Song Spotlight: I Am, By Michael Sweet

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I can not say enough about the very talented Michael Sweet. The man can seemingly do it all. Over the last few years he has successfully lead Stryper while simultaneously working on his solo career. At 53 years old he seems to have found a new gear. He is a singer extraordinaire, a criminally underrated guitarist, a gifted songwriter and a solid record producer.

Michael Sweet has been a very vocal Christian for a long time. He would be the first to tell you that he is far from perfect and is no saint. But his beliefs have helped him to avoid many of pitfalls of the rock and roll lifestyle that have tripped up and even killed some in the metal scene. His lifestyle choices have helped to not just maintain his vocal abilities , but to refine them. In his early fifties he possesses a voice that would make singers half of age envious.

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The song I Am, from his most recent solo album One Sided War (2016), is a vocal tour de force. I have been a Stryper fan for over twenty years. What he has done vocally over the last several years with Stryper and as a solo artist continues to surprise and amaze me. The man is singing with so much passion and power. Currently far too many veteran hard rock and metal singers are struggling vocally. Michael Sweet is laying down some of the best vocals of his career. And he is still delivering the goods live.

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I Am features a stellar vocal from Michael Sweet. The song begins instrumentally with an 80’s metal style guitar riff. At the 0:29 mark when Sweet bellows “Oooohhhhhhhh!!!!!!”, as a listener you know that you are in for a treat. Musically the song shifts to a heavy, mid tempo guitar riff. Michael Sweet begins to deliver an absolute powerhouse vocal. As the chorus begins he triumphantly sings “I Ammmmmm!!!!!!! The beginning and the end!!!!!!” What an absolutely amazing vocal performance .

The backing band is phenomenal on this track. Playing along with Michael Sweet are Ethan Brosh on guitar, Will Hunt on drums and John O’Bolye on bass. During the guitar solo the tempo picks up and Ethan Brosh lays down a blistering guitar solo. He burns up the fretboard playing a melodic and bluesy shred filled solo. Prior to hearing this album I was unfamiliar with Ethan Brosh. He sure got my attention after hearing his fantastic playing on several songs on One Sided War.

As a big fan of Stryper it is exciting to see Michael Sweet explore heavy metal outside of the band. On his early solo albums he explored guitar driven pop, rock and hard rock. This may have disappointed some Stryper fans, but I feel that all of his solo albums are worth seeking out. Each album showcases different aspects of Michael Sweet’s abilities as a singer, songwriter and guitar player. My personal favorite is his album Truth, released in 2000. This diverse collection includes classic rock, hard rock, heavy metal and one of the best ballads of his career. It’s an album that I highly recommend.

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With One Sided War Michael Sweet, the solo artist, fully embraces heavy metal. I love the music that he has created with Stryper. As the band’s singer, co-guitarist and main songwriter his imprint is all over the band. Hearing him write metal in a different vein and record with different musicians is refreshing. Overall there is a distinction between these songs and his work with Stryper. Of the twelve songs on One Sided War, I Am is definitely my favorite and arguably the best song on the album.

Troy T.

Happy New Year And Thank You

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I just wanted to say thank you too all that have read and followed this blog.  2016 was quite a year, one for the history books.  Years from now when people talk about the various news stories and events of this past year I can say that I was there.

Personally it was a year of challenges and much change.  This blog was one of the constants in my life throughout the year.  I started this blogging journey a little over a year ago with a post about Phil Collins.  At the onset I was very excited, but a bit fearful as well.  I had a few ideas, but would anyone care about the things that I wanted to write about? Once those few ideas were done could I keep this thing going?

It’s been a year plus and so far I have been able to publish 80 blog posts. I must say that I am extremely grateful for everyone who have supported this blog.  And I am humbled and amazed at the response to the blog’s most viewed post, Genesis 2016: The Outline Remains.  It was posted in October 2016 and is far and away the most popular post over the last year.  A big thank you to all of the Genesis fans out there.  The post that I am most proud of is Five Great Albums Influenced By Queen, published earlier this month.  A lot of passion, time and revision went into that post.  I am so very pleased with the responsible.

Once again thank you all for taking the time to read this blog, it has been a wonderful creative outlet.  My original vision for this blog was to share my thoughts on the things in life of interest to me. Music, movies, television, books, art, life and occasionally politics. The latter topic I tend to stay away from and leave to the experts. I look forward to continuing this journey and sharing more in 2017. Happy New Year and God bless.

Troy T.

My Highlights Of 2016

As the year comes to a close various top ten and  best of  lists will be published. Many of these lists can be fun to read. This is not really a true top ten list, plus it contains eleven items.  It is an brief overview of some entertainment highlights that come to mind from 2016.

Unfortunately 2016 was a year full of far too much bad news, negativity, hate and division. At times during 2016 the world seemed like a very dark place. At the end of the year it’s good to reflect on some of the entertainment that brought some light into my life in 2016.

Phil Collins’ Reemergence

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Phil Collins’ slow and steady reemergence from retirement. Not one event, but a series of live appearances, interviews and the release of his autobiography Not Dead Yet. All of this is leading up to some large scale concerts in 2017. At 65 years of age Phil Collins may look a little rough around the edges. But he is still one of my favorite musical artists. The man’s music has brought a lot of light to my life over the years.

Xiphea – Once Upon A Time

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Xiphea are a fantastic symphonic metal band out of Germany. They call their brand of music Fairytale Metal. With song titles like Beauty And The King, Masquerade, Cinderella and Power Of The Dwarfs one can understand the label. Do not let the song titles fool you, this is a serious and heavy band.  Once Upon A Time is Xiphea’s third release.  So far they have released one EP and two full length albums.  The future looks bright for this band.   I plan on writing more about them in a future blog.

The Genesis Show

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The Genesis Show are an absolutely amazing and talented Phil Collins era Genesis tribute band that, for now, focuses on Genesis live circa 1976-1977. Tribute bands can be hit or miss, either really good or downright silly. The Genesis Show are a serious band that are passionate about playing the music of Genesis. I had the great pleasure of seeing them live this year. As a huge Genesis fan since 1981 I was extremely impressed by The Genesis Show. The musicianship on display was incredible. I highly recommend seeing them live.

Kansas – The Prelude Implicit

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I count Kansas among my top 20 favorite bands. Their newest release, The Prelude Implicit, is a strong argument for classic bands continuing to record new music. I would definitely place The Prelude Implicit on my top ten favorite Kansas albums list. The band’s new singer Ronnie Platt has some incredibly big shoes to fill. He does so quite well. I look forward to more new music by this great band.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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A very, very good Star Wars film that falls short of being great by playing it too safe in the second half of the movie.  But I will say that the movie contains one of my absolute favorite scenes from any Star Wars movie. I just hope that the success of this film will allow for more ambitious Star Wars movies in the future.

Arrow: Season Five

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A fantastic rebound from the disappointment of season four. It would seem that in the off season the creative team revisited the things that made the show great in the past. Half way through season five and  I would say that Arrow is back on track.  Stephen Amell, in the title role, continues to play this character with such conviction.

Metallica…Hardwired To Self-Destruct

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It’s been eight years since Death Magnetic, but overall it was worth the wait. The double disc release showcases a collection of fast and heavy songs by a rejuvenated band. Unfortunately all of the songs are not equal. I would say that if the band had trimmed the fat and lost two songs they would have had a killer single disc.

Captain America: Civil War

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A movie that contained not only great action, but also great drama. Civil War and the prior Captain America movie The Winter Soldier have really brought superhero movies to a new level. There is a lot going on in this movie, but the performances of Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. provide a solid foundation and help keep the movie grounded.

Doctor Strange

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Doctor Strange is Marvel’s latest superhero movie.  It stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.   Benedict Cumberbatch joins the ranks of actors  like Hugh Jackman, Christopher Reeve, Harrison Ford and Patrick Stewart. What do they have in common?  It seems that they were born to bring to life certain iconic characters. Wolverine, Superman, Indiana Jones, Professor Xavier and in Cumberbatch’s case Doctor Stephen Strange. A great movie with a fantastic performance by Cumberbatch.

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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I know it had it critics, but I loved this movie. Henry Cavill is super as Superman. Ben Affleck really nails the true essence of Bruce Wayne/Batman. His portrayal of Bruce Wayne is my favorite of any actor to date. I love Diane Lane as Martha Kent. Gal Gadot’s fantastic performance as Wonder Woman may be my biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year. The only real downside for me was Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor.  His was a different take on the character that did not really work for me.

Epica – The Holographic Principal

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I feel that Epica, a symphonic metal band out of the Netherlands, are the best band in their genre. The Holographic Principal is their seventh studio album and it is phenomenal. Epica continues to grow and evolve with each new album. Their unique and dense mix of thrash metal, opera, progressive rock, classical music, death metal and soundtrack scores continues to delight this metal fan a great deal.

Troy T.

Thankful In 2016, And Beyond

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Here it is Thanksgiving of 2016 and I am thankful. We as a nation have so much to be thankful for. That’s not to say that the United States of America is a perfect place, far from it. I would love to declare that we are a unified nation, but that would be a lie. This recent presidential election has really exposed how divided some segments of the population are.

However, regardless of how one may feel about the election results we all still have so much to be thankful for. The fact that we can vote for our leaders. We have the ability to publicly voice our opinions. We can criticize those same elected leaders without fear of punishment, or even death. I could go on and on in regards to the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.

As 2016 nears it’s end I do hope that we as a nation can begin to work on our differences and come together. In areas where we can not find accord I hope that we can peaceably agree to disagree. As a nation, united we will stand, but divided we will fall.

As I reflect on our country, at this time in history, things may not be ideal but I am thankful. May God continue to bless this great nation in 2016 and beyond.

Troy T.

Congratulations To The Cubs

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A HUGE congratulations to the 2016 Chicago Cubs for winning the World Series.  What a great time to be a baseball fan.  During the course of the last fifteen  World Series ten different teams have won the title.  In that span the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox have won three times and the St. Louis Cardinals have won it twice.  Of late it would seem that from year to year just about any team can be the winner.

Congrats to Joe Maddon for winning a World Series ring.  This is his second ring, but his first as a manager.  He won his first in 2002 serving as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach with the Anaheim Angels.  He did guide the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays to their first, and only, World Series appearance.  Unfortunately for him they lost in five games to a superior Philadelphia Phillies  team.  Over the last several years Maddon has proven himself to be one of the better managers in baseball.  This win with The Cubs was hard earned and well deserved.

Kudos to Chicago  Cubs President of baseball operations Theo Epstein. Epstein now has a special  place in baseball history.  He had a hand in helping bring World Series titles to two long suffering, and alleged cursed, franchises.  First to the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and now in 2016 to the Chicago Cubs.

Now that the 2016 Major League  Baseball season is over all of us baseball fans can look to 2017 with a clean slate.  Perhaps 2017 will be the year that our team brings home a World Series title.  In the meantime I am very happy  for the Chicago Cubs and their fans.

2016

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The New Year in nearly upon us.  2015 was quite an interesting year, full of more ups than downs.  I was able to rediscover some dormant passions and interests, as well as discovering new ones.  I am greatly looking forward to the New Year. Like every new year 2016 is full of mystery, uncertainty and promises of new challenges and opportunities.  I am eager to see what it will bring.  God bless and Happy New Year!!!