March 2018

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

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El Paso Showdown doubles down on two former frontmen

He isn’t part of his former bassist’s new band Sixx: A.M., and was never asked to join his drummer’s side project, Methods of Mayhem. He was also once kicked out of the very band he headed during their heyday of selling millions of albums. None of that matters because Vince Neil of Motley Crüe is on his own these days, with a hefty catalogue of hits backing him up. His last official CD without his original gang was titled “Tattoos & Tequila,” so who better to serve as opening day entertainment for this year’s “Showdown Fest” on March 16-18, specializing in tattoos, music, and motorcycles. Neil will bring his solo act along with Motley Crüe hits, nuggets from his previous albums, and a good helping of cover versions. The next day at the El Paso County Coliseum offers another blast from the past with Great White’s original singer, Jack Russell. The band had a string of hits in the late ’80s but is now splintered into two different groups under the same name. This gig will feature the man who brought the hits “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” “Rock Me” and “House of Broken Love,” to name a few. So it won’t be a Creedence Clearwater Revisited situation: In both cases we have the original recipes, at least when it comes to the lead vocalist.

Joe Perry, “Sweetzerland Manifesto,” Roman Records

Typically the first indication of a band’s demise are the dreaded words “solo album.” In this instance the sheep that lost its flock is a guitarist. Joe Perry of Aerosmith has flown out of the nest. The boys from Boston have not been the strongest unit over the past decade, and this is actually his third release in such time (sixth overall). The blues are on his mind this time around on his new album, “Sweetzerland Manifesto.” His instrument is front and center on most every track. Who else starts a CD with an instrumental but a guitarist? It is a raw collection of solid blues and rock tracks that have not been over worked or spent too much time in the polisher. There are a few rough edges with some grit and grime, and a somewhat sinister thread throughout. The vocals are handled by the legendary Terry Reid, New York Dolls frontman David Johansen/Buster Poindexter and Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander. All are fantastic but Joe tackles the mic brilliantly on cut eight, a remake cover version of “Eve of Destruction,” which leaves one pondering why he didn’t just take the reins on them all. There is no better declaration proving the legendary status of Joe Perry than the “Sweetzerland Manifesto.”

Lee Dewyze, “Paranoid,” Shanachie Records

American Idol isn’t really known for discovering genuine talent, but they did manage to find Queen a new frontman with Adam Lambert, who has been mesmerizing fans for quite some time now. The country world got an undeniable superstar in Carrie Underwood, and pop got multi-Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson. In 2010 they introduced the world to the best singer-songwriter to ever come out of the franchise, Lee Dewyze (although he did have a few discs before his global introduction). After the win he released one major label disc, which had so much polish and shine that his heart was no longer discernible. A few years later he unleashed “Frames,” a set which could have easily rivaled Avett Brothers, the Decemberists or Fleet Foxes. The new disc is “Paranoia” and it absolutely won’t be your next party starter, or be accused of being happy-go-lucky fluff, but it is filled with heart, which he wears on his sleeve. The sound is ethereal with delicate hypnotic vocals wrapped around sparse instrumentation. Each track cuts deeper than the previous with intense emotion. His talent is immeasurable, and there is no reason for the listener to be paranoid about being blown away by an American Idol alum.

David Byrne, “American Utopia,” Nonesuch

David Byrne has not been a member of the Talking Heads since 1992, and in the past decade or so he hasn’t gone it alone (his last three discs were collaborations) like he did when they first parted ways. His brand new album “American Utopia” finds him definitely in solo territory. Right out of the gate we are back in the peculiar brain of David Byrne with “Dance like This.” The track ping-pongs between a sparse piano ballad into an upbeat club cut all in the blink of an eye. Skip a song and we are transported to a selection that feels like it has been ripped directly from his former band’s catalogue, complete with bizarre lyrics as he explains why “Every Day is a Miracle.” The CD is filled with world rhythms, a powerful percussion section and dance beats, with his distinctive vocals always at the forefront. After a five-year absence and now qualified for Social Security, he hasn’t lost his magic touch. We may never achieve a utopian society, but the world is a much better place with Byrne’s “American Utopia” for us all to hear.

Collectibles: Gene Simmons, “The Vault Experience,” Rhino

Leave it to one band over all others to cash in on collectibles of all sorts. That band is Kiss, and with legions of fans to snatch up every item bearing their logo it’s no wonder they call their die-hard admirers the “Kiss Army.” There have been dolls, lunch boxes, toys, pinball machines, and even a coffin. Although this is offered as a “Kiss” item, it all comes from their co-founder Gene Simmons, the man responsible for all the previously mentioned craziness. This new set, “The Vault Experience,” is as much about the music as the bells and whistles. It will contain 150 never-before-released tracks written and performed by Simmons, featuring notable rock ’n’ roll artists, including members of Kiss past and present, a non-makeup action figure, an oversized medallion, and a one-of-a-kind, hand-selected original piece of memorabilia from his personal collection. All of this will be packaged in a massive 12” x 12” x 6” leather-bound commemorative book containing dozens of never-before-seen images. As if that wasn’t incentive enough for any soldier in any of their battalions, there is more. The man himself will travel around the world to a designated location to deliver the packages and take photos and video with the fan and a guest, and sign autographs. So if you have a couple grand you simply need to kiss away, here is a very interesting option.

Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at

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