Friday, February 24, 2012

STEEL Reviews: Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth (2012)

Finally the wait is over!! Most of the songs are reworked old demo's or live songs that never made it on any albums but I really don't care. It's AMAZING! Well worth the wait. I never thought that VH would ever think about touring with Roth ever again let alone make a new album. A Different Kind Of Truth has every old school VH trick in the book and more! Eddie still has it. His playing is amazing on this. Dave is serviceable at best and while that's par for the course, it's still better than any Van Hagar era record. I'm going to go on record and say that this could possibly be their best album since Fair Warning. I know, bold statement but take a listen and you'll see I'm right. This album kicks some major ass and to all the doubters out there, VH is back and better than ever!

Tattoo - This song is getting slammed by Van Halen fans. What you fail to realize is that possibly the video is contributing to why you think this song sucks. The video is not that good and the stupid tricks the producer tried to use like making some of the video backwards just makes them look stupid. Don't fool yourself, If you were to hear this song for the first time without the video to go along with it, you would have loved it from the beginning. It is catchy, simple and grows on you. It is one of the weaker songs on the album I would agree but it is still cool.

She's The Woman - Awesome groove, upbeat and classic. I have always loved the demo version of this song and this new version is better. The lyrics alone are way better although I do miss Michael Anthony's background vocals which made the original. I also do miss the breakdown before the solo that eventually was used in Mean Street but the new breakdown is killer as well. Love the bass line in this song. Is that actually Wolfgang playing? Who cares...phenomenal!

You And Your Blues - "Your bad moods permanent, communication breakdown..." Awesome song and probably one of the best on an album full of awesomeness (is that a word? lol). This song has that Dave swagger oozing out of it and the pre-chorus "Ahhh Ahhhh Ahhhhs" are so old school VH it will make your head spin. This should have been the first single in my opinion. Breakdown prior to the guitar solo is just money!

China Town - I have to admit on this album it's not my favorite right now but I do admire the effort. Heavy and Eddie plays like fire on this song. The solo is amazing. I'm sure I'll eventually love the hell out of it.

Blood And Fire - In my humble opinion...The best song on the album. I get the chills when I listen to it. Songs been in the tank for them since the early 80's and It ranks right up there with all their classics. This should be the next single. Should have been on any old school Roth era album. It's melodic and has the legs to be a huge hit! Guitar solo rules in this song! Not sure why they never did anything with this back in the day but I'm glad they included it on this album!

Bullethead - Very cool! Straight forward, hard rocking "lets have some fun and kick ass" tune with that big Van Halen sound.

As Is - Thick, heavy, meaty sound at the beginning that kicks into a cool, pound your face over and over again groove. Pre-chorus is awesome. Guitar change after the second chorus dominates. Completely old school and of course the solo smokes!

Honeybabysweetiedoll - Huge, heavy guitar riffs which are amazing. Roth's charisma really explodes on this one. When the song is done, you're left wanting more. Love this tune!

The Trouble With Never - Eddie playing a cool funk groove here, catchy chorus and one of the coolest lines on the album..."When was the last time you did something for the first time?" This song could easily be released as a single and would do well.

Outta Space - All aboard the VH rocket ship!!!!!!!!! They step on the gas pedal at the beginning of this song and never let up. It will rock your face right off your face! Alex delivers a great driving beat on this. Another song that I wonder why they never included it on any album.

Stay Frosty - Sequel to "Ice Cream Man"? The song starts off acoustic and then kicks in, much in the same way. If that is what they were going for it's a good attempt but just not the same. That aside, it is still a cool bluesy tune.

Big River - I can't get enough of this riff, it's killer. Very upbeat and rocking. Catchy as hell and could be another hit from this album, (this seems to be a recurring theme). The part after the chorus before the solo is a raunchy riff change and again, another unbelievable solo.

Beats Workin' - Last song on the album but definitely not the least. Love this tune! I wish I was a rock star because it would sure beat Cool chorus and a fantastic ending to a fantastic album.

To sum up, the best part about this album is that when it's over the whole album starts again (because I own it on cd). This hasn't left my side since I bought it on the day it was released. To say I love the album is a gross understatement. It could possibly be the album of the year...well that is until the new KISS album MONSTER comes out, lol. Do yourself a favor and go get this, you will not be disappointed!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steel: Why do I love music and cigars so much?

From a very young age, I have always been into music. I can remember being 6 years old (1976), coming home from school and being fascinated with my cousins record player. He was 7 years older and that was his prized possession. If he ever knew I was rocking out to his albums, he would have picked me up like a guitar and broken me over a monitor.

Both of my parents worked so my aunt would watch me after school. I can remember begging her every day to please let me listen to the records, without much success. "Persistence pays off!" I am a big proponent of that saying. That being said, all that begging eventually got me the proverbial “Key to the Golden City”. One day I was finally allowed to listen but I was given two conditions...

1. I had to wear headphones
2. When my aunt said clean up, it was time to clean up. (This meant my cousin was coming home).

This is a lot to ask of a 6 year old, I know…but I would adhere to these conditions. Anything to get that sweet sweet hour of listening pleasure! Oh that heavenly bliss that filled my ears and molded my brain. Such great bands like KISS, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Queen, Black Sabbath, etc. This was indeed an era of musical greats.

Eventually I got my first record in 1977, KISS-Rock and Roll Over. I’ll never forget the day that I got my hands on that album. My parents and I were visiting a relative that was moving back to Italy! As we said our goodbyes, this relative turns to me like Mean Joe Green in that Coke commercial (you know the one I'm talking about? The one where he tosses his jersey to the kid that gave him a Coke? Google it if you must), and handed me one of the greatest gifts of all time. Shortly after this visit, I got a record player of my own (once again, persistence) and the rest is history.

From that point I sailed into the 80’s which brought heavy metal and with it, my passion for collecting music grew. I also started singing and playing guitar. To keep it short and sweet, I have done the whole “band” thing and I like to think that I was a pretty decent singer back in the day! Sadly, I never “made it”, but I will go on record as saying that I am proud of my non accomplishments and the ride was fun!

 So as I sit here writing my first blog, and glance over at my 4,000+ cd's, looking back I realize, that period of time was the blueprint of what would become my obsession with music!  

Where do the Cigars come in??

I don't have an exact date of when I actually started smoking cigars. I can tell you that I have smoked my fair share of them. I can also tell you that the Cuban Monte Christo #2’s are my favorite. That’s not to say that I don’t smoke other cigars. I smoke every cigar I can get my hands on but for me, Monte's are the pinnacle!

I don't have any "legit" reasons why I like them. I say “legit” because I have read tons of reviews and never really understand what the hell cigar reviewers are talking about. Here is an example…reviewers will sometimes describe the cigar that they’re smoking/reviewing, by saying crap like…"hints of leather and chocolate notes throughout". In my opinion that's all bullshit. I don't think I've experienced that with ANY cigar that I've ever smoked and I've smoked the best!!! Perhaps my pallet is not as refined? I beg to differ. I do believe that cigars are relaxing and there is something to be said about getting lost in the smoke but the real main reason I love cigars? Simple....because they remind me of Gin, Pepperoni Pizza and Poker. Yes, you read that correctly. Here is why....

Like most, I began smoking cigars during poker games in my friend’s basement. Many, many nights were spent, smoking Monte #2's, drinking straight Gin martinis (with 4 olives) and eating Pepperoni Pizza!

As time goes by, my friends and I find it harder and harder to get together to do this sort of thing. Most of us are married now, have kids and grown up responsibilities, etc., etc! Our weekly poker games have slowly transitioned into a "hey it's been about 6 months, lets try to put a poker game together", conversation that usually goes nowhere!

I have to say, I do miss those good old days. Why is it when I smoke the Monte #2's, I feel like I'm traveling back in time? I don't know what it is, but when I light up and the smoke fills the air, I am instantly brought back to that time. My mind is swimming and somewhere in that smoke I can clearly see Gin, Pepperoni Pizza and it's my turn to deal the next hand. Could the Monte #2's be some sort of time machine?? 

I am clearly grandiose in my description, but take it for what it's worth.

What it all boils down to is this...I am in love with Music and Cigars. Both have earned their rightful place in defining who I am!! In my opinion, they are the 2 greatest habits of all time!!! -STEEL!

Evil: In the Beginning (Shout at the Devil)

Growing up in the 80’s, being a big fan of heavy metal music and playing guitar in several Boston area bands, I was always surrounded by smokers. Marlboro reds and weed were the top choices in the circles I ran in, but I didn’t smoke either. There were those extremely drunkin’ nights that I got caught up in the partying and people would find me smoking a cigarette or stumbling my way into a circle and taking a hit, but that happened very rarely. There was also the occasional cigar on New Years eve, but unlike the other stuff, I liked the cigar…everything about it, the smell, the style and even the looks (mostly bad) I got for  people when I lit one up.

It wasn’t until 1998 that I became a full blown cigar smoker. I was living in Salt Lake City for a few years, and some of my friends decided to have a big poker night. Before the game, we went to a place called Knuckleheads for some of the guys to get some papers, and some to grab some cigars. I knew I wanted a cigar, and asked the kid working there for a good suggestion. The smell of cedar and tobacco flooded my senses when we walked into the humidor room. It always amazes me how it’s like another world when you go in a walk-in humidor, like you stepped into a portal of a jungle planet. Bombarded by box after box of stogies on the wall, the kid showed me a few brands and explained the differences in quality and prices. His choice was a boutique brand called Cupido, a good smoke at a very good price. Since I really didn’t know much, getting all my previous cigars from a drugstore, I went with his suggestion.

That night we had music from the likes of Motley Crue, Slayer and Clutch on the stereo while we sat and played cards for hours. I had some beer in me and I was feeling good, with some nice wins under my belt, when I decided it was time to light up my Cupido. I laugh now remembering that I bit off the tip and got “tobacco dandruff” (a term I picked up from Stephen King’s Gunslinger) in my mouth. The end was jagged, so I got a pair of scissors to even out the cut...very lowbrow, I know, but I didn’t know any better, or realize I could have bought a cutter for about $1. I lit up and took some long deep drags and could tell that I was hooked. It was a great cigar that began my obsession with stogies and my quest for Cupido cigars.

I still have the last hand of that night burned into my memories...the pot was getting big (for us), over $200, and someone went all-in with another $200. For a cash game with a bunch of college guys, this was big money...but I knew I had him beat with a heart I stood up, pulled out my wallet, took out my ATM card, threw it on the pile of chips and yelled, “Call!”, my cigar wisping smoke out of the corner of my mouth as I yelled. Again, we were new at all this, and I of course know better now that you can’t bet money you don’t have, but he took my ATM bet, and he lost everything against my hand. So there I was, wining a nice chunk-of-change with a heart flush, a Cupido cigar in my mouth (the logo being a cupid in a red heart), heavy metal playing in the background...and it makes me wonder if I am just chasing the dragon every time I light up...