Muse – Simulation Theory (super deluxe edition)

When Muse comes out with a new album, I never fully know what to expect, except I expect it to be totally awesome. With that, “Simulation Theory”, the eighth album from Muse, is exactly what I expected.

Like Muse’s last few albums, “Simulation Theory” is more than just a collection of songs; there is a theme wrapped around all of them. This time though, the trio steps back a bit from the seriousness of “The Second Law” and “The Resistance”, instead diving into a
science fiction virtual reality world. But that’s not to say there aren’t also underlying sociopolitical statements. This is Muse I’m talking about after all.

I pre-ordered the super deluxe edition of “Simulation Theory” because from what I had already heard from the singles released on the Internet, I knew I was going to like it. It was packaged as a double album with basically, an alternate version of the album on a second record and both records on CDs. It also came with free pre-release digital downloads for some of the songs. I would have gladly paid the price for this just for the two records alone. The album artwork designed by “Stranger Things” artist Kyle Lambert fits the sci-fi theme of the album perfectly, as does the heavy use of synthesizers and electronics in the music.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, it also came with pre-release access to tickets for their upcoming concerts. I have seen Muse live twice already and look forward to seeing them again. Those two shows rank among the most amazing concerts I have been to, ranking right up there with Rodger Waters performing The Wall, Pink Floyd, and TSO.

My favorite song on the original album is probably “Break It to Me” with its strange chord bends on the guitar. My favorites on the bonus record are tied between the gospel version of “Dig Down” and the live version of “Pressure” performed with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band. I thought the latter was such an odd combination when I read it in the credits, I didn’t know what to expect. But it was awesome. Exactly what I expect from Muse.

George Thorogood And The Destroyers – Maverick

No surprises here. With George Thorogood and the Destroyers, you know exactly what to expect – old school blues rock. Music to party to. Listening to 1982’s Maverick, I’m surprised that I have never seen these guys live. I have to imagine it would be a wild and crazy scene with people dancing in their seats and in the aisles, singing along to the songs.

Starting out in the ’70s, Thorogood’s band was originally called the Delaware Destroyers because, you guessed it, they came from Delaware; Boston to be exact. During that time, right into the ’80s, George Thorogood and the Destroyers were one of the hardest touring bands ever. As if to drive that point home, in 1982 they did their 50/50 tour – all 50 states in the US in 50 days.

In 1970, Thorogood gave up his career in minor league baseball and never looked back. He has recorded 20 albums and sold over 15 million. He is still recording his style of boogie party rock today, releasing “Party of One”, his first album without The Destroyers, in 2017. He last toured in 2018. I’m hoping there will be a 2019 tour as well. I still can’t believe I haven’t seen him live.

The Human League – Dare

The Human League’s third album, “Dare”,
was for the most part, my introduction to synth-pop and electronic music. Up to that time, I had listened to a lot of bands that used synthesizers and loved the versatility and expanded sound they brought to rock and roll. But I don’t think I had ever heard a band that used synths exclusively; no guitars and no real drums. If I had, The Human League was the first to make an impression on me.

“Dont You Want Me” was the first song I heard off of “Dare”; it was all over the radio in 1981. But it wasn’t the airwave saturation that grabbed me; it was the switch-hitting baritone and alto vocals of Philip Oakey and Susan Ann Sulley. It was the lyrics. It was the catchy hook of the song. And of course, it was the synthesizers. Only synthesizers.

Joe Walsh – You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind

Joe Walsh’s 1976 live album, “You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind” was one for the fans – a live memento of Joe Walsh’s past hits with a hint of what was to come.

With five jamming renditions of Joe Walsh’s biggest hits, this album really couldn’t miss. Add to that, Joes extended solos as well as the solos from his top-notch band, which included Eagles member Don Felder on a second guitar, and you get an album that’s meant to be cranked up.

And speaking of the Eagles, for some perfect vocal harmonies on “Help Me Through the Night, Joe is joined by two other members of that band; Don Henley, Glen Frey. The crowd loved it. Apparently Joe Walsh did too. He joined the Eagles shortly after “You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind” was released.

Elton John – Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player

Elton John had so many great albums that anyone with a decent sized record collection is going to have more than one album by him. I guess my collection is no exception.

The title to “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” came from a night of joking around Elton John had with Groucho Marx. At one point during the evening Groucho, in good fun, ripped into Elton pretty well. In retort, Elton John blurted out”hey, don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player”. As a nod to that evening there’s a poster to a Marx Brothers’ movie in the background of the album’s theater marquee designed album cover.

Typical to many Elton John’s albums from this era, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” came with a bonus. Packaged in the gatefold album cover along with the record,was a 12 page booklet with a collection of photos and the lyrics yo the songs.

When it came out, “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” hit the top of the charts in both the US and the UK.
It also gave Elton John two more hit singles, “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock”. “Midnight Creeper” is one of my personal favorites from this album. I still believe it could have easily been a third hit single.

Greta Van Fleet – Anthem Of The Peaceful Army

One of the things I really liked about Greta Van Fleet when I heard their first EP was that they sounded a lot like Led Zeppelin. One of the things I didn’t like about them is they sounded almost too much like Led Zeppelin. One of the things I really like about Greta Van Fleets first full length LP is that it doesn’t sound quite so much like Led Zeppelin.

Does “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” remind me of a good Zeppelin album? Absolutely…at times. But it also has so many other influences, from so many classic rock bands I’m not even going to try to list them all. There is no doubt in my mind that had this album been released back in the ’70s. It would have been at the top of the AOR charts. Coming out in the 2010s, it’s like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the stench of the music factory’s pollution.

On “Anthem Of The Peaceful Army” Greta Van Fleet prove they are not a wannabe band by any stretch. I’m sure with how young they are, they grew up listening to their parents rock records – and they loved them. It’s still music they love listening to, so when they pick up their instruments, it’s the music they love to play. When they pick up a pen it’s in the songs they love to write.

As I listen to Greta Van Fleet’s “Anthem of the Peaceful Army” now, I’m listing to music influenced by bands that I love from the past, but I’m also listening to new music that I know I will still love in the future.

Michael Stanley Band – Greatest Hints

Rock and roll is filled with stories of great bands that almost, but not quite broke out from local or regional fame into the national spotlight. The Michael Stanley Band was one of the greatest.

The Michael Stanley Band, or MSB as many of their fans called them for short, had no problem selling records throughout the midwest United States. They regularly sold out 20 thousand seat arenas around their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. But outside of the heartland, the band remained forever relatively unknown.

I remember first hearing the Michael Stanley Band on Detroit radio in the late 1970s. I have to admit though, I never really took notice of MSB until the early 1980s, when a friend of mine who was from Cleveland played his hometown hero band for me when we were in the Army together. When I listened their records, I remember wondering why they never made it nationally; they had such a great sound. Listening to “Greatest Hints” now I’m wondering it again.

Leon Russell – Carney

Unlike CDs, albums have two sides and must be flipped halfway through to listen to an entire album “Carney”, Leon Russell’s 1972 masterpiece takes full advantage of this. “Carney” really could be considered two half albums; one roots rock, the other psychedelic rock. Both of them showcasing Leon Russell at his best.

That’s not to say side two doesn’t still touch on the strong songwriting Russell was known for – Russell’s songs have been recorded by more than 200 other artists. The flip side even contains what is possibly his most recorded songs. “This Masquerade” has found its way on over 75 records by others, the best known version being George Benson’s breakout hit single in 1976.

Amazingly, Leon Russell never released “This Masquerade” as a single, at least not as the A-side of one. It wound up being the B-side to “Tightrope” which also kicks off side one of “Carney” and became Leon Russell’s first hit single.

Billy Joel – The Bridge

Billy Joel was such a versatile artist, he never needed to change his style to keep having hit records. They were always universally appealing.

Like Billy Joel’s previous records, “The Bridge” was filled with a huge array of musical styles and influences. A few of those musical influences appear with Joel on this, his tenth studio album. Ray Charles adds his unmistakable bluesy piano and voice to the song “Baby Grand” and Steve Winwood’s Hammond B3 helps Joel cut loose on “Getting Closer”, the rocking closer on the album.

Surprisingly, neither of those two songs were hits off of “The Bridge”, although “Baby Grand” was released as the fourth single from it. I don’t think Billy Joel was too concerned about that song’s lackluster sales. “The Bridge” still gave the entertainer three top 20 hits with “Modern Woman”, “This Is the Time” and my personal favorite from the album, “A Matter of Trust”. That song will always have special meaning to me as I was getting over some trust issues I had at that time in my life. It was the reason I had to buy “The Bridge” when I first heard it.

The Tragically Hip – World Container

It never ceases to amaze me how a band can be so immensely popular in one country and right across the national border…virtually nothing. Such was the fate of The Tragically Hip.

In Canada, The Hip sold out arenas, topped the Canadian record charts with nine of their 13 albums, won 16 Juno awards – the Canadian equivalent of an American Grammy, and were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Yet across the border, in the United States, most people have never heard of The Tragically Hip.

I don’t get it.

This is a band that in their 33 year musical career, released 13 albums and every one of them kicked ass. Not a dud in the lot. Not even close.

Canadian rockers got The Hip. Americans never really did. I remember seeing them live at the Palace of Auburn Hills in 1999. Over 20 thousand seats filled. I remember thinking “Wow! Maybe at least Detroit gets what The Hip were all about.

Then I noticed all the shirts and banners with red maple leafs on them. I bet over 15 thousand Canadians crossed the Detroit/Windsor border that day just to see The Tragically Hip play.

And for that day, I too was a Canadian rocker.

Well, at least for a couple of hours.