HEAR IT | Candlebox -- It's Alright

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REVIEWS | Candlebox
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Grading from A-F

After a three year layoff Candlebox returns with a new drummer (Dave Krusen, formerly of Pearl Jam) and a much more diverse sound. Although they are from the Seattle music scene, Candlebox has always fought against the "grunge" labeling by incorporating jazz-influenced sensitivity and improvisation into their music. On "Happy Pills" the quartet spreads their wings even further, picking up nuggets from different styles as they fly. B+

The former lead singer of trend-setters Living Colour, Glover releases his first solo effort. The first released track "Do You First, Then Do Myself" incorporates much of the formular that made Living Colour great: catchy rock riffs, thunderous rythms and quirky lyrics. Unfortunately, the rest of the album slips into a haze of average R&B and Soul. Fans of Living Colour will certainly be disappointed. B-

John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater combine indulgent urges with Tony Levin and Jordan Rudess in this progressive rock supergroup. The songs are long, vocal-less and completely over-the-top. This disc is jammed packed with complex rythms, odd times and lengthy solos. If you enjoy simple music, steer clear. The disclaimer on the back says it all: "not for the musically faint-hearted, impatient, or critics of extreme self-indulgence." The album does mark these four musicians as masters of the progrssve rock vein. A-

--Kevin Ridolfi


"It's Alright" copyright ©1998 Skinny White Butt Music
"From Afar" copyright ©1998 Van Halen Publishing


KEVIN RIDOLFI | Right around the time Van Halen fired Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen coined an interesting and pointed phrase. He diagnosed Van Halen singers as having Lead Singer Syndrome. And then he laughed. In light of the immature pissing match between Hagar and Van Halen that followed, Eddie shouldn't have laughed because for once in his fantasy rock star life he was serious.

According to Eddie -- and thoroughly supported by band mates Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony -- Sammy Hagar had the disease and so did predecessor David Lee Roth. It's a disease marked by the grand desire to showboat and grandstand, monopolize the spotlight, and live the arrogant, self-involved existence of a "star."

Van Halen was unhappy with Hagar's work ethic and preparation for the follow-up to "Balance," hinting that he thought that he was bigger than the band -- as if the goal of all rock musicians, including the rest of Van Halen isn't to appear bigger than life. Their accusations about Roth in 1985 and again last year were similar: immature and too damn arrogant for their own good.

A large part of this drama would seem to suggest that the band was just looking for an excuse to fire both singers and fabricated a psychological state to give themselves closure. Rock stars are, almost by definition, immature. It comes with the territory. They live fantasy lives, drive fantasy cars and date fantasy women. Their world doesn't spin at exactly the same speed as the average person's. Countless stars including the late Kurt Cobain and Steve Clark complained about the tortures of fame and how difficult their lives were. To which an important question needs to be asked: why release your music to the public if you don't want fame and notoriety. Simply record the music for yourself and work a real job everyday.

Eddie Van Halen accused Hagar and Roth of being the exact opposite of the Cobain's of the music world: they lived for the spotlight and weren't team leaders. There's a common axiom in the sports world that can be applied to Van Halen's knack for losing cohesiveness. "Three Strikes and you're Out."

Twice already they have admittedly hired a singer with problem when it comes to teamwork. If Eddie's third singer, Gary Cherone, turns out the same way, fans will have the right to question the band. Maybe the problem lies with Van Halen and not completely with the singers that they choose.

This is a moot point, however, because for once Eddie and Alex have unearthed a genuine, down-to-earth vocalist. No Lead Singer Syndrome here. Cherone, formerly of Extreme, is the ultimate team player, someone who believes in adjustment and compromise for the betterment of the music. Van Halen 3 is a testament to this attitude.

While Van Halen's latest release hasn't been embraced by fans, and critics have complained that Cherone seems too whiny, there is promise in the album. The songs are tighter and stretch the boundaries as other Van Halen releases failed to do. The lyrics written by Cherone are much more challenging the likes of "Ice Cream Man" by Roth and "Poundcake" by Haggar. Most importantly, the change of styles from Van Halen's traditional straight-ahead rock to a more eclectic approach allows Eddie to shine. When you have the world's best rock guitarist as Van Halen does, he's your meal ticket and he should be allowed to showcase his chops in as varied a setting as possible. This installment, with Cherone's funk and Broadway influence, opened up Eddie creative reins and let him run.

Van Halen 3 is definitely not the best Van Halen album, nor is it the worst (that mantle falls on "Balance"). It is however an important fresh start with lots of promise. After all, the band finally seems to have cured their Lead Singer Syndrome. Van Halen and Cherone: "From Afar"


KEVIN RIDOLFI of Pawtucket, RI, is the creator and editor of Renaissance Online Magazine. He can be reached at

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