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Rock Music Star - "Top 10 Rock releases of 2014"  

1. Sister Sin - "Black Lotus" - Taking the number one slot of 2014 is Sister Sin with "Black Lotus."  The fact that a band so early in their career can deliver earth shattering metal of this magnitude is simply astounding.  Even within their Euro-metal style, they show the ability to be diverse on "Black Lotus" with killer tracks like the acoustic driven, "The Jinx."  While each of our "Top 10" have great songs and other musical merits, this 'rookie' band amongst it's group of 'veterans' are taking the torch of metal by demand, proving that they are the front runners of the future of this genre.

2. Body Count -"Manslaughter"-  Ice T shocked the metal community in 2014 with the return of Body Count by releasing the best album of their career with "Manslaughter."  Whether it's their remake of Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized" or the advance single, "Talk Shit, Get Shot" this album is real deal metal and Ice-T's vocal delivery is beyond words.  A beginning to end master piece that came completely from left field in 2014.

3. Sebastian Bach - "Give Em Hell"- One of the biggest singers from the 80's that seems to have a love/hate relationship with the metal community, and at times, his own fan base, continues to prove to his critics that he can still deliver the goods.  "Give 'Em Hell" is the perfect example of taking a classic hard rock approach and adding nu-school metal production values, giving the listener a solid body of work and something really enjoyable and 'new' to listen to.  While there are a few clunkers on "Give 'Em Hell," the ones that rock, REALLY kick ass.  Steve Stevens guitar playing on "Gun To a Knife Fight" is the worthy of the number 3 spot alone.

4. Slash - "World On Fire"-  Finding a comfort zone between a current hard rock sound and the Guns N Roses type riffage, which attained the guitar icon the legendary status which he possesses, Slash and his Conspirators have truly set the "World on Fire" with it's 2014 release.  Again, demonstrating a real 'band feel' on this album, "Word on Fire" is not a record the average listener can digest in a single listening, as this 17 song opus clocks in at just over 77 minutes of music.  The amount of classic sounding GNR type licks are unreal and his soloing is as about as perfect as you can get from Slash.

5. Sixx:A.M. - "Modern Vintage"-  Motley Crue mastermind Nikki Sixx's side-project, Sixx:A.M., which oddly enough was never intended to be a 'band,' shows growth once again, as this rising phoenix continues to spread it's wings and shows it's musical expansion on their 3rd full length release, "Modern Vintage."  Although, the band has moved away from some of their signature musical stylings, the core has been left intact, which is great song writing by Sixx, vocalist James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba, which there is plenty of on "Modern Vintage."

6. Overkill - "White Devil Armory"- Another band that refuses to sell out or alter it's sound, are the New Jersey kings of Thrash Metal, Overkill.  Releasing perhaps the best and most consistent album since 1996's "Killing Kind" CD, "White Devil Armory" is the most convincing, old school sounding metal album I've heard in years.  Songs like "Bitter Pill" are pure riffing genius and the Metallica influenced "Where's there's Smoke" sounds like it could have come right off of "Master of Puppets."

7. Accept - "Blind Rage" - Since the reformation of Accept in 2009 by original members, Wolf Hoffmann and Peter Baltes, this band can do no wrong. This is Accept's third release with vocalist, Mark Tornillo, and they just keep getting better and better with each record. Brutally intense riffs with screaming banshee vocals are mixed together, resulting in an anthematic metal masterpiece.

8. Dave Constantino Band - "Touch"- Buffalo, NY music legend, Dave Constantino, triumphantly returns with his second solo release. 'Touch' is a ten-song, blues-rock masterpiece, with incredible musicianship that features well-crafted, late-night bar room rockers, fueled by a unique and uncompromising nasty guitar tone that would warrant the attention and admiration of any guitar-loving fan. This is a release that deserves to be heard over and over again.

9. Red Dragon Cartel - "Red Dragon Cartel"- After decades in obscurity, ex Ozzy/Badlands guitarist, Jake E. Lee, returns with an ambitious new band. But, its Lee's amazing guitar that is still the focal point on this diverse and impressive release. Interestingly, Lee utilizes five guest vocalists, which include Robin Zander, Maria Brinks, Paul Di'Anno, in addition to full time singer-Darren Smith. The first single, "Feeder," which features Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), has a bit of a modern edge, and was well received. However, songs like the riff-heavy, Black Sabbath-influenced, "War Machine," are the style of songs that fans of Jake E. Lee desire the most.

10.Tesla - "Simplicity"- Jeff Keith and the boys are like a late 80's version of AC/DC.  Never straying from their signature sound, and in 2014, they released another album of the signature Tesla brand of 'straight ahead rock and roll.'  While some of their recent releases have been better than others, "Simplicity" definitely falls into the "better" category.  While "Simplicity" didn't deliver another "Modern Day Cowboy" or a "Little Suzi," this release is solid from beginning to end and rightly deserves to be part of our "Top 10" for 2014.


Roxie 77 - "Ameriswede" EP 

By John Jeffrey
Take some 90's power pop, mix it with some 70's garage rock, and sprinkle in some 50's do-wop, and you'll have a pretty close recipe to Roxie 77's "Ameriswede" EP.  Ryan Roxie has been at the helm of the number one guitar slot in Alice Cooper's solo band for the better part of the past 20 years, and has figured out what Kane Roberts, Vinnie Moore, Al Pitrelli and a slew of other guitar shredders could not.  Being the lead guitar player in Alice Cooper's band is not about cramming as many notes as possible into eight bars of a classic Cooper track or figuring out what the mode of the month is, but it's about being authentic and playing for the song, which is exactly what Ryan Roxie does on the "Ameriswede" EP.
While the material on Roxie 77's follow up to their 2009 release, "Two Sides To Every Story," is definitely guitar driven, it's certainly not shredder fodder and Ryan knows exactly where to throw in tasteful leads where it counts.  And any guitar lover will appreciate Roxie's homage to Judas Priest's "Turbo Lover" guitar solo in the standout track, "The Solution."
The "Ameriswede" EP features 6 new songs from Roxie & Co, with 2 different mixes of each song. This release was pressed exclusively on vinyl, but when you buy the vinyl, you receive a digital download and a CD copy. Although the band originally formed in 2002, when Ryan moved to Sweden in 2006, he assembled the current lineup, which features Anton Korberg (drums), Magnus Wikstrom (Bass) and Eric Rydman (guitar/saxophone/keyboards).
At an Alice Cooper concert in 2013, Bellyache Records owner and Alice Cooper fanatic Scotty Hagen approached Roxie about the possibility of releasing a two-track 7” single on the label.  The project eventually blossomed into what has become "Ameriswede."  The EP features an “American” side mixed by fellow Alice Cooper guitarist Tommy Henriksen, and a “Swedish” side mixed by producer Jon Bordon.
The "American" side has a much more polished sound and the "Swedish" mixes of the songs have a much more raw sound, with an almost live/demo type quality to them.  Although the arrangements for both versions are pretty similar, I think prefer the mix of the "American" side.  Although, I do like the guitar tone more on the "Swedish" mix and the fact that Ryan went with an electric guitar on the "Swedish" version of "Anna" as opposed to the much too clean acoustic on the "American" counterpart.
With Roxie again on the road with Alice Cooper, continuing as the supporting act for Motley Crue’s farewell tour, fans have the opportunity to interact with Ryan as part of Roxie’s International Rock & Roll Parking Lot, his nightly pre-show meet-and-greet, where you can get your copy of the "Ameriswede" release directly from him or if you can't make it to one of the shows, you can order the vinyl (w/CD copy & digital download) directly from


Beasto Blanco‏ - "Live Fast, Die Loud"

by John Jeffrey
When speaking with one of the greatest drummers in rock and roll about the creative aspect of music - specifically regarding song writing - I learned that at times, there can be a tendency to wear your musical influences on your sleeve.  KISS drummer Eric Singer could not have been more right when it comes to his former Alice Cooper band mate, Chuck Garric, and his new band, Beasto Blanco.
When listening to Beasto Blanco's debut CD, "Live Fast, Die Loud" (Rat Pak Records), at first glance, some may easily dismiss Beasto Blanco as a Rob Zombie wanna-be, but when you peel away the layers and get to what this band is really about, you will discover "Live Fast, Die Loud" is really a beast(o) all of it's own.  While the White Zombie, Motorhead and post-2000 era Alice Cooper influences are all clearly audible, the strength of Beasto Blanco lies within the songs, as the assortment of tracks on "Live Fast, Die Loud" is one of the most consistent and cohesive records to come out in a long time.  This is due in large part to the excellent production work by Tommy Henrikson.  Henrikson created a strong, in your face sound, without over thinking things, and giving each song straight forward arrangements that don't sound pro-tooled to death, like a lot of other producers tend to do these days.
Garric tapped Cooper band mate Glen Sobel to lay down the drum tracks for the first three songs recorded for the "Live Fast, Die Loud" CD, which were "Freak," "Live Fast, Die Loud" and "Breakdown," which really set the tone for the rest of the album.  In addition to Sobel, the remaining drum trucks were provided by Tim Husung & Jonathan Mover.  The remaining cast of "Live Fast, Die Loud" features Jan Lebron (bass), Chris Latham (lead guitar), Tiffany Lowe (synth), Mr. Beasto Blanco himself - Chuck Garric (guitar/lead vocals) and Calico Cooper (backing and lead vocals during the breakdown of the song, "Live Fast, Die Loud").  Calico did a great job matching Chuck's intensity on this record, as her maniacal, twisted counterpoint backing vocals do a great job offsetting the testosterone driven guttural growls provided by Garric.
What really puts Beasto Blanco a step above most bands of their genre is the fact that they can pull off the sound of what they created on this record in a live setting.  In order to recreate all of the layering and synth sounds, most acts would require the use of pre-recorded backing tracks and canned vocals, but judging from what I've seen online of their recent performances, Beasto Blanco pulls it all off live, without any 'audio augmentation.'  Beasto Blanco is the real deal, and "Live Fast, Die Loud" is an album every rock music fan should own.


Ace Frehley - "Space Invader"

By John Jeffrey
Being a lifelong KISS fan is an easy thing to say, but when reviewing a KISS or KISS-related product, sometimes it's hard not to be bias or to be as objective as you should be.  And when Ace Frehley is your number one influence and inspiration as a guitar player, it's even harder to admit that one of your heroes just released a new CD that just doesn't cut the mustard.
Although Ace Frehley's "Space Invader" lands this week, I've had a review copy for some time, and I've given it many listens, hoping that the material would grow on me.  For me, an Ace Frehley song (whether on a KISS album or one of his solo albums) usually has an instantaneous appeal that sucks you in from either a great opening riff (ie: "Rocket Ride"), a catchy chorus ("Talk To Me") or one of his signature guitar solos that you can hum along to ("Shock Me").  Perhaps the only thing I didn't like about Ace's last solo effort (2009's "Anomaly") was the fact that instead of going into the studio with pre-written lead guitar solo ideas (which he had always done throughout his career - in KISS and solo), he played everything 'off the cuff,' which in my opinion, the end result wasn't as great as it could of been.  But most of the songs on "Anomaly" do have that immediate "Ace" recognition to them, making "Anomaly" a very solid release.  However, between the lack of quality songs and the inconsistent production values, "Space Invader" doesn't seem to have that same appeal as "Anomaly" and I don't think it will be a disc that I'll be keeping in heavy rotation.
In an attempt to stay positive about "Space Invader," considering the album is also being released on vinyl, I'm going to further review it 'old school,' breaking it down by "Side 1" and "Side 2."  Side 1 begins with the title track, a mid-tempo track with Ace doing kind of a melancholy 'spoken word' vocal approach, going into a drone-y chorus, which could have easily been the theme song for a cheesy 80's sci-fi flick.  Not a great opening track.  While some have compared the "Space Invader" CD to Ace's 1978 KISS solo album, I really don't hear any connection other than the fact that the guitar solo section of the song "Space Invader" goes into double time, like the solo in "Snowblind."  That's it!  Next up is the DOA first single, "Gimme A Feelin'" which has a cool vibe, but not very memorable.  The remainder of the first side is somewhat interesting, as I picked up on Ace recycling parts of some older Frehley's Comet era songs/demos.  The pre-chorus of "I Wanna Hold You" is almost the identical melody lifted from the demo, "Back Into My Arms," and the song "Change" (probably the best song from "Side 1") sounds almost like a complete re-write of the song "Take Me to the City" (a bonus track released on the 1996 Ace Frehley tribute CD, "Spacewalk").
Side 2 of "Space Invader" is much more enjoyable to me, as songs like "Inside The Vortex" and "What Every Girl Wants" achieve what Ace failed to attain earlier in the disc with "Gimme A Feelin'" and "Toys," which almost seem like brother/sister songs to the aforementioned tracks.  The two biggest letdowns on "Side 2" are the songs "Reckless" and the cover of Steve Miller's "The Joker."  "Reckless" had the potential to be the best song on the whole record, as the verses are simply phenomenal - classic Ace - and then goes to this oddball chorus that really reverts the song to mediocre status, which is unfortunately what most of what "Space Invader" amounts to.  While Ace covering "The Joker" may have looked good on paper - with the whole 'Space Cowboy' line and all - the end result sounds like Ace doing a karaoke version of the song.  The saving grace of the 'flip side' of "Space Invader" is definitely the epic "Past the Milky Way."  On the surface, the song is simply the combination of the bridge of Elo's "Do Ya" (which Ace covered on 1989's "Trouble Walkin'") and Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," with Ace pledging his love to current girlfriend, Rachael Gordon (who's credited for 2 co-writes on the album), the song simply oozes that quirky likability, which the reason why so many people love this guy.  Ace's soloing on this song is the most inspired playing you will find on "Space Invader."  Although the whole "Spaceman" theme seems somewhat overdone on the disc, more songs like "Past the Milky Way" would have done this body of work some good.
In closing, while the marquee states "Ace Frehley," perhaps the absence of key quality control members like former bassist Anthony Esposito and drummer Anton Fig (both who were huge contributors on "Anomaly") really hurt this sequel of sorts.  Perhaps instead of getting caught up in Ace "being more KISS than KISS" he should have concentrated more on "Ace outdoing Ace," as the 'Space Invader' failed in this mission.


Red Dragon Cartel - "Red Dragon Cartel"

By John Jeffrey

Red Dragon Cartel is the long awaited release from former Badlands/Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee.  Coaxed out of retirement by longtime friend Ronnie Mancuso, a noted session guitarist/bassist, composer and producer for Beggars & Thieves, Mancuso was sharing a studio space, “The Hideout,” (in Las Vegas) with super hot producer, engineer and mixer Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne, Five Finger Death Punch, Rob Zombie, Hinder, In This Moment).  Ronnie and Kevin started talking with Jake, then slowly, Ronnie and Jake along with Kevin’s son Kane (co-writer of Five Finger Death Punch’s “Remember Everything”, In This Moments “Blood” and many others) started writing songs under Kevin’s supervision, based on literally hundreds of great licks Jake had stored up from his years in seclusion.

The end result is sort of a mishmash of classic Jake E. Lee style blues-y metal guitar riffing mixed with current metal sounds courtesy of the Churko father/son team.  The "Red Dragon Cartel" CD suffers from the double edged sword of having too many guest musicians appearing on it.  On one hand, it's cool to hear Jake collaborate with these different artists, with the end result being a diverse sounding record.  But with there being so many different musicians on it (especially in the vocal and drum department), you really don't know what the core Red Dragon Cartel lineup truly sounds like.  For example, although the press release states "the majority of tracks" were "recorded with the new permanent members (of) Red Dragon Cartel," RockMusicStar was informed by drummer Brent Fitz that he recorded the drum parts for "5 or 6" of the 9 songs which have percussion (track 10 is an all piano instrumental titled, "Exquisite Tenderness"), and 4 of the 9 songs (which feature vocals) have guest singers on them as well - which is almost half of the album.

Truthfully, it took me a few listens to determine if I actually liked the album or not, and after digesting the whole thing on the third or fourth listen, I actually started to 'get it.'  While the opening track (and lead off single/video), "Deceived," gives you the best impression of what RDC is all about, I actually preferred the songs with the female guest vocalists ("Big Mouth" sung by In This Moment's Maria Brink and "Redeem Me" sung by Sass Jordan) and the song "Wasted" featuring former Iron Maiden front man, Paul Di'Anno, over the songs sung by RDC's lead singer D.J Smith, and consider those to be the best on the disc.

Unfortunately, Smith is not a strong enough singer to front the Lee's Cartel, and came as no surprise that he is actually a drummer by trade, not a lead singer.  As great as Jake E. Lee's guitar lead guitar playing is, and with the songs themselves being solid, having the guest vocalists like Cheap Trick's Robin Zander (on the song "Feeder") really save the CD from being a big time "fail."

Although "Red Dragon Cartel" is being pushed as a 'band record,' I really feel like it's more of a 'solo album' from Jake E. Lee, as it really lacks the cohesive nature of what a 'band record' should be.  I feel if the listener thinks of the record as an experimental musical solo journey be Lee, they will find it much more palatable if viewed and listened to in that regard.