Friday, January 12, 2007

Queensryche - Operation: Mindcrime II

When Queensryche announced their plans to return to 'Operation: Mindcimre' the reaction was mixed. Fans were wondering if the band could pull off such a maneuver without one of the primary songwriters of the original, ex guitarist Chris DeGarmo. After a brief tour featuring the entire first 'Mindcrime' and a couple tracks the band were working on, Queensryche once again went into the studio to create rock 'n roll history.

The opening track "Freheit Ouverture" immediately puts to rest the worries of the bands ability to craft a worthy follow up to one of the greatest concept albums of all time. The playing is tight and the music is just as good as anything from it's predecessor. The lead off cut to the story "I'm American" (played as a work in progress on the tour) is a balls to the wall rocker with some of the best vocal work seen from Tate in a long time.

The lyrics, inspired by the current political climate in the United States, are centered around Nikki's revenge and redemption. Many asked/unasked questions are answered in the nearly one hour story (although at times the story may be slightly unbelievable). Musically, this is the album that Queensryche fans have been waiting for. The crunch of the original re-appears, while the experience of these seasoned musicians shines throughout the album.

Reprising her role as Sister Mary, Pamela Moore returns to the story as a ghost of her memory in Nikki's head. One of the most surprising guest roles is Ronnie James Dio as the evil Doctor X.

Although the disc is not as good as the original 'Mindcrime' (what could be?!?), this sequel is not only a worthy addition to the already vastly impressive Queensryche discography, but it's more than worthy of the 'Mindcrime' title.


Friday, January 5, 2007


Finally got to see this much aniticipated film starring one my favorites, Kate Winslet. I guess in short, Kate played a role I am pretty unfamiliar with seeing her play. The Infidelity part of her character stuck out. The director, Todd Fields, whose last movie a few years ago, IN THE BEDROOM, I felt was great. LITTLE CHILDREN has some similarities, which having seen both I can see how the same director could have made them both. LITTLE CHILDREN really focused a lot on whether the characters were doing the right thing, and in some ways, their infidelity actually may have been. Maybe the most liberal side to this film's plot was the character played by Jackie Earl Haley. Who portays a recently released from prison sex offender. After watching him for awhile it hit me that it was the kid who played Kelly from the BAD NEWS BEARS movies. Now he's 46, but that really caught me offguard. Believe it or not, the story lends you to ultimately feel for the guy, which when you see it, you'll realize why and why it's so strange. Haley ended up receiving a support nominations for the SAG awards announced this week. I suppose he would qualify for this, but his role was not tied to the leads much.

Overall, this was a very well written, well acted film. But it's not one that leaves you with smiles or even much relief. Very "Indie" I suppose in that respect. The resolution isn't crystal at the end, and it's hardly politically correct in many instances. It was based on a novel of the same name I guess, and the fact IN THE BEDROOM in a lot of ways had similar qualities and themes. But I guess my take was after seeing that film, as dark as it was, it still left me with the feeling that I was satisfied with the work the people who made it, put into it. It was one of those movies that has stuck with me over the years as an interesting and somewhat original plot twist. This new film from Todd Fields kind of left me more shocked and with the feeling that I struggled to watch it at times. That can be a good quality of a film, the deepness and impact, most recently in films I caught like THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS and especially ALFA DOG, but this one almost seemed more difficult, atleast thus far a few hours after seeing it. Or maybe a lot of that has to do with my adoration for Kate Winslet and how different she seemed in this movie, which I suppose ultimately is the mark of a good actor. But she LOOKED thinner and a bit different, which for an admirer, it kinda caught me offguard. Maybe it'll end up awarding her at the Globes or Oscars, sadly, maybe a bit makeup for previous roles she played she didn't win (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND perhaps?).


Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Rob's Top 10 of 2006

Okay people, 2006 is behind us, and with it comes the daunting task of picking my favorite 10 albums released during the year. There was a lot of great music released in 2006 and it has taken me some time to come up with my list. It has been even harder to put the ten into some particular order. Nevertheless, here is my list:

01 - Dream Theater: Score
This is without a doubt my number one pick for 2006. The album is a live retrospective of the bands 20 years together, recorded at Radio City Music Hall in 2006. Pulling from a catalogue that goes back to the band's 1986 Majesty days, there is something here for all DT fans. Of note is the 2nd set and encore which was performed live on stage with a full orchestra!

02 - Spock's Beard: Spock's Beard
Spock's Beard has got to be one of the hardest working bands in the progressive genre today. And while the band maybe aren't as "prog" as they were with Neal Morse at the helm, Nick D'Virgilio and company have explored the farthest reaches of their amazing artistic abilities on this album. Easily the most diverse disc in the bands entire catalogue.

03 - The Mars Volta: Amputechture
TMV's third studio album is a mix of the best elements of it's two successors. Taking the full out rock of 'Comatorium' and the experimental side of 'Frances', 'Amputechture' is the bands most cohesive and impressive release to date.

04 - Ben Averch: Washington State
Although he may not have a major label contract, Ben Averch has something that a lot of new and emerging major label acts don't have... talent. A multi-instrumentalist, Ben can rock out and drip emotion at the same time. There are times his music is very Rush like, and even more times when his work is very original and fresh.

05 - Frost: Milliontown
Frost is fronted by the incredible Jim Godfrey, and the debut album is the definition of "prog". Long instrumental passages, epic songs, and an array of musicians at the top of their field. Every note of the album is pure magic. Sadly, Godfrey has decided not to carry on the project past this album.

06 - Evanescence: The Open Door
The follow up to 'Fallen' is a bit more mellow than I had expected, but the band are playing great together, and Amy sounds better than she ever has. I must admit I was a bit sceptical about the album without Moody on board, but the band completely blew me out of the water.

07 - "Weird Al" Yankovic: Straight Outta Lynwood
It seems that the world forgets about "Weird Al" in between albums, however I don't think that will be the case this time around. With "White And Nerdy" Al was able to gain his highest charting single and album to date. The album contains some of Al's best parodies to date, and the original material is quite impressive as well.

08 - David Gilmour: On An Island
The new album from Pink Floyd mastermind David Gilmour is unlike anything Floyd have ever released. The tracks are emotional and the guitar playing is incredible. Then again, what else would you expect from one of the greatest guitar players of our time?

09 - Queensryche: Operation: Mindcrime II
Okay, so the plot of the album is a bit far fetched. There is no way Nikki should have ever been released from prison. If you put that fact out of your mind, this is a very fun album, with music that rivals anything the band have ever written. This is the album that should have put the 'ryche back on top.

10 - Tom Petty: Highway Companion
I have always been a sucker for Petty's voice, and here he has created an album that showcases just how great of a singer/songwriter he is. It's another mellow album (I'm noticing a pattern here), but a perfect way to end my list.

A few honorable mentions:
Tool: 10,000 Days
Sammy Hagar: Livin' It Up
Three Days Grace: One X
Muse: Black Holes and Revelations
OSI: Free
Iron Maiden: A Matter of Life and Death
Vanden Plas: Christ O
The Beatles: Love

And there you have it, YtseRob's Top 10 of 2006. Thank you for reading, and I'll see you back here next year with Rush, Dream Theater & Coheed riding very high on the list, I have no doubt in my mind of that.