music, Music Reviews, New Music, New Releases, Rock Music, Rock'n'Roll, The Warning, Villarreal Sisters

The Wait is Over! ERROR, the Latest Full Album by The Warning Is Here!

Recorded in 2020, the release of ERROR was delayed for two years due to the pandemic leading to a late 2021 release of the MAYDAY EP comprising six of the tracks that are included on ERROR. The new album includes the brief instrumental “INTRO 404” as well as the bonus track “BREATHE” plus six other tracks, beyond the recently released single “MONEY”, the title track and newest single, “ERROR”, “AMOUR” – which features a verse sung in French, “KOOL AID KIDS”, “REVENANT”, and “23”.

If you haven’t yet heard of The Warning (or haven’t read my previous review dated 1.18.22 for their MAYDAY EP) the band consists of three hard-rocking sisters from Monterrey, Mexico who have been performing together for over ten years. They began as children recording videos of music covers from such bands as Metallica, Muse, Foo Fighters, Twisted Sister, and more, several of those videos have long since gone viral. They are currently under contract with Lava/Republic Records. ERROR is their third studio offering, the two previous albums – XXI CENTURY BLOOD and QUEEN OF THE MURDER SCENE were independently produced and financed by their ever-growing legion of fans. They have released two EPs: ESCAPE THE MIND and the aforementioned MAYDAY. Their discography also includes NARCISISTA, a stand-alone single performed in their native Spanish, and ENTER SANDMAN, a reimagining of Metallica’s chart-topping single. The Warning’s version features Grammy Award-Winning artist Alessia Cara and was included on last year’s 30th Anniversary Black List tribute album.

Dany (Daniela Villarreal), 22, the band’s lead guitarist who also plays piano, is the lead vocalist on the new tracks: “MONEY”, “AMOUR”, “ERROR”, and “KOOL AID KIDS”. Her range is well established from their previous releases. She has a powerful Rock voice! Think Lzzy Hale level. She has that sort of ability and still, I think there is potential to grow. She is always busy on the stage, crafting the guitar sound with her pedalboard between stretches of “Dany Dancing”, hopping around, and engaging the crowd with her self-deprecating humor and energetic stage presence. She is a human dynamo that powers the band on stage, not that her sisters aren’t contributing their energy to one another, but you can see the difference whenever she is under the weather, as she was for a couple of shows during the recent Mayday Tour.

Pau (Paulina Villarreal), 20, who is the band’s regular background vocalist as well as the percussionist and occasional pianist, serves as lead vocalist on three of the new tracks -“23”, “REVENANT”, and “BREATHE”. Although she sings lead on other tracks from previous releases and all of them are fan favorites, I find her voice raspier and perhaps more emotional though her range as a belter hasn’t compared to her sister, Dany – or at least not until this album. “BREATHE” is a simple but powerful and emotional acoustic track featuring Pau’s talent on the keys, the same piano on which TW composes their songs. I think the three tracks featuring her voice will introduce her to the wider world as a gifted lead vocalist.

Ale (Alejandra Villarreal), 17, the youngest of the sisters, is the bassist and background vocalist who anchors the instrumental elements of the band, consistently laying down the rhythmic foundation with inventive runs around the chord sequences. Listen to “KOOL AID KIDS” for a great example of what she does to compensate for the lack of a rhythm guitar. Also, listen to the driving bass lines of “Z” that carry the song while the guitar is absent under the lead vocal. She is the perfect complement to her sisters for the power trio concept. The Warning would not be as hard-hitting without her. Her work on “ANIMOSITY” is also worth a listen. For whatever reason, the bass is sometimes subdued in the overall mix on this album – meaning you have to listen for it. But if you pay attention you will quickly appreciate Ale’s ability to drive the songs.

My Take:

Many if not most fans of The Warning will claim they are the greatest Rock band ever. Despite the hyperbole, they may have that level of potential. The fact is they write great songs, consistently. Some comment that they are still so young, as if that is some kind of curse, or that their abilities are so impressive because of their youth. Historically, most recording artists have achieved their best work well before age 30. So, I rather think they are just now entering their prime creative years. The composition process usually starts with Pau at the piano in their house. She also serves as the band’s primary lyricist. Dany and Ale contribute in the collaboration with their instrumental parts before the trio debates any changes to adjust for nuance to refine the song. You see, they each have specialties though they are multi-instrumentalists. There are some amusing videos out and about on the Internet of each of them attempting to teach their sisters how to play a different instrument. I wouldn’t count any of them out at mastering another instrument, at least enough to perform on stage for a song or two, but none of them are there quite yet. But I think it is a good exercise, learning to appreciate the subtleties of crafting a song on a different instrument.

The band is certainly gaining attention and frankly, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Will these ladies ever write a bad song? Well, they have over 50 in their current discography and a solid case can be made that there isn’t a single filler tune in the lot. They are adventurous and ambitious, having composed and recorded a ‘rock opera’ when the eldest member of the band, Dany was 17 or 18 years old. A music video that accompanied the title song of their debut album, XXI Century Blood won awards. It’s debatable whether anything they do is groundbreaking except to say that they are rare as an entirely female rock trio, and rarely yet that they don’t overtly play up to the hypersexuality one might expect from marketing an all-female group. They let the quality of their music become the featured selling point and it is for this reason I eagerly look forward to their future. They have four more albums remaining in their current contract and I bet there will be plenty more after.

Obviously, The Warning didn’t have much of a choice about when to release these songs. Not only did the pandemic intervene to thwart their efforts for a smooth process, but it also twice delayed their North American Tour in support of the release of their MAYDAY EP before finally realizing a successful start earlier this year. Since the EP songs appear on ERROR, they have been performing half of the new album’s songs live as they have traversed the US and eastern Canada, meeting their fans and performing to adoring crowds. Several of their appearances were sold out.

Of the new tracks, ERROR and AMOUR are likely the most commercially viable candidates for immediate airplay. They feature Dany’s powerful voice and follow the tradition of their earlier singles CHOKE and EVOLVE. However, I find the new tracks that feature Pau’s vocals most intriguing. They are a bit more subdued that the usual fare I’ve come to expect from The Warning. Pau’s voice has always been always a refreshing change-up from her sister’s, lending a husky rawness that stands out. But here Pau’s voice presents a level of softness that we haven’t heard before. Even though the role of her vocals is more often to blend and harmonize, her performance on the three tracks that feature her is a stunning example of her potential for a front person, something I’d love to see more of in the future. Also, having two lead vocalists in the band (as Pau has performed in the lead role on several of their past songs and occasionally substituted for Dany in a pinch whenever her sister was ill) allows Dany’s voice to rest during a concert. As the band’s tour schedule expands in the near future to become even more rigorous, this ability to change things up with the vocals will become increasingly important. Even Ale, who rarely sings lead, has pitched in to help out from time to time. Those unicorn moments are revered among faithful fans and fan musicians who understand the complexities of being able to play an instrument while singing, especially singing lead while playing bass guitar. That must require the use of two different parts of the brain.

There is a special feeling about the ERROR album that belies its lyrics. It is a concept album in the truest sense, though not as overtly as its predecessor, Queen of The Murder Scene. The songs share a thread of continuity and an overall theme. The ladies readily borrow elements of style from their musical influences, but what they produce is distinctly their own take on Rock music – a reinvention of what is possible in the genre. Several of the new songs have the potential for airplay and even reach the mainstream pop charts. Will that happen? Who is to say? The music industry has been trying to bury the genre since at least the mid-1990s. But what is more Rock’n’Roll than coming back from the dead as a new generation adopts the rebelliousness that allows for the greatest possible freedom to express? The Warning has all of that in spades. Don’t be deceived by their youthful cuteness or diminutive sizes. They are predators, albeit disarmingly attractive ones, aiming to take the world, one song at a time.

We can expect more great things from The Warning as their fanbase continues to expand based on the exposure their music is now receiving through airplay and featuring at sporting events. I can’t wait to see what they do next. With over fifty tracks in their current discography, I have yet to hear a song I don’t like. That’s pretty rare. Their lyrics are never ill-guided or meaningless fluff. These young women have something to say and being multi-lingual, they’re more than able to communicate to the masses on a level that is rare in Rock music. Yes, most of their songs are composed in English, but their command of the language is impressive considering their ages. They have very slight accents that are easily overlooked. And in concert, there are a lot of native English speakers venturing a few words of Spanish as they sing along to MARTIRO and NARCISISTA and beg ‘otra’ when it’s time for an encore.

Rumor has it they are working on a tour of the UK and Europe for next year. But closer to home, this Summer they are touring with Halestorm, The Pretty Reckless, Lilith Czar, and later in the Fall, they will be touring Canada with Three Days Grace. With this level of exposure before larger crowds, expect future US and Canadian tours to be on a grander scale in much larger venues. If you didn’t see them on this tour, you may have missed your chance at catching an intimate performance in a small club.

For more information: THE WARNING BAND

Blues, Environment, music, Music Reviews, Rock Music, Uncategorized

Music Review: Greta Van Fleet’s “Anthem of the Peaceful Army”

51jeAYT2TBL._SS500Back in May, I reviewed Great Van Fleet’s “From the Fires”, an 8-Song double EP that included the #1 hits Highway Tune and Safari Song as well as other fan favorites from their concerts and a couple of covers. Since discovering them around this time last year I’ve been following their rise with great interest.

Greta Van Fleet consists of four guys from Frankenmuth, a small town in Michigan, who are currently in the beginning stages of living the Rock’n’Roll dream. Over the Past year they have been working on a debut album, all the while making friends (including Sir Elton John and Tom Hanks) and some enemies. Their fans are avid, devoted supporters. Their critics are quick to point out their youth and parrot a prevailing belief that they are ripping off musical styles of some legendary 60’s and 70’s bands.

I must laugh at the latter. Do these same critics challenge the rips sampled of classic rock music riffs behind certain pop music? Well? What is there in music that is not in some way derivative?

You see, all music is in some way an extension or evolution rooted in elements of a past genre of style. There are elements of classical music in many Rock famous songs, for example, but largely the entire genre is borrows heavily from Blues and Country. I believe it was Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who said when asked about some other noteworthy bands being charged with plagiarism, there are only so many chords and notes to be arranged in a finite number of ways. Sooner or later something has got to sound like something else. GVF share many of the same same influences as those bands they are sometimes accused of copying. But to my ear, there is something additional in their sound, and it is the blending that makes their music worth giving a listen.

I’m hard pressed to recall the last time I anxiously awaited an album release as much as “Anthem of The Peaceful Army”. You’d have to go back to at least the early 80’s, but more likely the late 70’s. You see, I’m one of those people the music industry has written off as an unlikely buyer for ‘new’ music. I turned 30 in 1986. And it is true that my interest in new music waned around that same time. Hey, I was in Asia for a while and completely not interested in the pop music played on the other side of the planet. Also, it was hard being 13 time zones away from home to be tuned in to the mainstream of American culture for those couple of years. Around that same time I married and began a family, eventually having three kids. When I returned home I started working 40+ hours a week and all that. However, my interest in music returned around the time my kids stopped thinking it was cool to watch Barney and idolize the Power Rangers. I began listening to the bands and artists that my kids were interested in and, in turn, I began to follow some of them as well. The Rocker inside never died, just I felt like the music biz went off on a tangent and I had no interest in following it down that rabbit hole. Also, it was hard – very, very hard – for me to appreciate anyone’s music when it did not come from a real musical instrument.

And so, here’s the core reason I like Greta Van Fleet so much. Jake Kiszka plays real guitars, and his brother Sam plays a real bass and real keyboards. Danny Wagner plays an authentic set of Ludwig drums.  In fact, they play their instruments pretty darn well. That excites me because I know they will continue to evolve and grow over the next few years and, hopefully, at least as many new albums. But a large part of the bad rap the band has been getting is how much lead singer Josh Kiszka sounds like Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) or Geddy Lee (of Rush). Honestly, he does at times, but not all the time.

As a first official debut album “Anthem of The Peaceful Army” impresses me as a sort of response to the band’s many critics as much as an attempt to satisfy their growing fan base. It offers a variety of styles and at times sounds it does bring early Rush to mind, as in “The Cold Wind”.  The Rolling Stones influence in “You’re the One” can be felt. But there are a few times that I hear bits and pieces of AC/DC as well as some other bands. Rarely does this new album remind me of Led Zeppelin.

They are not a cover band, as is the assertion many of their harshest critics. Sure, Josh Kiszka has a wild and wicked falsetto, hitting some high notes I’ll bet Plant wishes he still could. Josh’s voice goes from ethereal to primal and guttural. But if you want to know who he really sounds like, he’s exactly like Josh Kiszka!

It’s hard to say which track is my favorite. Since its release last Friday, I’ve played the album many times. Of course, nearly every song was familiar to me as they have been introduced in live concert here and there over the past year. Also, the band did something remarkable in advance of the album’s release, putting out five singles. “When the Curtain Falls”, which they performed on national TV (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) back in July, came first. About a month later they released “Watching Over”, which they performed live about a year ago as a tribute to Tom Petty after his untimely death. And guess what, that one sounds like it was slightly influenced by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – go figure!

“You’re the One”, “Lover, Leaver” and “Anthem” round out the singles released prior to 10.19.2018, each showing a different aspect of the band’s developing style and range, acoustic to hard-driving Rock and back again. The album leads with an eerily haunting melody, “Age of Man” that sets the tone and mood for what’s to come. Common threads throughout are love, peace and respect for the environment. “The Cold Wind” is next followed by four of the singles: “When the Curtain Falls”, “Watching Over”, “Lover, Leaver” and “You’re the One”.

The next three songs have rapidly become my favorite tracks for differing reasons:

“The New Day” has an unexpected, killer hook along with its up-tempo beat and uplifting lyric. It is also one of the songs that relies on an acoustic guitar.

“Mountain of the Sun” begins with a striking, bluesy slide-guitar riff carried throughout the song. Again, its lyrics are positive about love and sharing the journey of life.

Next up, “Brave New World” returns to an environmental message with more haunting riffs that will hang with you beyond your first listen. Toward the end there is a powerful bass and lead guitar jam between Sam and Jake Kiszka that’s reminiscent of the late sixties.

“Anthem” rounds out the album, tying the messages and threads together in another acoustic driven melody behind a positive lyric.

There is an 11th track on the Digital Version of the album, an extended version of the single “Lover, Leaver” titled “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer) which includes a jam similar how the band presents the song when performing live. I’m told the CD and LP have this version of the song and not the single version that appears as Track #5 of the digital version.

26th+Annual+Elton+John+AIDS+Foundation+Academy+9L6nJdYExsRxBand members from Left to Right: Danny Wagner (Drums), Jake Kiszka (Guitars), Josh Kiszka Vocals, and Sam Kiszka (Bass and Keyboards)

“Anthem of the Peaceful Army” will be supported with an international tour called “March of the Peaceful Army”, in  reference to the swelling number of fans around the world that have adopted the name “GVF Army”. Look for this band in a city near you and, if you get the chance, see them live. As solid as their performance is on this album, they are, and I expect will always be, an exciting band to watch.

 

Overall rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Blues, Led Zep, Led Zeppelin, music, Music Reviews, Rock Music, Uncategorized

Music Review of Greta Van Fleet – From The Fires EP (2017)

It’s been a while since I wrote an album review. I think the last one I did was for Them Crooked Vultures, which ironically has a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones, in the line up. Anyway, I think that it’s a commentary on how dull and unimaginative most music of late that I haven’t been compelled for critique a band for a while. Have you ever noticed how the mainstream of pop music is pretty-much cookie-cutter, formula-driven drivel? Yes, there are exceptions. And sure, I’m an old fart and as a rule we always say stuff like that. The old farts of my time said the same about the music I grew up with. But the other day I happened upon something kind of exciting and exceptional, in a throwback sort of way. It’s bluesy and hard driving, and what the heck, Josh, the lead singer, sounds more like Robert Plant than the Led Zeppelin front man has for decades.

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The band is called Greta Van Fleet. They’re out of a little town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. The name is borrowed from a town matriarch whose real name is Gretna. The octogenarian attended one of group’s concerts and gave the band her blessing on using the modified name. Three members of the band are brothers:  Joshua Kiszka, Jacob Kiszka, and Samuel Kiszka, along with Daniel Wagner on drums. The brothers grew up listening to the blues. Their father plays a mean harmonica, from what I hear, and has an extensive vinyl collection that the boys all but wore out as they were growing up.

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The band has two current recordings available, the first is a four track EP titled Black Smoke Rising (4/2017) and the second an 8 track EP that combines the previous work with 4 additional tunes, titled From The Fires (11/17). Note, original drummer Kyle Hauck appears on some of the band’s earliest live recordings with the present drummer, Danny Wagner appearing on the most recent studio releases. Most of the songs on the EP are original material, which is exciting, since the band could have easily been a successful tribute band covering Led Zeppelin classics. But the fact they are going their own direction portends good things coming along in the future.

As a diehard Led Zep fan I was taken aback when I first heard a live version of Highway Tune. I’m still not sure whether the studio version or the live version is the best, and that probably doesn’t matter. Have your pick, they’re both tasty. The live track demonstrates the musicianship of the band members, which the studio version only modestly enhances. I get the feeling the band records stuff live, for the most part, because, having watched full concerts available on YouTube, the integrity of the sound doesn’t suffer in live venues.

Honestly, I was never a huge fan of Led Zep’s live stuff, mostly bootlegs, but especially The Song Remains the Same (10/1976), which was the soundtrack of a movie by the same name, that includes tracks recorded during the band’s heyday mid-seventies tours. Led Zep’s studio recordings, especially the later albums, relied heavily on effects and overdubs to achieve the sound and that makes it difficult to replicate in concert. A more recent reworking of TSRTM’s soundtrack with different concert recordings patched in here and there makes the album more listenable, though I question whether the trickery is a fair and honest representation of what the band really sounded like when performing live. Please don’t get me wrong, Led Zep were innovators, especially their early work and they paved the way for a lot of blues-influenced, harder-driving rock bands that followed. And most fans who attended their concerts would quickly argue that the concerts were memorable events driven by excitement bordering of mass hysteria.

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What I like best about Greta Van Fleet is the faithful homage to the band’s blues roots. The 8 tracks of the EP include covers of a Sam Cooke tune, A Change Is Gonna Come and Fairport Convention’s gospel-esque Meet On The Ledge. There isn’t a throwaway song in the mix, though my favorites are the aforementioned Highway Tune, Safari Song and Black Smoke Rising. Why no Led Zep covers? That is the elephant in the room with a voice like Josh’s fronting the group. Maybe the band will do one or two songs in the future, but from where I sit it is not necessary and would only confuse the band’s brand that is still forming and gathering a following. Certainly, they could do a set with covers of Rock and Roll, Black Dog and D’yer Mak’er– to name a few and I’d certainly buy in. The band’s musicianship is definitely up to the task.

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One question I would have is how Danny Wagner’s percussion work would match up with John Bonham’s original counter-rhythmic, avant-garde style. Wagner is more traditional in his approach, which isn’t a bad thing because the backbeat throughout the EP is solid and driving.

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Also, I am sure Jake could cover Jimmy Page’s guitar work but at the risk of offending Led Zep purists who might take exception when he deviates or modifies the original licks to incorporate his own flare and interpretation. So, staying away from what is already a natural comparison of sound and styles and sticking to original work, for the most part, is a much better tact.

 

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Check out the band on YouTube or, if you get the chance, see them live. I think they’re going to be around on the music scene for a while and that makes me happy.

From The Fires EP Tracks:

Safari Song

Edge of Darkness

Flower Power

A Change Is Gonna Come

Highway Tune

Meet On The Ledge

Talk On The Street

Black Smoke Rising

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Throwback Thursday – Deep Purple’s Machine Head

Machine Head

Really you can’t talk about the 70’s music without mentioning Deep Purple and 1972’s Machine Head, the band’s most iconic and successful LP. It featured the band’s Mark 2 combination of Ian Gillian, Roger Glover on lead vocals and bass guitar, respectively, along with founding members Ian Paice on drums, Jon Lord on keyboards and Ritchie Blackmore on lead guitar.

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Although the group released several albums before and after that produced singles registering on charts, and receiving airplay on FM Radio, it was Machine Head’s Smoke On The Water that became the signature hit, peaking at #4 on Billboard’s Top 40 during the summer of 1973. What is also noteworthy is that the live version of the song that appears on the Made In Japan live double album that was released later that year and also ranked on Billboard’s chart.

Made In Japan

The story told in the song is true. The group was recording the album in Montreux, Switzerland in December 1971 using a rented mobile studio truck that belonged to the Rolling Stones. Frank Zappa and the Mother’s of Invention were performing at the same entertainment complex where Deep Purple was supposed to record the album when someone in the audience fired a flare gun that ignited the venue’s rattan ceiling. The title of the song came from Roger Glover’s dream about the event a few days later.

Ironically, Deep Purple did not think of Smoke On The Water as a hit song at the time of recording and it was almost a year after the release of Machine Head that the song was issued separately and began to receive airplay. The song’s simplistic four note blues progression and Blackmore’s guitar riff at the intro made the song one of the most widely recognized Rock songs of all time.

#DeepPurple #SmokeOnTheWater #MachineHead #MadeInJapan #70sMusic

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Throwback Thursday – Steely Dan’s Debut Album ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’

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Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s was all about music. It seemed there was always a new group not he scene with an innovative twist and sound. 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill by Steely Dan was a good example that fused jazz and rock with complex arrangements and exceptional musicianship.

Core members Donald Fagan and Walter Becker met in 1968. Although they worked together on several musical projects including a musical score for a low budget Richard Pryor movie it was not until 1972’s debut album that the duo receive success. Along with Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, Denny Dias, David Palmer and Jim Hodder, Fagan and Becker recorded Can’t Buy A Thrill which featured two Top-40 hits, Do It Again and Reeling In The Years and Dirty Work that receiving FM airplay as well.

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Although the band toured for several months eventually releasing Countdown to Ecstasy which was not as commercially successful as their debut. Blaming the album’s performance on a rush job to record it while touring, Fagan and Becker decided to become more of a studio only venture bringing in session musicians to complete their recording projects, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, Royal Scam and Aja. Steely Dan alumni appear in several other popular groups of the era such as Toto and the Doobie Brothers.

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In 1981 Fagan and Becker split for more than a decade to reunite in 1993. in 2000, they released the multiple Grammy Award winning album Two Against Nature. In 2001 they were inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame.

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#Music #SteelyDan #CantBuyAThrill #70sMusic