Films and Books

ROCK TORCH: Book Review.

Rock Torch: THE BOOK

Volume 1

Music Recommendations From The Artists You Love

by Randy Abramson

About Rock Torch:

Rock Torch has been one of my favorite - and 'go to' music websites for years. I found it after Alex Chilton died. I was up all night, seeking anything I could find on the web to connect to other Big Star fans. I came across an article Randy Abramson posted with Paul Westerberg's commentary on Chilton. Perfect. Someone who 'gets it'. I was a follower.

As a music reviewer, I want a glimpse of the creative thought process of the artists when they wrote their music or chose a form to play it. It doesn't matter if I like a certain type of music. I review music I don't like all the time. What matters is that I 'get' what the artist is trying to express with their songwriting. What matters is the understanding of the context from where is originated. The history, the dialogue, the soul of the artist, I think, must be known, before a piece of music can be understood.

When Abramson publishes a new article on Rock Torch, I read it. I am afraid not to, because I might miss out on something that someone really cool in music has said - or is about to do. Rock Torch is not a 'music news' website. It's a music referral website. This is better than music news, to me, it's much more useful. I can find out which rocker is mad at which drummer, or got married, or involved in a scandal, or decided to become a politician, on many other AP pasting websites. Abramson has a Rock Torch 'filter' that selects musicians from such a wide variety of bands, that is it always current and has the 'news' that I'm curious about ... What's good in music. The rest is for the viral networks, they have their place, but I don't seek them out the way that I look for sites like Rock Torch.

Abramson has the website set up to accomplish one thing: To get the musicians to talk about which other artists they would recommend fans listen to. Then both the musician and the recommended band get featured on the site. Win-Win! Abramson pulls the musicians in as 'guest authors'. They talk to him in their own words as interviews or essays. So reading what they think about certain artists that inspire them is like hanging out at a cool party and just chatting about music. This lowers my geek meter just a few bars, at least temporarily. The great thing is that he does this same process again and again, and must have hundreds of entries by now from artists of various genres. Flipping through the web-pages of Rock Torch is always fun and a great adventure musically. So when Randy announced that he was taking the pages of his site and making it a book, I really looked forward to its release.

Rock Torch Book Review:

The paperback version of this book is well done. The publication of it is unlike something I've ever seen. Every article has its own page, and there are beautiful color paper stock pages between the artists' interviews. This creates 'space' between the readings, which is important for letting the artists' opinions be their own island. The illustrations are interesting and timeless. The colorful, real life drawings are accurate, yet casual and accessible. The pages aren't flashy gloss, which speaks to how understated this whole project is. The focus are truly the artists and the music they want to share.

You can flip through this book and quickly become addicted to scanning for an interesting pairing of author/artists each day. Or you can read it page by page, cover to cover and delve into a wealth of tunes. The great thing about having it all in a book, is that it is easier than managing the navigation of a website, plus, you have the reference when you are settling in to buy some music.

Some examples that are noteworthy for me are:

Marissa Nadler's recommendation of Patti Smith and Kate Bush. I've been a long time Kate Bush fan since her work with Peter Gabriel and follow her solo career as well. Kate's 'individuality' just glows from her performances, indeed.

Peter Phythian of the Guilded Palace of Sin's recommendation of Dr. John is just brilliantly written. Gris-Gris "flows like a spirit battle between the dark and the light. The first two tracks are pretty voodoo, then 'Mama Roux' seems like he's just woken from a bad dream and needs to forget what it was about before the dark magic takes over again. 'I Walk On Guilded Splinters' the last track is one of the best album closers ever, like he's accepted he is what he is...."

Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult's recommendation of Jurgen Knieper, John Barry and Peter Gabriel. He chose these songwriters because of their musical scores in movies. For Peter Gabriel's pick, he mentioned "The Last Temptation of Christ" soundtrack, "Passion." I'd go a step further and suggest the original artists on the album before it was produced, 'Passion Sources' (Real World Music). Peter Gabriel was always careful to bring as much credit to the individual artists from other countries as he teamed them up to work on the collaborative projects.

Kevin Bowe has become a household name in my circles and here on BBR because of his love and recordings with The Replacements. Bowe is also a master musician and song writer who has penned music for Etta James, among other famous recording artists. Rock Torch has him historically bound to their pages forever now.

And then there is Van Morrison, The Psychedelic Furs, Thin Lizzy and The Blind Boys of Mississippi, not to be confused with The Blind Boys of Alabama. The Stones, Lucinda Williams, American Music Club and Nico, all up for discussion. The list of recommendations from great bands goes on.

Once the book is in your home, it seems like it has been there all along. It belongs on a shelf that holds music. Be it your ipod/sound cloud player, CD rack or stereo record stacks, Rock Torch seems to be alongside the history of songwriting for the journeyman's ride.

Final Note:

Randy Abramson is a trusted name in music. I know this because before I stumbled across his website, I was in New York City and shopped at the House of Oldies for some vinyls. The shop is a cornerstone at the hub of understated clubs in the West Village. The store was floor to ceiling full of vinyls. No CD's, no cassette tapes, no fillers, just stacks and stacks of boxes - vinyls. The owner knew every record in this place and directed me to my searches without hesitation. Purchases as wide as The Ramones, Dean Martin, XTC and Jimmy Page/Outrider were filled without an eyebrow raised. What a happy day, mid-January, to spend a good part of the afternoon with my groovy music friend, hanging at the House of Oldies, browsing stacks, sitting on the floor and then fleeing with the sun on my face, holding my bag of (very reasonably priced) LP's. Years later, I was on the Rock Torch website and discovered The House of Oldies was on Randy's list of favorite websites. I wrote to him and asked him about this connection. "That's my Pop's shop!" he said.

The walls of a record store are talking, listen up!


Out On The Tiles

Joe Satriani - Live At The Hammersmith Eventim Apollo, London - 10 November 2015

joesatriani (Photo by Martin Thomas)


For his own admission, "There is no better place than London to end an European Tour". The UK capital is in for a real treat tonight, with Joe Satriani arriving to town touring his new album, Shockwave Supernova.

Sparkles of great fireworks coming are set alight by an old friend of Bluebird Reviews, the fabulous Dan Patlansky. The South African guitar Virtuoso has been the Support Act for Satriani's last 25 dates of this European Tour and it is virtually impossible to find anybody better than Patlansky nowadays, in the music business, to open a night of rock of such great magnitude.

Patlansky's 3-pieces band offers a very solid 40 minutes set, in which he cannot express enough his gratitude and appreciation to his English fans for supporting his music and to Satriani, for allowing him to be on this Tour. There is the opportunity tonight to hear two brand new songs, Run and Stop The Messing, both included in Patlansky's forthcoming album, expected in 2016. Run, in particular, shows early signs of another potential mega-hit coming for the talented South African guitarist, given the crowd's strong response.

Dan Patlansky Apollo (Photo by Charlotte Wellings)

At 8.30pm sharp, lights go down and the thunderous guitar of Satriani attacks the show with the killer tempo of Shockwave Supernova, the title track of the guitar Maestro's new album. Satriani looks in great shape and unleash his phenomenal artistry and ability throughout the two-hour plus show. The stage offers, in true Satriani's style, some great light effects and a beautiful montage of background images to accompain each tune, just to add some extra spice to this formidable night of music.

Often wrongly depicted as self-indulgent, many people tent to forget that, to maintain high standard of music, in a purely instrumental show like this, it requests an incredible amount of versatility and skills. But that is what separate a genius like Satriani from music Average Joes. The American artist showcases his deep musical understanding by incorporating, in his highly fuelled rock tunes, elements of funk and fusion, to make this incredible live set even more palatable. Every note coming from each tune of the Guitar Maestro's many guitars manages successfully to tell a story, without the need of having a singer on stage.

Crystal Planet is powerful, boombastic and armed of an irresistible guitar riff. Butterfly And Zebra is tender and soulful, with its melody encapsulating perfectly the tale Satriani wanted to tell through his guitar. Crazy Joey is, perhaps, one of the most intense track of the new album and of tonight's show. Satriani reveals it all about himself, in this 5-minutes long, magic tune; there is creativity, fun, skills and playfulness. A touch of genius.

Satriani's band plays also a great role in tonight's show. The class and versatility of Mike Keneally on guitar and keys, the sharp, powerful bass of Bryan Beller and the imperial tempo that Marco Minnemann on drums dictates on each tune, make this band a true rock music machine like very few around.

The fans tonight at The Apollo are in total music Nirvana and, in a tremendous crescendo of music tempo, old and new gems of Satriani's repertoire like Luminous Flesh Giants and Goodbye Supernova, join forces in leading superbly the crowd to the end of a fabulous show.

Satriani and his band look visibly happy about tonight's performance and decide to pull off the most precious ace off their sleeves on their Encore, by executing an incredible version of Surfing With The Alien, which gets the biggest cheer of the night at The Apollo.

There are no many Music Raconteurs around the globe able to deliver the fire and the flare that Satriani's guitar does. A Music Meteorite landed in London tonight, a Music Surfing Alien emerged from it and brought a magnificent night of rock that the Londoners wil remember for a very long time. 


Giovanni "Gio" Pilato


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Dont let the name fool you! Maine Music News provides live concert reviews and photography for shows throughout all of New England. Our photographers cover shows in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and anywhere else we can! Our writers provide detailed album reviews and expertly written interviews as well. We may be called Maine Music News, but we dont let the Maine border stop us!