New Iron Maiden Music? Its Finally Here.


For fans of Heavy Metal, there are few bands that inspire more awe, respect and metal horns than the mighty Iron Maiden.  A new Iron Maiden release is always an exciting occasion and today, they have released their first single, Speed of Light from their upcoming album, The Book of Souls.  This is the first new Iron Maiden song in five years, and it is a very exciting event.

The song starts off with a guitar riff, a big Bruce Dickinson scream and the kicks into what can only be described as classic Maiden style.  Bruce Dickinson’s voice has gotten better with age, and this song shows it.  He doesn’t quite have the range that he did in the early days of the band, but he more than makes up for it with the emotion and power of his delivery.  Musically, it is standard Iron Maiden.  Its not one of their long epics, and it doesn’t hold up to songs like The Trooper or Aces High, but its a strong return to their roots.  In years past, Iron Maiden have explored and added more progressive elements to their music to great results, but this song shows that the band can still rock out with the best of them.  Steve Harris’ bass lines are crisp and drive the song forward strongly.  His signature galloping style is largely responsible for Iron Maiden’s unique sound.  The drums sound heavy and Nicko McBrain does an excellent job of not only keeping time, but improving the song with his creative fills and interesting patterns.  McBrain is often overlooked during discussions about great metal drummers, but to be able to play in a band like Iron Maiden, you have to be one of the best.  Guitars on this song are impressive to say the least.  Iron Maiden are one of the few bands with three guitarists and they continue to excel with that setup.  This song is not one of their more complicated on the guitar, but it does feature the heavy riffs, catchy leads and high energy guitar solos that have helped cement Iron Maiden as one of the biggest metal bands in the world for the last thirty five years.

Overall, this song gives me a lot of confidence that Iron Maiden’s new album Book of Souls will be an excellent album.  It will be released on September 4th, and is their first double album.  Hopefully we will be getting a tour announcement soon after the release of the album.  With this song’s high energy level, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the one they open their concerts with. The band doesn’t disappoint with this song and after five years of waiting, the world can finally rejoice, because Iron Maiden is back!

For more information on Iron Maiden and their upcoming album, The Book of Souls, visit:


Howlin’ Wolf: Who Will Be Next?

Chester A. Burnett, better known as Howlin’ Wolf, was one of the biggest of the Chicago bluesmen both literally and figuratively.  Today would have been his 105th birthday, here is his story.


Today is June 10th, 2015, but 105 years ago, on June 10th, 1910, a Blues legend was born in White Station, Mississippi.  That legend was named Chester Burnett, but to generations of music fans, he is known only as Howlin’ Wolf.  The Wolf’s childhood relatively colorful, even by Blues musician standards, as he was thrown out of his house by his mother when he refused to work on their farm.  He bounced around with relatives for a while, including an uncle who by today’s standards would definitely be considered abusive, this may account for some of Burnett’s notorious temper issues later in life.  He ran away from his uncle, and tracked down his father, who had split up with his mother years earlier.

One of Howlin’ Wolf’s best known songs, Smokestack Lightning.  This is the only known filmed performance of the song, featuring Hubert Sumlin on guitar.

Chester Burnett took up singing the Blues, and playing guitar during the 1930’s after meeting legendary Delta Blues singer, Charlie Patton.  Patton taught him a number of techniques and they often performed together.   Shortly afterwards, he learned to play the harmonica (which in the Blues is known as a “harp”) from Sonny Boy Williamson II (That is read as Sonny Boy Williamson Two, not the second, but that story will have to wait til another day).  Burnett continued to perform around the country, mainly in the south, making a name for himself by playing with artists such as Robert Johnson, Son House and Honeyboy Edwards.  Blues would remain his profession for the rest of his life, save for a brief stint in the United States Army just prior to WWII.

Another of Wolf’s well known songs, Who Will Be Next.

One of the more interesting, and less well known stories about Howlin’ Wolf is his very brief army career.  In 1941, General George C. Marshall, then the Army’s Chief of Staff organized a massive set of military exercises and mock battles known as the “Louisiana Maneuvers”.  These were meant to help prepare the US Army in the event that the country was drawn into World War II.  These maneuvers also involved future war heroes and famous generals including George S. Patton, Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower himself.  Chester Burnett’s role in these exercises was slightly less important to the war effort, as he was a member of the 9th Cavalry Regiment.  Cavalry was determined to be useless in the modern style of warfare during this exercise, and as a result, although he wasn’t discharged from the Army until 1943, after the United States entered the war, he avoided any type of deployment due to his limited skill set.  Interestingly enough, the 9th Cavalry Regiment were the original “Buffalo Soldiers”.  The 9th Regiment was one of the first military units set aside for Black soldiers, and they rose to fame during (unfortunate) battles on the American frontier against Native American tribes.  The 9th Regiment was officially disbanded in 1944, making Burnett one of the last United States cavalrymen as well as one of the last “Buffalo Soldiers”.

A rare and recently discovered photograph from Army records showing Pvt. Chester Burnett cleaning the hooves of a cavalry horse.
A rare and recently discovered photograph from Army records showing Pvt. Chester Burnett cleaning the hooves of a cavalry horse.

Fortunately, The Wolf was able to get back to what he was best at, singing the Blues.  He spent a few years in and around Memphis, performing in clubs and honing his craft, until he was discovered by Leonard Chess from Chicago.  Leonard Chess was the owner of the legendary (and often exploitative) Chess Records, which in the 50’s and 60’s was responsible for the majority of the great Chicago Blues records.  Once he reached Chicago, he assembled a new band, including guitarist Hubert Sumlin, who, through his work with Wolf, became known as one of the premier guitar players in Blues.  During his time in Chicago, his band’s lineup changed frequently,  due to his reputation as a violent drunk and a perfectionist.  In his autobiography, When I left Home, Buddy Guy, who was a friend and colleague of Wolf’s explained that, at one point, he was offered the guitarist job in the band, but declined, because of Wolf’s reputation as a bad drunk and his massive 6’6, 300 lb size.  He decided that as much as he loved the Wolf’s music, he valued his health more, and politely refused the offer.

Howlin' Wolf with a young Hubert Sumlin.  Despite their occasional fighting, they maintained a father-son like relationship throughout Wolf's life.
Howlin’ Wolf with a young Hubert Sumlin. Despite their occasional fighting, they maintained a father-son like relationship throughout Wolf’s life.

Another, more amusing anecdote about Howlin’ Wolf’s temper was also shared by Buddy Guy, again in his autobiography.  He was asked to participate in a recording session at Chess Records, after Wolf and Hubert Sumlin got into a fistfight.  Sumlin stormed off, and Buddy went down to the studio to fill in.

From Buddy Guy’s When I left Home:

When I get to the studio at 2120 South Michigan, first thing I heard was, “Motherfucker, you standing in the wrong place.”  That was the Wolf talking.  I didn’t do nothing though, ’cause I didn’t know who he was talking to.  “Motherfucker,” he repeated, “did you hear what I said?”  “You mean me?”  I asked.  “Yes, motherfucker.  Who else would I mean?”  “Well my name’s Buddy, not motherfucker.”  “Up in here,” said the Wolf, “everyone’s a motherfucker.  Now get closer to the mic.” (When I Left Home, pg. 123-124)

Despite his somewhat cantankerous nature, he was a consummate professional on stage and on tour, and although he was sometimes difficult to work with, he is remembered fondly by friends, colleagues and fans as a good man with a rough attitude.

Howlin' Wolf with his band at the Newport Festival in 1966
Howlin’ Wolf with his band at the Newport Festival in 1966

Chester A. Burnett, better known as Howlin’ Wolf, began to suffer from a number of health issues in the late 60’s including heart attacks, and kidney damage following a car accident. In 1976, the Wolf died from complications related to kidney surgery.  Throughout his career, Howlin’ Wolf wrote and performed many songs that have become standards, and to this day are covered, recorded and performed by young and old blues artists alike.  Songs such as Smokestack Lighting, Killing Floor, Goin’ Down Slow and Backdoor Man along with countless others form a musical legacy as influential and important as any artist in history.  His music has stood the test of time, and I believe that his unique voice, songwriting talents and legendary albums will continue to inspire Blues musicians to play for generations to come.  Thanks to Howlin’ Wolf’s legacy, a lot of young artists will be next.

Howlin’ Wolf’s song Killing Floor, which was further popularized by the late, great Jimi Hendrix, who often used it to open his live performances.

Sources from this article include:

When I Left Home, By Buddy Guy with David Ritz

Music Done Right: Songwriting Workshop at The Boom Room

This past weekend, I had a profound, musical experience.  Actually, it was a set of profound musical experiences, and the majority of them were thanks to an excellent recording studio in Philadelphia, The Boom Room and their unique event.  

My birthday was Saturday, and I was lucky enough to have spent the weekend doing my favorite things:  Talking about music, listening to music, and creating music with great friends, a few cold beers and no pressure, deadlines or frustrations.  After spending an entire weekend doing exactly what I wanted, I heard about an opportunity to continue doing so on Sunday night, but in the presence of many other talented musicians.

Enter: The BOOM ROOM

The Boom Room has incredible atmosphere, and attracts artists from Philadelphia and beyond
The Boom Room has incredible atmosphere, and attracts artists from Philadelphia and beyond.  Pictured here is local Philadelphia band, Stereotytans doing a performance.

The Boom Room is a recording studio located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the Fishtown neighborhood.  In recent years, Fishtown has seen a surge in popularity among artists, musicians and other creative people, and The Boom Room is fortunately a part of that.  I say fortunately, because I am thrilled that a studio like this exists in my city.  There are plenty of recording studios around, but this one has something that makes it very special, and led to me having one of the best nights of my life.  The Boom Room hosts songwriting workshops.  Now you may be thinking, “Oh, that’s just a fancy way to say jam session”, and while people did come up with some tasty jams, the purpose of the event is very different than just having a bunch of people noodle on their instruments.  There is structure and purpose to these sessions, as studio owner Gary Dann (who is also a very good drummer) explained, because the goal of this is to create defined, structured song components, which can later be reviewed, revisited by the artists involved, and turned into real songs.

I think this is an incredible idea, and combining that idea with The Boom Room’s well equipped facilities and the creativity of a number of local musicians from all different backgrounds and genres led to some really interesting ideas.  One of the things that I noticed while I was there was that there was a very positive energy all throughout the studio, as if everyone there, although many had never met before that night, subconsciously understood each other.  Music is a universal language, but it almost felt like people were reading each others minds as well as the music they were playing.  It was an entirely excellent experience, which I personally felt was special to me, because it was the first time I had ever played in front of a group of people.  For me to be able to get up, unsure as to whether or not I’ll be able to keep up, and lock into the music with a group of people that I’ve never even met and feel comfortable doing so would take a very special event in what I think is a special place.  I like to think that I not only played well, but also contributed some neat ideas, and I’ll be able to find out, as The Boom Room was recording the entire thing, and will make the whole thing available for us to review and listen to again.

Beyond the outstanding atmosphere, friendly people and great music, this event was also a great networking opportunity.  I got a chance to meet rappers, producers, guitarists, trumpet players, drummers, singers and even a stand up comedian.  Everyone there was relaxed, and just having a good time, which I think really helped to bring out some excellent musical ideas.  I am definitely looking forward to going back to the Boom Room, both for future songwriting sessions, and the incredible vibe that I felt during the event.

I highly recommend that anyone interested in having professional recording work done, or anyone who wants to attend one of these totally kick-ass songwriting workshops follow The Boom Room on Facebook and twitter to keep up to date on when they are hosting their next event.  They are doing music right, and doing right by music.

Well-equipped and well maintained, The Boom Room is an awesome example of what a recording studio should look like.
Well-equipped and well maintained, The Boom Room is an awesome example of what a recording studio should look like.

For more information about The Boom Room, visit their website:

Follow them on facebook at

And on Twitter at

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Remembering the Godmother of Rock and Roll

One of the great tragedies in music is when a great and groundbreaking artist is forgotten by history.  However, as long as a few people remember, their legacy can endure.  

Sister Rosetta was unique among Gospel artists of her time, because of her use of amplified electric guitars.
Sister Rosetta was unique among Gospel artists of her time, because of her use of amplified electric guitars.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Mention that name to most music fans today, and you’ll be met with confused looks.  When I talk about her, even in the company of other guitar players, I’m often asked, “Who?” or told, “Never heard of her.”  To me, that is a great tragedy, because she had one of the biggest voices, finest guitar styles and most exciting stage presences to come out of the 30’s and 40’s.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin in Arkansas in 1915.  Not much is known about her father, but her mother was very musically inclined and incorporated that into her job as a preacher, and Rosetta took to the guitar at a very young age.  Throughout her youth, she moved several times, but continued to sing and play her guitar, refining a style that eventually led her to become known as one of the best Gospel artists of her time.  Gospel is not often associated with high energy, distorted electric guitars today, but in the 1930’s and 40’s, Sister Rosetta’s sound is what brought Gospel to a mainstream audience.  Taking the emotional melodies of the Blues, and combining the energy of southern church spirituals, she pioneered a guitar style and musical sound that would go on to influence legends like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.  In the following video, you can see just how talented of a performer she was, and the type of blistering Blues guitar she could play during her solo.

Unfortunately, despite her popularity in the middle of the 20th century, an ill-fated attempt at a secular Blues album in the early 50’s led to the demise of her career.  Religious fans viewed it as a betrayal, and secular fans were hesitant to take a chance on an artist who had gotten her start in the churches. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Blues and African American music in general began to appeal to white audiences as well, but those young fans were rebelling against their parents, and society, and part of that rebellion was a rejection of the church.  Sister Rosetta continued touring however, but was never regarded as the superstar she had been in previous decades.  Sister Rosetta suffered from Diabetes, and in 1970, had a stroke while on tour with Blues legend Muddy Waters.  She ended up having a leg amputated, but continued to perform until she passed away in 1973, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after having another stroke.

Sister Rosetta continued to dazzle audiences with her guitar even after being diagnosed with Diabetes.
Sister Rosetta continued to dazzle audiences with her guitar even after being diagnosed with Diabetes.

One of the side effects of African American music moving into the mainstream was that many artists were forgotten, or denied the credit they deserved.  This was the case with Sister Rosetta, who despite her immense talent, and popularity among Gospel and Blues audiences, has now been largely forgotten by all but students of music history, and those fortunate enough to have been alive during her prime.  Elvis Presley’s popularity in the 50’s and 60’s is largely regarded as a double edged sword where African American music is concerned, because on one hand, he made his career off of performing covers of Blues and Gospel songs without giving proper credit.  On the other hand, some people feel that he brought the Blues to a wider audience, and thereby enabled the original artists to grow their popularity as well.  Whichever side of that argument you fall, the sad truth is that many incredible musicians have been largely forgotten, or at least denied credit for their work.

Sister Rosetta’s impact on Rock and Roll may not be common knowledge, but that doesn’t change the fact that she played an incredible role in pioneering the sound that eventually became the most popular music in history.  She broke through barriers constantly through her career and left an incredible musical and cultural legacy that lives in her music, and the music of those she influenced.


The Godmother of Rock and Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe – BBC Documentary

The Death of B.B. King: The Thrill Is Gone, But The Suspicion Remains. Should It?

The recent allegations of abuse and murder raised by B.B’s children seem unthinkable, but there have been some suspicious happenings surrounding the death of the legendary bluesman, is it possible that he was murdered?  Not likely.

LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 16:  Recording artist B.B. King performs at his B.B. King's Blues Club at the Mirage Hotel & Casino August 16, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS – AUGUST 16: Recording artist B.B. King performs at his B.B. King’s Blues Club at the Mirage Hotel & Casino August 16, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

If you have spent any time on the internet in the last few weeks, you already know that the world lost one of its most wonderful voices when the great BB King passed away.  Born Riley B. King in 1925, he went on to become one of the most talented, influential and prolific Blues musicians of all time, gaining his nickname “B.B.”, which stands for “Blues Boy” along the way.  B.B.’s tragic, but not altogether surprising passing at age 89 earlier this month elicited an almost universal period of mourning among both musicians and fans from all walks of life, which is a testament to his longevity, creativity and depth.  However, as is the case with many celebrity deaths, conspiracy theories have begun to pop up.

Just a few days after King’s death, two of B.B. King’s daughters came out with the claim that that his business manager, LaVerne Toney, and personal assistant, Myron Johnson poisoned him.  Thats right.  They claimed B.B. King, Blues legend and musical icon was murdered by his friend and manager of over 30 years.  This sort of allegation is nothing new.  Following the death of just about any celebrity, family, friends or business partners tend to come out of the woodwork with conspiracy theories, and often time’s these are dismissed as a cash grab, as most celebrities are sitting on a healthy estate.  But could there be some merit to the claims made by King’s daughters?  Not if their history is anything to go on.  B.B. wasn’t just a prolific musician, he was a somewhat prolific father as well, and several of his children have a history of strange behavior, spurious claims and an interest in getting his money.  This may also be why King left his children and grandchildren four figure inheritances and earmarked the rest specifically for education.

I am not convinced that B.B. King was murdered, he was 89 years old, and in poor health.  We won’t know that for sure until the results of the toxicology tests come back.  These tests were ordered following the allegations and results won’t be in for a few weeks yet.  However, there is one piece of information that I don’t think enough attention has been paid to.

This picture is the embodiment of the friendship between these great Blues legends.
This picture is the embodiment of the friendship between these great Blues legends.  Buddy and B.B. recorded ‘Stay Around a Little Longer’ for Buddy’s 2010 album Living Proof.  The song is about what the Blues means to them, and their friendship.  You can watch the video and hear the song at the bottom of the page. 

Most Blues fans are aware that B.B. King’s best friend is his fellow legend, Buddy Guy.  Buddy and B.B. have been friends for nearly 60 years, and have had a long standing argument over who is the better guitarist.  B.B. claimed that Buddy was the best, and Buddy, to this day says that B.B. was the greatest to ever live.  Here is where things get shady.  A few weeks before B.B. King passed away, Buddy Guy stopped by to visit, and say goodbye to his best friend.  LaVerne Toney, who at that point had power of attorney, refused to allow Buddy access.  What possible reason could she have to keep two best friends of almost 60 years apart?  I can understand keeping the kids away, as they were all upset that none of them had been named executor of the estate, but Buddy Guy was not involved in any of that.  He just wanted to see his friend.  That to me is a very suspicious piece of information because it would be easy to dismiss claims of abuse or conspiracy by angry children that were left out of the will, but it would be much more difficult to prevent B.B. from telling his best friend who is also a notoriously savvy businessman.

Buddy Guy spoke to CBS Chicago about the incident in the following interview.

In the interview, Guy indicates that he too is suspicious, stating, “That lady wouldn’t let nobody see him, she would lock out everybody. She didn’t want nobody to see him for some strange reason.”  and that he had a gig in Las Vegas a few weeks later and was going to go there and “kick the door down, or at least hard enough to get her to come out and explain herself.”

It is important to note that B.B. made his manager the executor of his estate, rather than his children, and they were upset.  It is entirely possible that LaVerne Toney took sheltering B.B. too far, and that her intentions were nothing but good.  In fact, given their long relationship, it is equally, if not more likely that she was doing what she could to protect her friend during what were sadly, his last few weeks.  I want to believe that there was nothing sinister going on in this situation, and given B.B.’s love and respect for LaVerne Toney, and his equal lack of confidence in his children to handle his affairs, it is likely that this is, in fact a misunderstanding.  Either way, B.B. King has left an indelible mark on not only the Blues, but on the art of music as a whole and that is what we should be focusing our attention on.


CBS Chicago –

Did Van Halen Cause Ebola? One Parent Thinks So

It’s entirely possible. It warrants further consideration.

The Tyranny of Tradition

Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth, What's-His-Name and The Other Guy David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen Along With Two Other Guys

As Americans come to terms with their current bout with media induced Ebola Fever, one parent is taking a stand against what she believes to be the culprit in the spread of this dreaded disease…the heavy metal band Van Halen. Eleanor Iselin, a concerned mother of two from Nacogdoches, Texas, has taken to the Internet and started a campaign to ban Van Halen’s music from radio stations in order to “save the lives of millions people who have been born and are not born or will never be born.”

Last week, Iselin was sitting in her living room listening to a news update when word of the virus hitting the United States came across the airwaves. Moments later, the very same station played “Drop Dead Legs” by Van Halen. The connection was obvious. God had spoken to her…

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