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grand funk railroadGrand Funk, nee Railroad’s biggest claim to fame–We’re An American Band–includes a shout-out to my part of the proverbial woods: Omaha. Come to think of it, Omaha is mentioned more often than you would think in a lot of rock songs past and present. Pops up in the oddest of places. Anyway, Grand Funk Railroad needs to be in just about every hard rock fan’s collection, simply from the blue collar guitar-driven rock that is about as Americana as you can get without slipping into cheesy “roots rock”. Probably one of the few bands that started as kind of a “hippie rock” group that I can get into, really.

“Got This Thing On The Move”

“Footstompin’ Music”

“We’re An American Band”



Book Review: DOCTOR WHO: Sting of the Zygons

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doctor who sting of the zygonsStephen Cole
BBC Books

Martha had encountered several alien creatures in her time, and was no stranger to their evil agendas. Yet the Zygons were the first monsters she’d met who forced their prisoners into playing cards.

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909, where a small village has been terrorized by a giant, scaly monster. The search is on for the elusive ‘Beast of Westmorland’, and explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the fells. King Edward VII himself is on his way to join the search, with a knighthood for whoever finds the Beast. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor is soon embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy. As the hunters become the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins–with the future of the entire world at stake…

Ah, the Zygons. Only featured in the one four-part serial in 1975 (“Terror of the Zygons”), and as I pointed out at a Doctor Who fan club meeting, looked like a cross between a recorder and a pickle. But, they were reportedly also David Tennant’s favorite Doctor Who monster, and thus were once again brought back as one of the side antagonists in The Day of the Doctor event. But, before even that was ever dreamed of, the Tenth Doctor was featured in this nifty little yarn featuring him, companion Martha Smith, and the afore mentioned musical pickles. “Musical Pickles” being a great band name.

The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Martha to 1909, where a giant dinosaur-like creature that seems to resemble a famous loch-dwelling creature up north a bit is terrorizing a small village. They run into a gentleman hunter who, while traveling to the small village, explains to them about the massive gathering of hunters coming together to find and bag this overgrown critter, by order of King Edward himself. When they get to the area, the Doctor deduces that this creature is, in fact, a Skarasen, which can only mean there are Zygons nearby. So, while everyone else is searching around for the Skarasen, the Doctor and Martha go looking about to see what the Zygons are up to…which happens to be the old “World Domination by way of Impersonating World Leaders” gambit.

The Sting of the Zygons is, more or less, a sequel to the original “Terror of the Zygons” serial, Which, one could argue, could be considered a prequel, as it technically takes place several decades before the events in “Terror of the Zygons”. But, this particular Doctor had already lived through the first story in his Fourth incarnation, so if you look at things in a non-linear, timey-whimey standpoint…

…and my NERD ALERT just started flashing and beeping. Sorry about that. Let’s carry on with the review, shall we?

Once again, we have Stephen Cole cranking out another Doctor Who yarn, managing to pull off a nice period piece while playing with an alien species that, up to this time, had been only featured on that afore-mentioned serial from the 1970s, a comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine in 1981, and another novel and an audio play featuring the Eighth Doctor. Okay, there was also the novelization of the serial titled Doctor Who and the Loch Ness Monster by Terrance Dicks that expounded a bit more on the whole “stinger” ability the Zygons have, and the Eighth Doctor novel itself did go a bit deeper in the…

…huh, that’s an interesting shade of red that NERD ALERT is now flashing. And smoke seems to be issuing from it. I may have to reel this in, here.

Sting of the Zygons is a good Doctor story that manages to keep my attention throughout, written in a very cinematic way with some good dialogue, and managing to make an admittedly absurd-looking alien creation seem menacing, regardless of looking like they would sound like a calliope whenever they sneezed.

Book Review: DOCTOR WHO: The Feast of the Drowned

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doctor who feast of the drownedStephen Cole
BBC Books

When a naval cruiser sinks in mysterious circumstances in the North Sea, all aboard are lost. Rose is saddened to learn that the brother of her friend, Keisha, was among the dead. And yet he appears to them as a ghostly apparition, begging to be saved from the coming feast…the feast of the drowned. As the dead crew haunt loved ones all over London, the Doctor and Rose are drawn into a chilling myster. What sank the ship, and why? When the cruiser’s wreckage was towed up the Thames, what sinister force came with it? The river’s dark waters are hiding an even darker secret, as preparations for the feast near their conclusion…

The second novel to feature the Tenth Doctor, The Feast of the Drowned takes place, according to the Doctor Who wiki’s out there, between the episodes “New Earth” and “School Reunion”, and has a reference to the episode “Tooth and Claw”, to give you an idea of the time frame of this story. No pun intended, of course.

Here, we find the Doctor and Rose back in London, where Rose is consoling a friend of hers, whose brother was lost at sea recently. Then they both see a translucent vision of said brother appear before them, while a bunch of people in the immediate vicinity spontaniously become dehydrated and pass out. Also, everyone who have seen these visions of their lost loved ones like this have been overcome with a sudden urge to throw themselves into the Thames river. Odd behaviour, indeed. Which leads the Doctor to a facility studying the wreck of the ship by a rather uptight and odd acting military leader that may or may not be a dead captain of a ship that went down in the 1700s. Turns out here be monsters…er, aliens that can control water to their bidding, and they need humans to act as incubators for their little hatchlings. And it’s now up to the Doctor and Rose–along with Micky, Jackie, and a couple of other hapless individuals–to try and stop things before all of London goes and throws themselves into the river.

The Feast of the Damned was a rather interesting tale that was decently paced, with some snappy dialog, written in a way that captures the mannerisms of not only the Doctor, but of his then-companion Rose and her mother Jackie as well. Micky…um, he’s adorable, if not a bit on the sad whiny side. Never really could warm up to the lad in the first couple of seasons of the show, and here in the book he’s still a bit of a ponce about his relationship with Rose. That’s the part of the book I really had to force myself through, the soap opera-y parts involving the past relationships and scandalous revelations. Otherwise, the sci-fi action itself had me, and as with any tale involving large bodies of water, I really had a strong urge to towel off despite not being wet whatsoever. Stephen Cole being a long-time writer for Doctor Who once again provided us with a good fix in between waiting for the new episodes to be foisted upon us.

Hard Rock + Proto-Metal FEBRUARY: BOSTON

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boston logoThe first time I heard Boston was, unfortunately, by way of Top 40 rock radio back when they released their third album, Third Stage, and their lead song “Amanda” was played every fifteen minutes or so it seemed. It was played at ever 7th Grade dance I went to that year, and I was so very not impressed with them because of that bit of power ballad schlock. Which almost made me miss out on hearing the proper hard rocking that these guys were better known for in the 1970s, when I heard “More Than A Feeling” on a 70s Rock compilation tape I got from a truck stop in the summer of 1990. The first two albums are hard rock classics, and unlike anything then or since.

“More Than A Feeling”


“Don’t Look Back”


Music Review: ONE BAD PIG – A Christian Banned

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one bad pig a christian banned
A Christian Banned

Speaking of rare collectibles, this album by those fun and lovable punk thrash unit One Bad Pig is a six-song, self-produced independent demo from 1986. What we got here is the Pig in the raw, with three songs that found their way onto future Pig releases, and three that were left on ‘A Christian Banned’ (until, of course, their resurrection on the best-of disc, ‘The Quintessential One Bad Pig’). Here’s the song line-up: “6”, which morphed into “Isaiah 6” for their debut ‘Smash’, and is basically the dialogue between Isaiah and the Lord found in Isaiah chapter six; “Sleepin’ With The World”, an early example of the Pig’s talent for making their songs mini sermons; “Make Me Burn”, also an example of the emphasis One Bad Pig makes on praise and worship; “Blow And Go”, which found a second life on ‘Smash’ as well; “Anarchy Is Prison”, later known as “Godarchy” on, once again, ‘Smash’; and “Life’s A Bomb”, showcasing an early lean toward alternative shown on later albums ‘Swine Flew’ and ‘I Scream Sunday’. Good demo from a great band. And highly collectible. I’ve seen cassettes floating around, but I have my copy on vinyl, so there’s that format to keep a lookout for. I don’t know about CDs, but with the recent influx of bands re-releasing their demos (Mortification and Deliverance come to mind) on CD format, there’s hope that the boys in the band will consider following suit for the fans.

Music Review: ONE BAD PIG – I Scream Sunday

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one bad pig - i scream sunday
I Scream Sunday
Word / Epic

One Bad Pig- a phenomenon before their time for sure. Too thrash to be punk, too punk to be thrash, too absurd to be taken seriously, but with moments of deep reflection and seriousness to be easily brushed off as a novelty act. A four-man paradox with a swine as a mascot.

‘I Scream Sunday’ is classic Pig material. “I Scream Sunday”, “Take A Look At Yourself”, “Ice Creme Sundae”, “Never Forget The Cross” and the duet with Johnny Cash (!) on “Man In Black” makes this CD highly sought after. “Wholly My Lord” is one of the best praise songs I’ve ever heard. “Spirit Of Murder”, “Bird’s Nest” and “Good Man” sounds suspiciously like the Clash with shades of Social Distortion thrown in for good measure. “Your A Pagan” is a great song to play in your car driving around. The looks on other motorist’s faces are priceless. Why not snag this? It’s heavy feel-good music. Now there’s a paradox. . .

Music Review: ONE BAD PIG – Live: Blow The House Down!

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one bad pig - live blow the house down
Live: Blow The House Down!

The first live album by one of the pioneers of Christian thrash/punk was recorded at their farewell show in 1991 at the Cornerstone festival. Until I caught their reunion show in 2000 at the same festival, this was the only way I could experience them live. And what a show I missed, as this disc captures the energy, intensity, and fun of a One Bad Pig show, both on CD and video tape, as the show was recorded both ways.

After rousing the crowd with the theme from Green Acres (probably because they were on the Cornerstone Farm), the band rips into their classic “Take A Look At Yourself”, then onto other Pig classics- “Hey Punk”, “Smash The Guitar”, “I Scream Sunday”…the list goes on. What makes One Bad Pig one of my favorite Christian bands is the way they can put on a fun show- on the video, you see skateboarders zipping back and forth on stage at times, there’s a dive into a wading pool filled with whipped cream at the end of “Ice Cream Sunday”, some guy gets his hair lopped off during “Cut Your Hair”, a bunch of guitars get smashed in unison during “Smash The Guitar”, and at one point during “Never Forget The Cross”, a biker rides his Harley on stage- yet makes sure the worship is just as intense. One small quibble- they didn’t do their cover of “Man In Black”. Otherwise, Live: Blow The House Down! is a fun solid listen from beginning to end…

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