elves clad in leather and rancid sugar plums, this festive frolic is a wonderful send up of both the hard rock/metal scene and traditional Christmas wailings from a seemingly perfect world of matching snowflakes and candy cane lined streets. The deliberately overproduced guitar rift immediately catapults the listener into a dreary, yet strangely entrancing world where its “Evil’s holiday”

Returning more to traditional routes, the legendary folk and prog-rock veterans Jethro Tull contribute their harmonic and acoustic talents to Christmas Song and Another Christmas Song. Long associated with a more country and folk backgrounds, Christmas provides a perfect backdrop for Ian Anderson and the rest of Tull to wrap their wonderfully imaginative and deeply descriptive minds around great scenes of winter and warm fires. The playing is of course outstanding on both songs as they also provide perfect examples of Anderson’s remarkable ability to turn the simple flute, a firm bastion of classical instrumentality, and make spew rock tones that hold up with modern guitar work. An honourable mention also goes to Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow as another fine song by Jethro Tull dealing with the less fortunate at Christmas time, an important subject to all of course.

A final contributor to the alternate Christmas playlist is Mistress for Christmas by AC/DC. The veteran Australian rockers offer from their 1991 album The Razor’s Edge a typically sleazy, blues oriented song that never fails to bring a smile to listener’s faces, fans or not. Of course not meant to be taken seriously, as the band themselves like not to be, this final offering is simply AC/DC offering their irreverent commentary on yet another subject, that of Christmas, oddly enough in late September of 1990 for its release!

So there you have it good gentlefolk of the realms. I hope this offers a small candle light of hope when you are next suffering through the drudgery of Cliff Richard’s greatest Christmas Hits all at once. The mere glimpse that hard rock has had its noisy share o the market might just save us all in the end from another dose of ingestion and bowel obstructions brought on by brussel sprouts. I wish you all of course a merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Jonathan Whitelaw

Check out iTunes and the band websites for all songs avilible in this article: www.acdc.com, www.jethrotull.com and www.spinaltap.com.

Classic Rock – Who says its dead!

Classic rock and roll, an old dog with very sharp teeth!

Angus Young of AC/DC

Angus Young and AC/DC are still favourites. Photo www.ishootshows.com Copyright © 2009 Todd Owyoung

“Rock n roll aint noise pollution, rock n roll aint gonna die” The screeching voice of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson sings the signature lines to the 1980 hit from the Australian rockers. The line is from a song that bring ups the rear end of arguably the most famous classic rock album, and certainly the best selling, of all time, Back in Black. Regarded as little more than a traditionally blues based filler song, the band, or any of the listening fans, know that, after some thirty years after its initial release, the song would become a signature anthem and epitome of what classic rock music has become.

It is not an unknown fact in the current music industry that there is still a thriving market for aging rockers. Many accredit this to the saturated markets of pop and RnB for delivering their same act re-packaged, re-dressed and re-branded every few years. This has led to a boom in the indie scene, house and electro pop markets as listeners seek out new and more creative forms of music. But a side effect of this has seen a recurring theme of fans, of all ages, screaming for classic rock and roll music. But it would be unfair to lay the credit and responsibility for rock’s inclination at the glitter drenched feet of the pop industry. The truth is that classic rock is just a great way of having fun and is genuinely good to listen to.

For the most part, standard rock will compromise of three main topics, women, drinking and a jolly old knees up. The variants on these themes differ depending on the sentimentality or in some cases the degree of which drug induced bedlam has been declared norm, of the band but always remain true to the classic rock fundamentals. It is no wonder then that in a world suffering the biggest financial crisis and unemployment at their highest in decades that the seemingly utopian lifestyle of partying, girls and late night hotel shenanigans has become a predominant escapist fantasy of the modern world.

Leading the charge of assault on the heavily powdered, complacent fortress of popular dirge are a number of aging bands still pumping out loud static from their marshal stacks. AC/DC treated long time fans and new listeners to their 2008 offering, Black Ice, their first album since 2000. Although not perfect by any means and pallid in comparison to their heyday albums, the album resorted to a more straight edged, crowd pleasing format. The band’s previous two efforts had been more aimed at longer, more established fan bases. 2009 has also produced new material from the likes of Alice in Chains, Foreigner and KISS, who’s Sonic Boom album released in October was more than a blatant nod to their glory days of the late 1970s and 80s. As far back as 2007 with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin reforming as a tribute to the late Atlantic Records mogul Ahmet Ertgrun, millions of fans, old and new, clamoured for only a few thousand tickets. This style of frenzy has been replicated across the world as the aging bands have gone on tour to promote their new work, usually selling out within moments. This shows that there is still a lot of life left in the old shaggy dog.

The future is mixed for the classic rock industry. On one hand there is new material readily available for fans of any generation to enjoy from some of the best known and loved masters of the game. On the other hand, however, the men and women of this age of music are now nearing their 60s and beyond bringing into question who will take the beer stained guitar and amplifiers when they are retired. Regardless of the future, enough of our heroes have taught us not to think about it, the desire and willingness to pay for classic rock music is still very much alive. With new techniques of recording, production, indie and popular favourite Mark Ronson contributed to Foreigner’s latest album, and easier access to rock music continuing to change and simplify, the industry truly does look like it will never die.

By Jonathan Whitelaw

For more info on the bands in this article, check out their official websites: www.acdc.com, www.kissonline.com, www.foreigneronline.com and www.ledzeppelin.com. Also http://www.ishootshows.com