Let’s talk Batman

A couple of Friends on Facebook have been in a discussion, on one of my threads, about Batman. It seems one really likes the Nolan pictures featuring Bale and the other thought Affleck was a bad choice. Here is my take, coming from a person who has read Batman comics, watched almost everything filmed or televised offering related to the Dark Knight, on and off, since I was about 9 years old. The one and only Batman, to me, will always be Kevin Conroy [Batman: The Animated Series] with Jason O’Mara [DC Animated Universe] coming in a close second. Batman: The Animated Series, along with Conroy, is the reason we have the Batman mythos we have today… good or bad. Batman’s voice VS Bruce Wayne’s voice, The “No Killing / No Guns” rule [even though Michael Keaton’s Batman has 50 caliber machine guns on the Bat-Wing], and of course Mark Hamill’s take on the Joker. The DC animated films and television shows tend to be much, MUCH better than the Live-Action movies. Now, onto the discussion …

Ben Affleck’s Batman is the best on screen Batman we have been given. Better than Bale, Keaton, definitely Clooney, and, until Affleck, my personal favorite Val Kilmer [a great Batman in an awful movie]. I say that being a fan of Ben Affleck the Actor, Writer, & Director, at the same time loathing Ben Affleck the person. His portrayal of the Dark Knight is a perfect amalgamation of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” Dystopian retiree and Denny O’Neil’s Batman from which Christopher Nolan [along with writer David S. Goyer] took so much influence for his “Dark Knight” trilogy. Affleck’s Batman is brooding, violent, vengeful, angry, willing to kill the vilest amongst us knowing that if he lets them live, he is just as responsible as the criminal for the lives that will be lost in the future. He is utterly charming as Bruce Wayne, whilst at the same time being attentive and aware as the Brilliant Detective we have loved since his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, in which he wore a sidearm, and dealt with Criminal thugs, Uncaring Landlords & Petty Immigrant Housing Owners in a decidedly brutal fashion. Affleck sums up the Batman I fell in love with in the 90’s. The one who took on the Genius Manipulations of Bane, fought with and against, The Avenging Angel of the Order of St. Dumas… Azreal, Dealt with the sinister machinations of Doctor Hugo Strange, all the while having to deal with one of the Deadliest and well known Rouge’s Gallery in the Comic Book Universe [DC or Marvel].

The DCEU films [DC Extended Universe] do need a serious overhaul to match up to the level of the first Iron Man release, the Russo’s Bros. Captain America films, the under-rated Ant-Man movie, and of course Joss Whedon’s cinematic circus known as The Avenger’s… and I am sure they will get it right [especially with Geoff Johns heading the DC arm of Warner Brothers films]. Just as a note, Affleck’s Batman is barely in Suicide Squad, but when he is, it is a joy. He seems to almost lament having to take in Will Smith’s Deadshot, especially in front of his young daughter. He is unrelenting, like a Gotham Terminator, going after Margot Robbie’s spot-on Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s forgettable Joker. I am looking forward to what Affleck does in the next few years with my favorite DC Universe Character. He makes up for the misgivings I had about Bale’s interpretation [only a couple of Hiccups, but, they are there] making my inner-child jump up and down with fevered-insanity at the thought of another “Bat-Flek” sighting.

Doomsday News [A NOISE Records Compilation] 1988

So, when I was 18, there was a little compilation album released by Noise Records entitled “Doomsday News”. I cannot put into words how important this compilation was to my Metal upbringing. It turned me onto bands like Coroner [Arrogance in Uniform, only available on this release] which made me go out and get “Punishment for Decadence”. I subsequently became a fan of, and a longtime collector of, the aforementioned Coroner,as well as the bands Deathrow [Scattered by the Wind], Rage [Before the Storm], Sabbat [Hosanna in Excelsis], & Kreator [After the Attack]. Even though I was already into Helloween, by way of “Keeper of The Seven Keys, Pt.1”, I had no idea about their earlier releases. On this compilation is the track “Starlight” featuring Kai Hansen on Lead Vocals. I absolutely loved it and got my hands on the “Walls of Jericho” release immediately. The compilation also featured “Mesmerized” by Celtic Frost off their “Into the Pandemonium” release. I was already into them via “To Mega Therion” which I got used, on cassette a year earlier, from a local record store (remember those)? The remaining tracks were Scanner [Galactos], Tankard [Total Addiction], Vendetta [And the Brave Man Falls], & Voivod [Cockroahes]. Great tracks for the compilation, though I did not get into them on a long term basis. If you get a chance to checkout this release, do it. The tracks that were chosen, and the sequence in which they were placed is Damn-near perfect!

BLACK ROSES Soundtrack: 3 of the top 5 soundtracks of the 80’s – My Take

Hey guys, its been a while. I was thinking, before the Summer ends its reign of heat & humidity over us, I should finish my “Top 5 Favorite Soundtracks from the 80’s”. I have already posted 2 of them [Iron Eagle & The Wraith} so let’s do another. This time out I would like to show my appreciation for the glorious soundtrack for the 1988 B-Movie horror flick Black Roses. The best thing about the soundtrack are the original songs for the fictional Black Roses band. The band in the movie is made up of actors, with one exception, Carmine Appice (ex-King Kobra, ex-Blue Murder). He plays the drummer for the band of demons, who can hypnotize people with their music. His characters’ name is Vinny Apache. Those of you in the know, get the joke.

The movie is absolutely terrible, but the soundtrack is excellent. The studio band Black Roses is made up of the aforementioned Carmine Appice, Mark Free (ex-King Kobra) on Vocals, Chuck Wright (ex-Quiet Riot) on Bass, and Mick Sweda (ex-BulletBoys) on Guitar. I am a big fan of Mark Free’s voice, which was my reason for obtaining the soundtrack. One note about this soundtrack, it is very King Kobra heavy. In addition to the 4 tracks featuring the drummer, guitarist, & singer from that band, there are also the tracks Take It Off [King Kobra], & King Of Kool [David Michael Phillips: ex-King Kobra]. The 4 original Black Roses tunes on the soundtrack are great. Fans of Mark Free’s AOR vocal style form King Kobra, as well as the first Unruly Child album, have a good idea what these songs will sound like. Dance on Fire, Soldiers of The Night, & Rock Invasion are exactly what you would expect from a band consisting of these particular artist… great songs, terrific melody, very AOR friendly. The ballad Paradise [We’re On Our Way] is as beautiful as it is cheesy. Also on the soundtrack we have material from such varied artist as Bang Tango [I’m No Stranger], sleaze rock in the vein of L.A. Guns. Shock Rocker Lizzy Borden [Me Against the World] also on the Visual Lies release. Thrash Metal monsters Hallows Eve [D.I.E.] also on the release Death and Insanity. And finally, Christianity’s answer to Power Metal, religious rockers Tempest [Streetlife Warrior].

Unfortunately, the soundtrack has been long out of print. It can be found on Vinyl, Cassette, as well as CD. If you wish to own the CD, be prepared to pay a lot. The movie is still available on DVD from Amazon, and other outlets, as well as for rental from Netflix. See ya next time.

My Heart Cries Black Tears: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio

    On Sunday, May 16, I read one of the saddest headlines in my life: LEGENDARY HEAVY METAL VOCALIST RONNIE JAMES DIO DIES. I was truly shocked. I knew that Ronnie had been in a difficult battle with Cancer and was still getting treatments. But in the last few weeks, we had been hearing how Heaven & Hell were planning on touring. Ronnie himself spoke of a follow-up to his concept album MAGIKA. It seemed that nothing could stop the mighty RJD from continuing his campaign for Heavy Metal. Then, a moment later… he is gone. It seems the family knew this was going to happen. They gathered that weekend to say their goodbye’s to their beloved family member. With him no longer amongst us, a light in the world is no more. An Icon, a True Icon, of Heavy Metal had been taken by forces beyond anyone’s control.

     Ronnie’s popularity is bigger than the genre of music for which he was known. People outside the world of Heavy Metal know about the pint-sized wizard, with the voice of a god. You can’t help but be in awe of his beautiful, almost lament laden voice that, in an instant, can become as loud as wrathful thunder. His lyrics that champion open-mindedness, acceptance of all, spirituality, and especially the trials and tribulations of everyday life. His love for all things magic is known to any who have listened to even one of his songs. Not the parlor tricks that cheapen the experience of life, but True Magic. The Magic of living a life of purpose, the Magic that happens when souls connect and we embrace one another as family. The real Magic that resides in every one of us, if we just choose to do the difficult task and be True & Honorable in a world which makes it so easy to be Dishonest & Corrupt. I have always heard that Ronnie was a “Gentleman’s Gentleman”. A kind soul who appreciated his fans and never took them, or his talent, for granted. I heard him in an interview state that he never got nervous before a show. Why should he. He, along with his band, were going to do a great show, because that is what they do… so why be nervous. It is what his fans demand, and it is what he demands of himself and his crew. That is an artist who knows who he is, and knows what he wants. What about the man is there not to admire.

     I discovered Ronnie, like most of us do. I got into Heavy Metal when I was about 12 years old (back in ’82). I discovered Judas Priest, KISS, then Black Sabbath, which lead to the Heaven & Hell album, which lead to Ronnie James Dio. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ozzy a lot… but I LOVE Ronnie Dio. From the first time I heard “Neon Knights” and the absolutely haunting “Sign of The Southern Cross”, I was hooked. I subsequently listened to every recording I could find that had his voice gracing a script of music. Rainbow’sStargazer” is an opus of pure genius. “Holy Diver” is a pure Heavy Metal anthem. I could go on and on, but I must point out one more thing that the mighty DIO gave us. We all know it. We all do it. Even those who should never entertain the idea, or know no better… do it. The salute that signals one Metal Warrior to another. Whether you are in Denim & Leather on a motorcycle, or Dockers and a collared shirt on the way to work. Metalheads, all are we, when we salute with that symbolic gesture known lovingly as “THE HORNS”! The horns that signal a positive when we hear something, read something, say something, or just think something… that is Pure Metal. We all can Thank Ronnie, and his Grandmother, for the horns. If you don’t know the story, it is available all over the internet, and expressed much better by Ronnie than me… so I won’t recount it here.

    In closing… Ronnie, We Love You. You mean so much too so many. Our genre of music which sees its Death & Resurrection in every generation, owes a huge debt to you. You have never faltered in waving the flag of Heavy Metal, and you have never excused yourself from our music, like others in your line of work have done. You are the consummate Father of Heavy Metal. There will never be another like you. In your absence, the world is now a little less Heaven, and a little more Hell. Rest in Peace, you will be forever missed. LONG LIVE DIO! \m/

THE WRAITH Soundtrack: 2 of the top 5 soundtracks of the 80’s – My Take

When it comes to movie soundtracks, it is hard to touch to 80’s. I recently posted a blog about my admiration for the soundtrack for IRON EAGLE. I stated it is one of my TOP 5 soundtracks form the Eighties. Another on that list would be the soundtrack for the movie THE WRAITH from 1986. It takes place in Arizona and is about a kid who is murdered by a group of Car Racers. The kid comes back as a Wraith and kills the group of racers, one by one, in an act of systematic vengeance. Kind of like “The Crow meets The Fast and The Furious”… before either of those existed. This soundtrack plays a heavy role in the movie. The album is full of Guitar/Synthesizer tracks from soundtrack artist like Stan Bush (Transformers ’86), Tim Feehan (License to Kill ‘89), and Ian Hunter (Teachers ’84). This blog is about the Hard & Heavy standout tracks like “Secret Loser” by Ozzy Osbourne. The track originally appears on Ozzy’s album “The Ultimate Sin”. Anyone who is reading this blog knows the track, but in case you don’t… It is typical Ozzy fair from the 80’s, with Jake E. Lee laying down some amazing work on guitar, a terrific track. Next up is “Smokin’ in The Boys Room”. I believe, with the exception on “Home Sweet Home”, everyone knows this cover of the Brownsville Station classic that originally appeared on The Crue’s 3rd album “Theatre of Pain”. Those 2 tracks ruled the Summer of ’85.  The next Heavy track is the 1st of 2 songs from the ever incredible LION.Powerlove” is just a FANTASTIC track from these guys. Originally appearing on LION’s “Dangerous Attraction” album, it even spawned a video for MTV. It has a great, upbeat, AOR vibe that can not be denied. Following LION is the “always should have been bigger” band HONEYMOON SUITE with the song “Those Were The Days”. A sincere sounding ballad from the boys that hail from the Great White North. The song only appears on this soundtrack. After that, we get another song from LION in the form of “Never Surrender”. This is a fast driving, meant for an action movie, pile driver of a song. It also appears on the “Dangerous Attraction” album. The album is finishes out with tracks from Billy Idol (Rebel Yell) & Bonnie Tyler (Matter of The Heart). Like IRON EAGLE, I can jam this soundtrack in total because of the layout of the tracks. Songs I would not normally choose to listen too, flow easily because of the overall vibe of the compilation. Unlike IRON EAGLE, this soundtrack is no longer in print. It is a hard find, but some digital download sites have it available for those who will be happy with a digital copy. If you have never seen this Sci-FI Action classic, do yourself a favor and change that. It features a young Charlie Sheen, Nick Cassavetes (Director of John Q & Alpha Dog), Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks), with Clint Howard & Randy Quaid. It has some great racing scenes on the highways of Tucson, Arizona and is just a lot of fun. Thanks for reading.

IRON EAGLE Soundtrack: 1 of the top 5 soundtracks of the 80’s – My Take

This is one the 5 best soundtracks from the 80’s to one of the cheesiest movies from the 80’s. I will be unveiling the other 4 soundtracks over the next few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I, along with my best friend Robbie, are Iron Eagle fans (at least the 1st movie). What makes this movie for me is the soundtrack. It is just fantastic fun. My boy Rob on the other hand, can’t admit how much he loves music he would otherwise scoff at. You know you LOVE it… but I digress. As of now, in Alabama, the warm weather is rolling in, the scent of Jasmine & Honeysuckle are in the air and it makes me nostalgic of when I would ride around in my ’78 Camaro, with my windows down, blaring Hard & Heavy music Loud & Proud. One of my favorites as a teenager was the IRON EAGLE soundtrack. Nowadays I grab my tiny wife, hop on my bike (2003 V Star 1100 custom), put in my iPod earbuds, and cruise the back roads to this glorious compilation from the Rock Gods. If you aren’t familiar with it, let me see if I can help you out. The first track is “One Vision” by QUEEN. Until the “A Kind of Magic” album was released, this soundtrack was the only way it was available. If I remember correctly, it is the only time all 4 Queen Members had a hand in writing a single song. I am sure you know the song and it ROCKS!! Track 2 is from the excellent AOR hard rock band, KING KOBRA, entitled “Never Say Die (Iron Eagle)”, it is the quintessential movie song. Fist pumping, regal keyboards, and the “me against the world” lyric. It also appears on KING KOBRA’s final album with Mark Free “Thrill of a Lifetime”. Great AOR album. Track 3 is from a pre-MR. BIG Eric Martin. The song “These Are The Good Times” is actually 1 of 2 tracks from the movie, but this is the only Eric Martin song put on the soundtrack. It is a good mid-tempo, radio-friendly, Eric Carmen type song, to be honest. Track 6 is from the legend himself, Ronnie James and his band DIO. They put out one of the best DIO songs you will ever hear, on this album. It is called “Hide in The Rainbow”. For one, it plays really well in the movie, when Doug is on his own, and he thinks his father is dead, this song comes creeping in like darkness as Doug goes on his attack run. It’s AWESOME! The track also appeared on an import DIO compilation called “DIAMONDS-The Best of DIO”. That song is followed up by a band that, I believe, never got their due… HELIX’s “It’s Too Late” is a great song, not just for HELIX, just in general. The track originally appeared on HELIX’s 1981 release “White Lace & Black Leather”. Typical HELIX in its great guitar riffage and sing-along chorus. I wish people would have paid more attention to bands of their caliber, than mistakes like POISON, but that’s for another time. Next up is the band ADRENALIN with “Road of The Gypsy”. This is another very cool, AOR track from a band that embraced the “Arena Rock” sound. A singer like Bob Segar and a sound like latter day .38 Special. The final track is stated to be from the band Jon Butcher Axis entitled “The Raging Fire”. Here’s the thing about this song… it is actually KING KOBRA. The band Jon Butcher Axis was signed to Capitol at the time (the label that distributed the soundtrack), but the track is by KING KOBRA. With the aforementioned “Never Say Die (Iron Eagle)”, it also appears on KING KOBRA’s “Thrill of a Lifetime” album. I don’t know how, or why, this happened. Even when the soundtrack began being pressed to Compact Disc, the mistake was never corrected. It actually sounds so different to the typical KING KOBRA sound, one can’t really tell it is the same band. The song writing and lyric seem more mature than what passed for normal KING KOBRA fare. I had never heard of Jon Butcher Axis, so I thought it was that band. When I got “Thrill of a Lifetime”, I was floored to see the song on the album. I figured it was KING KOBRA’s version, but it is the same recording that appears on the soundtrack. Excellent AOR song though. Tracks from Katrina & The Waves (Maniac House), George Clinton (Intense), and Urgent (Love Can Make You Cry), round out this primarily Hard Rock soundtrack. Surprisingly, it is still readily available from Amazon and other retailers, for a great price (on average $7.99 for the CD). This is truly a “Good Times & Party Hearty” soundtrack. If you know it, you love it. If you don’t, check it out. If you love Hard Rock & Heavy Metal from the Reagan era… you won’t be disappointed. Thanks for reading. \m/