My Top 10 Favorite Bands (Ranked By Me): Number 3

Today’s band didn’t invent heavy metal, but by all accounts they are the first true heavy metal band…



Our Top 10 Favorite Bands list brings us all the way to Number 3.  If you’ve missed any of the previous entries be sure to check out the links to the posts at the bottom of the page.  Today’s band didn’t invent heavy metal, but by all accounts they are the first true heavy metal band…



3. Judas Priest


Experts on the genre often argue about who invented heavy metal.  Some say Led Zeppelin, with their brash guitar riffs, thundering drums, and swaggering high pitched front man developed the blue print for glam heavy metal bands like Van Halen to follow for years to come.  Others agree it was Black Sabbath, who appealed to the darker, more sinister side of the musical spectrum that inspired the likes of Metallica and Megadeth.  While there is some discussion about who started heavy metal, there is almost no argument that Judas Priest perfected it.

Everything about Priest is metal to the core.  From the sound to the look to the attitude; it was as if you took everything metal about both Sabbath and Zeppelin and cranked it up ten fold.  If you think I’m joking, try this: go to YouTube and look up the opening track off of their 1982 masterpiece, Screaming For Vengeance.  The song is called “Electric Eye” and has an intro track titled “The Hellion.”  The way that those first notes hit you passes what I like to call the “alien test.”  If an alien were to drop down on this planet and ask what heavy metal sounds like, I’d play them those two tracks.

Here is “The Hellion/Electric Eye” for your listening pleasure…

Anyway, where was I?  Right!  Judas Priest personified the sound AND look of heavy metal that many bands copied for decades to come.  The affinity for leather and studs (which ironically stems from singer Rob Halford’s then-closeted homosexuality) inspired entire generations to adopt the look.  In the hyper masculine culture that is heavy metal, no one batted an eyelash when Halford strutted on stage in what amounted to the aftermath of a shopping spree at an S&M shop.  This, coupled with the fact that many metal purists became outraged at the “Hair Metal” movement of the 1980’s, i.e. dudes dressing up like chicks, while Priest routinely dressed in San Fran Pride Parade attire is actually mildly hysterical.  Believe me, as a huge metal fan, the humorous irony has not been lost on me.


Priest’s sound can be attributed to two distinct factors.  For one, the twin lead guitar stylings of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing were, at the time, insanely innovative.  Whatever the two guitarists were doing in the mid to late 70’s, no one sounded quite as metallic as they did.  The second factor stems from Rob Halford’s shrieking vocals.  As far as heavy metal front men, Rob Halford was and still is peerless.  Only a handful of vocalists could do what he did and still continues to do on a nightly basis.  Tipton, Downing, and Halford were partly responsible for so many heavy metal bands and fans (myself included) becoming enamored with the genre, that a 1,000 word essay on a free-to-run website only scratches the surface of my gratitude towards them.


Best Album(s) – Defenders of The Faith/Turbo (1984/1986)

By 1984, Judas Priest had 8 albums and a live LP to their name, so they could have just stopped there and would probably still have been rock and roll legends.  Luckily for my purposes, they didn’t.  Defenders of The Faith is a straightforward metal affair that houses some of Priest’s fastest material; almost like a proto-thrash record.  Songs like “Jawbreaker” and “Freewheel Burning” represent the speed and aggression seen on earlier records like Stained Class, but with an even heavier metallic finish.  The record is considered a fan favorite and is seen as the band’s finest hour.

By contrast, Priest released Turbo just two years later to (and this is putting it mildly) mixed reviews.  The use of synthesizers and a more melodic sound alienated Priest purists, as they saw the record as a sign of JP “selling out.”  I, however, could not be happier with the album.  Turbo sees Judas Priest at its most fun stage of the 80’s.  The musical landscape in 1986 was dominated by pop-metal, so Turbo was just Priest altering its sound accordingly.  Tracks like “Locked In,” “Turbo Lover,” and “Reckless” were anthemic and musically dynamic while still keeping with the aggressive undertones Priest had developed over the years.  Music is supposed to be, at the end of the day, enjoyable, and Turbo represented an ultimately lighter side of the band I couldn’t help but fall in love with.

Both of these albums are phenomenal and posses most of my favorite Judas Priest songs. They are the ultimate Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde in terms of contrasting styles within a band, but I find myself jiving equally with both.  All in all, it doesn’t get much better than mid 80’s Judas Priest.


Worst Album – Jugulator (1997)


Woof!  After Judas Priest released the critically acclaimed Painkiller in 1990, it seemed as though the boys were going to transition into the 90’s better than most of their metal brethren.  Then came the shocking news that metal legend Rob Halford was leaving and the band went on hiatus.  After finding a replacement for Halford in Tim “Ripper” Owens, Priest released Jugulator in 1997.  The album feels like Korn and Limp Bizkit snuck into the Judas Priest recording studio late one night and ever so slightly screwed with the master recordings of the songs for the upcoming record.  It’s equal parts nu-metal and groove metal and it just isn’t very good.  Oh, and that album cover really is that pixilated.  That isn’t an upload error, it actually looks like that.  I like to think some thirteen year old came up with the album title and then made the accompanying cover art on “MS Album Cover Creator 95,” but I digress.


Strongest Member- Rob Halford (Lead Vocals)


We will start with the obvious: the voice.  Rob Halford’s signature screech is quite possibly the most recognizable voice in all of heavy metal.  His range is fantastic and powerful and every word of every song leaves his mouth with purpose, swagger, and conviction.  In addition to being the voice of Judas Priest, he is also 1/3 of the writing trio on almost every single Priest song from the beginning of the band’s inception.  That alone should be enough to net him top honors on this list, but I would be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that Halford is also the creator of the metal uniform.  Leather is so synonymous with hard rock and heavy metal of the 70’s and 80’s, and all of those bands have one man to thank.  Rob Halford IS Judas Priest, and he should be celebrated accordingly.


Weakest Member – Pretty Much Any Drummer

dave holland

Halford, Tipton, and Downing wrote pretty much every song you or anyone else has ever heard by Judas Priest, and Ian Hill is a jazz-trained bass player and competent backing vocalist who is also responsible for Rob Halford joining the band.  That leaves the revolving door of drummers, Spinal Tap style, in the wake.  With the drumming on Painkiller aside, Judas Priest was never known as a band for their outstanding drumming.  It was always a solid backbone that never got in the way of the virtuoso stylings of Downing and Tipton or overshadowed Halford’s soaring vocals.  No, it was the journeyman type effort of all parties involved that lead to whomever the fifth member of Judas Priest was at the time plugging away at the sticks.  If I had to split hairs and pick a single member it would be Dave Holland (above), as he is the most well known and appears on all my favorite Priest albums being nothing more than a glorified studio musician.  Also, he was arrested in 2004 for attempted rape of an underaged high school boy with a learning disability.  Although he maintained his innocence up until his death less than a month ago, those kinds of things never truly go away.

My Top 10 Favorite Bands (Ranked by Me): Number 4

Today’s band hails from Boston and is often considered the greatest New Wave group of all time…


Our Top 10 Favorite Bands list brings us all the way to Number 4.  If you’ve missed any of the previous entries be sure to check out the links to the posts at the bottom of the page.  Today’s band hails from Boston and is often considered the greatest New Wave group of all time…


4. The Cars


In the aftermath of the explosion that was Punk Rock in the mid to late 70’s, a new genre started to take shape.  It saw the upbeat energy of punk bands like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols meet the more intricate nuances of arena/synth outfits such as Styx and REO Speedwagon to create New Wave.  Much like many of the other bands on this list, The Cars could be placed within a certain genre, in this case New Wave, but were always so much more than what met the eye.

By definition, The Cars had the punky style and synth dominant hooks it took to be considered New Wave.  However, the subject material even on some of their more “experimental” albums like Panorama never ventured into weird enough waters like The Talking Heads, for instance.  No, The Cars had the best of both worlds: cerebral enough for synth snobs to salivate, but accessible enough for the rock community at large to welcome them with open arms.  They straddled the line of “indie misfits” and “arena ready hit-makers” with glorious aplomb.

That’s not to say some of their material wasn’t eclectic.  Hell, even a vast majority of tracks off of the aforementioned Panorama, a personal favorite of mine, were really off putting and at times very skippable.  These guys were, after all, a New Wave band so it made sense that some of their tunes had to be a bit, uh, experimental.

China Olympics Beijing Water Cube Bird's Nest

The main reason I hold this group in such high regard is because of their attention to detail.  Every song had to be painstakingly crafted at an almost cellular level.  The songwriting duo of Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr could probably be considered one of the most underrated pairings in rock history.  Not only that, but their music translated very well into a live format, which is no small feat for a band whose songs had so many moving parts.  The layered synths, the subtle mixing of guitars, the vocal harmonies, it all seemed like studio magic.  Yet if you YouTube any of their live performances (which I recommend you do so) they sound so clean.  It was all of these factors coupled with the dichotomous singing relationship of Orr’s haunting vocals and Ocasek’s hiccup-y delivery that made The Cars such a dynamic (and fun) band.


Best Album(s) – Candy-O/Panorama (1979/1980)

While they don’t posses the radio-friendly grab bag of hits that albums like The Cars or Heartbeat City hold, Candy-O and Panorama more than make up for it with their punky attitude and infectious grooves.  These albums ooze swagger and are infinitely more angsty than their immediate predecessor, The Cars, but still have a significant amount of pop sheen to them.  These records toe that line so well of still being accessible enough for pop fans to find them catchy while more hard rock fans will appreciate the edge they bring.  Songs like “Dangerous Type” off of Candy-O and “Running to You” on Panorama have a lethal blend of both syncopated, distorted guitar riffs with cool synth licks and great harmonies.  Neither one is a perfect album, but together they represent, in my opinion, the apex of early 80’s synth rock.


Worst Album – Door to Door (1987)


Just three years prior to the release of Door to Door, The Cars had reached the height of popularity with their seminal 1984 synth classic, Heartbeat City.  The album was polished beyond all belief and had 6 hit singles.  It’s a personal favorite of mine and to this day I still enjoy listening to it end to end.  Apparently, members of The Cars didn’t feel the same way, because 1987’s Door to Door was a complete departure from the glossy production that rocketed them to superstardom just a few years earlier.  Door to Door isn’t a bad record by any means, but after the first 5 albums the band had created, this one feels like a huge let down.  If anything it probably showed the public at large that the group of five from Boston was on life support, creatively.  In 1988, the group disbanded and Benjamin Orr died in 2000 after a brief battle with cancer, meaning Door to Door was the last hurrah of the original Cars lineup.


Strongest Member(s) – Benjamin Orr (Bass, Vocals)/Ric Ocasek (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals)

Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr of The Cars in London November 16,1978

They were the perfect duo to front a band.  One was a blonde haired pretty boy and the other was… well whatever the hell Ric Ocasek is.  It went way beyond their looks, too.  Ocasek and Orr had the Yin/Yang thing down to an art form.  Orr crooned with an icy cool delivery, almost haunting you with his vocal styles, while Ocasek sounded very jumpy and almost robotic.  But my god, did it work!  Not only did they split duties as lead singers, but the writing process in The Cars was all but cornered by the pair.  Every single album reeks of Ocasek and Orr songwriting credits and there are rumors that Ocasek dictated what the lead guitarists’ solos sounded like down to the very note.  You can call it a bit overbearing but that nearly psychotic attention to detail is what made these two so great and yet so under-appreciated as musicians.


Weakest Member – David Robinson (Drums)


This one feels a bit unfair, as Robinson was a perfectly fine drummer in his own right, but it is hard to put anyone else in the band in this dubious position.  Ocasek and Orr co-fronted the band, Greg Hawkes was the keyboard player (which in a synth-rock/new wave band is kind of important), and Elliot Easton was somewhat of an underground (read: very underground) guitar hero.  To top it off, the drums on Heartbeat City are almost completely electronic and dubbed over, a fact that made Robinson rather irate and caused him to almost quit the band after hearing the finished product.  Mr. Robinson is not without his contributions, as he did come up with the name “The Cars” and was responsible for some of the band’s most iconic album art, including the cover of their eponymous debut (below).


My Top 10 Favorite Bands (Ranked by Me): Number 5


In the countdown of My Top 10 Favorite Bands (as ranked by me), we have made it to number 5.  If you have missed any of the last bands ranked, be sure to check out the previous posts.  Today’s band hails from Ireland and is known (however tragically so) for only one album.  Allow me to enlighten you…


5. Thin Lizzy


Often times on this blog, I like to throw around the word “underrated.”  Never has this been a more apropos judgement of a band than with Thin Lizzy.  Formed in 1969 by bassist/lead singer Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey, Thin Lizzy never got the respect they deserved, at least on an international level.  The members are considered heroes in their hometown of Dublin, but beyond the confines of the green cliffs of Ireland, Lizzy is the oft forgotten girl in glasses to many other rock cheerleaders (if you catch my analogous drift).

I’m not kidding either.  Ask anyone who consider themselves a fan of the genre to name one song by Thin Lizzy that didn’t come off of their 1976, lightning-in-a-bottle offering Jailbreak, which featured classics such as “The Boys Are Back in Town,” “Emerald,” and the title track.  I doubt the person you asked will be able to accomplish the feat.  To only ever listen to Jailbreak is to do yourself and the legacy of the band a huge disservice.  For starters, I wouldn’t even consider “Boys are Back” as one of their top 20 tunes of all time.  But I digress, the band is more than just a one-hit wonder.


The group had a smattering of “classic” Lizzy tracks as far back as their 1973 breakthrough Vagabonds of the Western World, but in my humble opinion the band didn’t achieve their signature sound of poetic/crooning hard rock until 1975’s Fighting.  It was there that Lizzy started to hone the iconic twin lead guitar playing, anchored heavily by Scott Gorham.  After 1976, Thin Lizzy released classic album after classic album, including a live LP, Live and Dangerous, that by all accounts should be considered a Top 5 live record.

My main theory as to why Thin Lizzy is considered underrated and often overlooked in the eyes of hard rock and heavy metal fans can probably be chalked up to just how ambitious they were as musicians.  Take any album after Fighting into account: every record had straightforward hard rock bangers, Irish folk songs, and acoustic ballads littered about.  Even swing appeared on some, in the case of “Dancing in the Moonlight.”  If Thin Lizzy had stuck to what they were good at, hard rock songs with dual lead guitars backing up Lynott’s charismatic vocals, they could’ve been out of this world.  But perhaps, it was this approach that made Lizzy so unique in the first place.  Who’s to say…


Best Album – None


Look, I get it.  Thin Lizzy is one of my favorite bands, but I don’t have a favorite album of theirs?  Yeah pretty much!  For the exact reasons I stated in the last paragraph, Lizzy bounced around genres so often on every album that it was nearly impossible to get into a groove on any of their records.  One minute you’d be listening to Ireland’s answer to Aerosmith or Ted Nugent, and the next you’d have to sit through 8 minutes of an Irish folk song or listen to Thin Lizzy try their hands at a country ballad.  It was all very off-putting for someone who really appreciated Lizzy’s hard rock sensibilities.  That being said, Bad Reputation, Black Rose: A Rock Legend, and Chinatown have some absolutely classic Lizzy bangers and are worth checking out.


Worst Album – Thin Lizzy (1971)


Seeing as how this is Thin Lizzy’s debut LP, it gets a pass for being wildly disjointed and boring.  It’s pretty much your standard, early 70’s blues rock affair and sounds nothing like the Thin Lizzy we all know and love.  If you were to listen to “Ray Gun” off of this album then immediately cut to “Cold Sweat” from Thunder and Lightning, you’d swear you were hearing to two different bands.  It’s fair: bands evolve!  Thin Lizzy is no exception to this rule, but along with most of the other records from the pre-Jailbreak days, I’d steer clear of this puppy.


Strongest Member – Phil Lynott (Lead Singer/Bassist)


Phil Lynott WAS Thin Lizzy.  I talked so much about the twin lead guitars in this ranker, but I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t give proper kudos to old Phil here.  Not only was he a great frontman and more than adequate bass player, he was a phenomenal songwriter.  Every single one of my favorite Lizzy tunes has Lynott being the principle writer.  His melodic sensibilities and crooning delivery made every song have both a bad boy edge and certain softness to it.  Lynott passed away due to drug use in 1986, thus ending the band’s run in its classic incarnation and proving in the process that he was indeed the driving force behind Thin Lizzy’s brilliance.


Weakest Member – Eric Bell (guitar)


I have nothing against Eric Bell.  He’s a fine guitarist and had some pretty good work on some of Thin Lizzy’s earlier songs, particularly “The Rocker,” a personal favorite of mine.  Therein lies the problem, however, as Bell was only a member of Thin Lizzy during their early years, and thus is associated with the band before they became a hard rock machine.  Things started to turn around for Lizzy, musically speaking, when they brought in guys like Gorham and Brian Robertson to do twin lead guitars.  It is by that logic alone that I must “award” Mr. Bell this spot.

4 Sides of the Same Coin: KISS Solo Albums Ranked


KISS.  Four letters, one kickass band.  If you were alive (no pun intended) in the mid to late 70’s, you know exactly who these 4 gentlemen are.  KISS were a cultural phenomenon back in the 1970’s and for a few brief years it seemed as if they were destined to ride the fame coaster for as long as the theme park was open.  A series of ill-fated career moves, however, derailed the thrill ride for the New York quartet and eventually sent 2 of the key members packing their bags by the turn of the decade.  Chief among those now head-scratching decisions were the TV movie “KISS Meets The Phantom of The Park,” the disco romp “I Was Made For Loving You,” and the toothless Peter Criss penned ballad “Beth.”

It is often argued, though, that the beginning of the end for our favorite men-in-makeup was a decision that seemed almost laughably foolproof at the time.  Let’s set the stage.  The year is 1978 and KISS is soaring to heights even bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who hadn’t achieved.  A 1977 Gallup Poll ranked KISS the number 1 band in America and few could argue.  The boys had just come off selling 4 consecutive platinum records and had just released Alive II, the live album follow-up to Alive, which started the platinum streak only a few years earlier.  Things couldn’t have been going any better, or at least that’s how it seemed to the millions of adoring fans on the outside looking in.  Unbeknownst to almost everyone removed from the inner circle of the band, cracks were starting to form both creatively and personally.


What is common knowledge today was once a closely guarded secret in 1978: KISS was imploding from the inside thanks in large part to the factions forming within.  On one side, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, two cold blooded and calculated hit makers worried about fame, fortune, and females.  Their allegiances were only to making popular songs and bedding as many women as they could get their leather clad hands on.  On the other side, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, a duo with the propensity to dabble in alcohol and cocaine, respectively, but whose creative chops were often stifled by Lords Stanley and Simmons.  And thus, the die had been cast; Criss and Frehley felt they were being tied down, musically speaking, while Simmons and Stanley believed as if they themselves were the creative forces behind the magic of KISS.

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were nothing if not shrewd and intelligent businessmen and they knew if they let Ace and Peter walk at the height of KISS’ popularity, their pocketbooks would take the brunt of the blow.  So, what’s the first thing anyone thinks to do in a failing relationship?  Hire an escort, erm, I mean compromise!


By the beginning of ’78, the 4 members of KISS each entered the studio separately to record their own “KISS” album.  The 4 records were all uniquely individual and contained (for the most part) a few hidden classics that hardcore KISS fans hold near and dear to their hearts.  Each album represented the 4 musicians’ idea of what a KISS album should sound like.  The records are certainly not created equal and today I’ll be diving into the meat of these LP’s to deliver my rankings from worst to first.  These are rather subjective rankings but I have listened to all four albums end to end and from most of the articles I’ve come across in preparation for writing this ranker, my opinions seem to be pretty congruent to theirs give or take a few observations.  So without any more exposition…


4. Peter Criss (The “Weak” One)


Remember when Rod Stewart went through that cheesy 70’s, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” phase?  Congratulations, that’s Peter Criss almost entirely.  Seriously, the album reeks of equal parts 70’s schlock and old-time rock n roll tunes that sound like Bob Seger cast-offs.  I guess there really isn’t anything wrong with that but still, this is the drummer for KISS we are talking about here, not some second rate lounge singer/disco chump.  I read the reviews for this one before listening to it and I was still shocked at how wimpy it sounded.  Just imagine the ire of a denim-clad high school stoner when he opens the shrink wrap on Christmas morning expecting a kickass American hard rock staple only to find this.


Not many, if we are being frank.  “That’s The Kind of Sugar Papa Likes,” moronic title notwithstanding, is a passable rockabilly tune but beyond that there isn’t much to get excited about.  I turned the album off about 3 tracks in and just looked up which songs got the most praise.  I know, not exactly journalistic integrity but I’m writing this on a WordPress blog, so I wasn’t about to sit through Peter Criss for free.


The entire album, as noted in the above paragraphs, has this whole “70’s R&B/Rod Stewart moonlighting as a lounge singer” feel to it.  I read somewhere that Criss was a few years older than the rest of his KISS brethren and his tastes were more 50’s doo-wop than hard rock.  If that is indeed the case, this album shows it from start to finish.  If you’re into that sort of thing, then this record isn’t necessarily bad, but from a KISS fan’s perspective it certainly doesn’t live up to the lofty expectations set by the previous albums the band released.  Whether that is a fair or unfair remains to be seen, but going into listening to this album with expectations set to “hard rock banger,” I was greatly disappointed.


3. Gene Simmons (The “Meh” One)


I listened to this album in its entirety on the ride home from work the other day and initially I was pleasantly surprised.  A good portion of the time I found myself bopping along to the tunes on Gene Simmons, which consisted of what sounded like Simmons fronting an ELO cover-band and Beatles B-team love child.  But then as soon as I exited the car, I had forgotten pretty much every song I had heard.  This is one of the most mediocre albums I’ve ever listened to.  The entire record is filled with overdone pop-rock jaunts with way too many cooks in the kitchen.  On any song you can find strings, a piano, and perhaps even a B-list Hollywood celebrity (seriously, Katie Sagal from Married With Children does backing vocals for a track on this LP).  It’s a passable album and I made it all the way through without having to shut it off (a feat I can’t claim with the lowest album on this list) but it isn’t what I was expecting from The God of Thunder himself.


The album, as a whole, is a very average 70’s rock affair, and that isn’t a bad thing, per say.  “Radioactive” is a great opening track, copycat chorus aside (no kidding, this song sounds a near lawsuit level of similar to “Plaster Caster” from KISS’ Love Gun and if it wasn’t for the fact that Gene was one of the writers on that song, I think a court case could be made).  “Tunnel of Love” and “See You In Your Dreams” are both deliciously 70’s rock in all the right ways as well.  There may not be any super memorable tracks off this LP but it gets the job done as a “listenable” effort from Mr. Simmons.


And therein lies the problem: the album is “listenable” but not very memorable.  I honestly had to revisit the record while writing just to pick out my highlights and lowlights, and I had just recently heard the album a short time before.  “Living in Sin” has about as laughable an intro as you can imagine, with Simmons giving a breathy soliloquy containing gems like “I know you write my sexy letters” in a low growl.  The song isn’t great enough to make up for such a transgression.  And I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room… “When You Wish Upon A Star” appears on this thing.  Yeah, the Disney song!  It sounds just as awkward coming from Mr. Conquerer of 1,000 Women as you’d imagine and the album ends with that dud resonating throughout your eardrums.  All in all, Gene Simmons is a messy effort that holds up decently but don’t go diving through bargain bins expecting a gem.


2. Paul Stanley (The “Safe” One)


Let me just start off by saying this is a really good album.  I’ll stop just short of great, but Paul Stanley is a fun power-pop effort that Stanley swaggers about on from track to track.  You can tell he really had fun being the man in charge as every song is about no-strings-attached sex and cheap thrills, exactly what you’d expect from the androgynous ladies man.  The Star Child explores his writing prowess and although there are no standouts save for “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me” and “Tonight You Belong To Me,” the album is fun and engaging.  The only reason I refer to it as “safe” is that it sounds almost too much like a KISS album, both to its benefit and detriment.


Stanley’s love for power-pop and hooky songwriting takes center stage on quite a number of tracks on this LP, but specifically “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me.”  This song is energetic and anthemic from start to finish and it just sounds like it was a blast to write and record.  “Tonight You Belong To Me” is another wonderful frolic through power-pop town, complete with acoustic guitars gracing the intro before blasting into a full blown rocker, a la “Black Diamond.”  Fun is a word that gets thrown around often when describing Paul Stanley and it is justified, as this record offers plenty of entertaining moments throughout.


The album has an almost “routine” feel to it in certain parts, thanks to the preceding KISS records Stanley was a huge part of making.  Paul Stanley’s solo effort has KISS elements to it, which isn’t always a bad thing, but more often than not the album feels like it’s been done before.  I love KISS and I love Paul Stanley, but his solo album drags in certain parts and sometimes feels too “KISS-y” for its own good.  Don’t let that discourage you from giving this record a listen, but don’t expect to be floored from the needle drop all the way to the grooves on the B-side.



1. Ace Frehley (The “Holy *%@#” One)


Thank GOD for the Space Ace!  Where the other 3 albums felt too much or too little like KISS, this mad scientist of a songwriter found the happy valley between the two extremes.  Almost every track on this record is unique and entertaining without straying too far from the KISS secret formula: loud, ballsy guitar riffs? Check!  Entertaining albeit nonsensical lyrics? Check plus!  Detached yet endearing delivery from a coked up, surprisingly swaggering front man?  Big check there!  Ace Frehley brings the heat on his solo album and it was here that he solidified himself as my favorite (and many other’s favorite) member of KISS.


Ace starts things off with a bang, as “Rip It Out” is both sneakily heavy and surprisingly anthemic.  Other stalwarts like “Speeding Back To My Baby” and “Snowblind” have us questioning why Ace wasn’t given more creative control in the early days of KISS.  One of the true beauties of this effort is also one of the most simple tracks on the LP, Frehley’s romping rendition of “New York Groove,” a cover tune originally written by glam outfit Hello.  It captures Ace at his finest, an aloof yet dangerously potent rocker, and actually almost makes me want to visit a city I despise.  Frehley rips through each of these tracks like a man with something to prove, and we the listeners are all the beneficiaries.  Listen to this album however you can, because it can easily be considered one of the greatest KISS records ever produced, regardless of whether the rest of the band was behind Space Ace or not.


One word: “Ozone.”  It just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the tracks on the album and is missing the requisite energy and hunger of songs like “Rip It Out,” where you can feel Ace oozing confidence and unbridled stamina (possibly with cocaine involved too).  This really is the lone black mark on an otherwise magnificent hard rock banger from Ace Frehley.  This is without a doubt the clear winner of the 4 solo albums and as I stated in the previous paragraph, is my favorite KISS record along with Love Gun.  

Kiss Portrait


My Top 10 Favorite Bands (Ranked by Me): Number 6


Our Top 10 Favorite Bands list has brought us to number 6.  If you missed any of the previous bands, be sure to check out the links to the rankings at the bottom of the page.  Today’s band didn’t invent the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but they damn sure perfected it…


6. Iron Maiden


Here’s a fun exercise: close your eyes and think of the words “heavy metal.”  Now open them.  Chances are you thought of Metallica, maybe Priest or Sabbath, but certainly Iron Maiden.  There are a handful of bands that have now become synonymous with the term “heavy metal” and Maiden is definitely one of them.

When the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was being formed by young and hungry bands in England in the late 70’s, many of them fizzled out after the trend started to die down only a few short years later.  There were two key bands with markedly different sounds that would end up surviving the trend’s chopping block.  One of those was Def Leppard (more on them in a later entry) and the other was Maiden.

Maiden’s sound can best be summed up by Anthrax guitar player Scott Ian as “[Judas] Priest but eviler.”  Their first two albums with original singer Paul Di’anno are as sinister sounding as it gets with a touch of prog rock; it was as if Yes started wearing leather jackets and practicing Satanism.  After Di’anno was booted, the band went from evil prog rock outfit to arena ready giants with former Samson frontman Bruce Dickinson at the helm.  Maiden had a string of albums with Dickinson that rocketed the band to superstardom and are considered classics by any metal fan.

What separates Maiden from the rest of it’s metal brethren is their eagerness to be creative and different without alienating their core fanbase.  You never hear Maiden fans complaining about the group selling out like you do from, say, Metallica or Def Leppard fans.  Iron Maiden have been around for almost 40 years and their fans are still as loyal as ever, and part of that is owed to how genuine the band has remained.  You would be hard pressed to find a metal fan who isn’t a huge Maiden fan, and for how expansive the genre of Heavy Metal is, that says a lot about these 5 lads from London

Best Album – Powerslave (1984)


In all honesty, this was a nearly three way tie between Maiden’s 1984 masterpiece, 1981’s Killers, and Number of the Beast.  It is Powerslave, however, that delivers on every single track from dropping the needle on “Aces High” to the record rut after “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  There are very few albums that, in their entirety, capture a group at the height of their creative genius, but Powerslave gives listeners a chance to hear Iron Maiden firing on all cylinders.  Dickinson had already been with the quintet for two albums, and the band’s “classic” lineup was in place for years prior.  What you get as a finished product is, in my opinion , one of the greatest side-to-side metal albums in music history.  Every song has purpose and there is absolutely zero filler here.  If you consider yourself a fan of metal and haven’t checked this one out, do it!

Worst Album – The X Factor (1995)

Iron Maiden X Factor Promo Flat

What happens when one of the most iconic singers in rock history leaves the band that made him famous?  Well you get this album, of course.  The songs on The X Factor aren’t particularly terrible, but they sound too much like someone trying to be Iron Maiden.  When comparing this one to the classics of the 80’s, it shrivels in their presence.  It seems like an unfair comparison, but someone had to occupy this spot and it goes to this 1995 disappointment.  Give it a listen if you feel I’m being unfair, but I’ll stand by this verdict until proven otherwise.

Strongest Member – Steve Harris (Bass/Vocals)


The captain of the S.S. Maiden, Steve Harris is one of the most revered members of the heavy metal family.  You will routinely see him popping up on lists of best bass players of all time but what really distinguishes him from other purveyors of 4-stringed bad-assery is his deft songwriting ability.  A quick check of any Iron Maiden LP will net you plenty of S. Harris writing credits as well as some producing to boot.  Harris was also one of the founding members of Maiden and is the only member to appear on EVERY album (and boy have there been a lot)!  Through longevity alone, Stevie boy easily claims this spot as his own.

Weakest Member – Blaze Bayley (Vocals)


I don’t really have too much to say about old Blaze here, other than that he was the weakest member on Maiden’s weakest album.  That alone lands him on this not-so-coveted platform and it wasn’t a particularly hard choice either.  Bayley is a fine vocalist but he’s to Maiden what Gary Cherone is to Van Halen: a talented singer who just wasn’t right for the job.



My Top 10 Favorite Bands (Ranked by Me): Number 7


Our Top 10 Favorite Bands countdown has brought us to Number 7.  If you’ve missed any of the previous bands on this list, be sure to check out those posts.  Today’s band took the first wave of British Punk and turned it completely on its head…


7. The Clash


The year was 1976.  Political unrest in both England and The States was at an all time high, disco was king, and heavy metal godfathers like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Kiss were selling out fewer and fewer arenas by the day.  Around the same time, an anti-movement was taking place in the U.K. and, to a lesser extent, New York City.  Punk was the result of a disenfranchised youth getting fed up with conservative politics and “dinosaur rock.”  Bands like The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Buzzcocks took pride in deconstructing rock and synthesizing it down to its basic form: three chords and indiscernible lyrics set to a hyper active beat.  It was completely different from anything being released at the time, and the young freaks with the bleached hair and clothes pins shoved through their orifices ate it up.

The Clash released their self titled debut album in 1977 and while it sounded very loud and abrasive like most punk records of the day, the musicianship and writing was in a completely different stratosphere than the other outfits around at the time.  Things only got more progressive after the next series of albums.  The Clash dabbled in almost every conceivable genre of music during the height of their popularity, so to pigeonhole them as a “punk rock” band was to do a great disservice to the English foursome.  They were basically punk’s answer to The Beatles.

That may be where my lone criticism with The Clash lies.  While their musical versatility really separated the band from their punk peers, it was what made large amounts of their albums skippable.  Between rockabilly, ska, ballroom, blues, and others, The Clash tried their hands in everything and it made for multiple disjointed records.  However, when The Clash were on, they really earned their moniker of “The Only Band That Matters.”

Best Album – London Calling (1979)


In the time of vinyl, releasing a 19 song LP was unheard of, but that’s exactly what London Calling is.  From the iconic album art to the eclectic spectrum of tunes, London Calling felt like an instant classic pretty much from the needle drop.  The album had radio hits in “Train in Vain” and the title track, but the real gems from this record are the deep cuts.  Songs like “Death or Glory,” “Spanish Bombs,” “Guns of Brixton,” and “Revolution Rock” have all become staples in every Clash fan’s rotation and they all represent different sides of the band.  Above I mentioned how The Clash would often times mix too many genres into one overblown cocktail of music, and while that is sometimes the case on this album, it works way more often than it doesn’t.  London Calling has become a sort of punk rock Bible, which is a tad ironic seeing as how very few songs on the record could be classified as straight up punk.  This is the album that transformed The Clash from punks to true professionals.

Weakest Album – Cut The Crap (1985)



By 1985, the wheels started to fall off the well oiled machine that was The Clash.  Guitarist, co-lead singer and principle songwriter Mick Jones was fired, and his shoes proved to be too large to fill.  Cut The Crap was a disjointed effort that saw The Clash slowly start to unravel before our very eyes.  What was once a cohesive unit of brothers was now a shell of its former self and the album sold accordingly, that is to say it didn’t sell much at all.  Cut The Crap was The Clash’s last album as a unit, marking an end to one of the most influential groups of the 20th century in popular music.

Strongest Member – Mick Jones (Guitar/Vocals)


He sang, he played guitar, he wrote, and he even cofounded the band.  Mick Jones was inarguably the driving force behind many of The Clash’s best work.  Every band has a principle songwriter and Jones was just that.  Much like Cliff Burton of Metallica, it became quite apparent just how much Jones meant to The Clash after he was fired from the band (see Cut The Crap above).  Check the liner notes of any Clash album from 1977 to 1982 and you will see Mick Jones’ name present on almost every tune.  The man was a creative genius even after The Clash, touring with The Gorillaz and forming Big Audio Dynamite.  It takes a lot of talent to be the leader of a band routinely referred to as one of the most influential in rock history, and Jones is proof of that.

Weakest Member – Paul Simonon (Bass/Vocals)


Saying someone is the weakest member of The Clash is a lot like saying they’re the ugliest  of all the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models, so bare with me.  Paul Simonon didn’t have the chops that drummer Topper Headon had, nor was he the creative tour de force like Jones or Joe Strummer, so he takes this spot only by virtue of being stuck with three insanely talented musical visionaries.  That’s not to say Simonon didn’t have his moments.  He wrote a couple of fan favorites, including “Guns of Brixton” which he also sang on, and he was the cover boy for the now iconic London Calling album art.  Paul Simonon may be the weakest member of “The Only Band That Matters,” but that in and of itself is still something to be immensely proud of.

My Top 10 Favorite Bands (Ranked by Me): Number 8


In the countdown of My Top 10 Favorite Bands (as ranked by me), we have made it to number 8.  If you have missed any of the last bands ranked, be sure to check out the previous posts.  Today’s band sees us make a return to the thrash genre, with a group whose DNA is forever shared with the number 9 band on this list…


8. Megadeth

Megadeth Portrait

Megadeth lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine, whether he likes it or not, will always be linked to Metallica, so it’s only fitting that he and his crew come in one spot ahead of the thrash quartet Mustaine was once a part of.  Similarly to Metallica, however, my love for Megadeth comes from a very specific time slot of their existence, particularly from 1985 to 1992.

One of the biggest detriments against Megadeth comes in the form of the revolving door of musicians Mustaine chose to surround himself and bassist David Ellefson with.  It was kind of hard to get a handle on the persona of the band with so many lineup changes, and I always preferred the original lineup of Mustaine, Ellefson, Gar Samuelson on drums, and Chris Poland on the opposite lead guitar (pictured above).

While they lacked continuity in the lineup department, they had it in terms of song structure and composition, mostly because Ellefson and Mustaine were the principle writers.  The albums showed growth between releases but never strayed too far from the formula, something I really appreciated.

I hate to keep comparing Megadeth to Metallica, so allow me to once more compare Megadeth to Metallica.  What separates one from the other is how much more fun Megadeth is to listen to.  Much like when David Lee Roth formed a “spite band” after being ousted from Van Halen, Mustaine did the same.  That is to say both Roth and Mustaine surrounded themselves with infinitely better musicians than their previous outfits boasted (Eddie Van Halen and Cliff Burton notwithstanding).  The musicianship in Megadeth, even on the early albums, incorporated time signatures and modes far beyond the realm of Metallica’s limited spectrum, even in their prime.  These are the things that separate the number 9’s from the number 8’s.

Best Album – Rust in Peace (1990)


It was a near dead heat between this and 1986’s Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying, as both albums offer the absolute finest Megadeth has to offer.  Every song on this album is perfectly crafted from start to finish, as Rust in Peace is a master class in thrash metal songwriting.  The changing modes and time signatures make sure that every listen to this record feels like the first time.  Hell, I still get excited every time I hear the opening riff to “Hangar 18.”  If Master of Puppets is the Old Testament of thrash, consider Rust in Peace its New Testament counterpart.

Worst Album – Risk (1999)


Risk. As in “if they thought putting all of these songs on an album was a good idea, that certainly was a risk!” HEY-O!  I’ll be here all week.  But seriously, folks, the 90’s were a weird time for a lot of bands who saw their heyday in the previous decades.  Mustaine and Megadeth were actually one of the few outfits whose popularity not only stayed afloat in the 90’s, it thrived.  The end of the decade, however, gave us Risk, an album that was a bit errr progressive and different.  Fans and critics weren’t really in the mood for different though, as Mustaine’s choice of softer melodies didn’t mesh well with the public.  Looking back, Risk has aged slightly better than originally thought, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to classic Megadeth.

Strongest Member – Dave Mustaine (Lead Singer/Guitar)


Was there ever any doubt?  The strawberry haired mad scientist known as Dave Mustaine was and is the driving force in one of the most popular thrash bands in the history of the genre.  You could talk about his keen ear for music or his wizardry on the frets of his guitar, but what puts Mustaine head and shoulders above his peers and bandmates is his aggressive, almost violent desire to be better than his former band, Metallica.  Even when Megadeth was at the height of popularity, Mustaine found himself depressed at the fact that he could never catch Metallica.  This militant need for perfection is what makes Mustaine one of the most underrated musicians of his era; a true genius at his craft.

Weakest Member – Dave Mustaine (Lead Singer/Guitar)


Whoa, plot twist alert!  For everything amazing Mustaine did for Megadeth, it was his ego and paranoia (read: drug use) that at times almost caused the thrash outfit to unravel.  Whether it be his constant firing of members not named David or his creative choices after the early 90’s, Mustaine represented a sort of Hindu Shiva for the band: one hand creates while the other destroys.  Megadeth is clearly one of my favorite bands and Mustaine is a huge reason for this, but part of me feels that if he had just checked himself at times, Megadeth could have been even better than they already were.