Carl Canedy has been a stalwart of the U.S. hard rock / heavy metal scene for more than three decades. His primary claim to fame is as drummer / songwriter to the seminal upstate New York power trio, The Rods, who are still alive and kicking (and awesome!) after all these years. But Canedy was also an in-demand producer in the 1980s, working on classic albums by the likes of Overkill, Exciter, Anthrax, E-X-E, Helstar, Jack Starr, and Possessed. So it was interesting that in late 2014, Canedy released his very first solo album under the “Canedy” banner. As one might expect, Carl himself supplied the bulk of the heavy lifting, writing all the songs, playing all the drums, and producing the album. However, he also lined up a stellar list of talented guests to appear on the album. Mark Tornillo (Accept / TT Quick) sings three songs. Joe Comeau (Liege Lord / Annihilator) sings on a pair of songs. Chris Caffery (Savatage / TSO) adds lead guitar to a couple of tracks, and Canedy’s own bandmate from The Rods, Garry Bordonaro, lays down bass grooves on a song. Numerous other musicians contribute bits and pieces here and there to make ‘Headbanger’ what it is.
I gotta admit, I had a little trepidation when I purchased the ‘Headbanger’ CD, not really knowing what was in store. I mean, metal drummers don’t usually make solo albums. Would it be a percussion-heavy showcase of no interest to non-musicians? Would the songs hold up? Would it stray too far from Canedy’s roots? Would it just be a half-baked ego-stroking exercise? No, yes, no and no. Despite a few special and creative nods to the drums (more about those in a minute), ‘Headbanger’ is very much a song-focused affair, and it is absolutely rooted in the classic hard rock / metal stylings that Carl Canedy and his mates in The Rods have been dishing out for decades. Musical influences would be The Rods, Black Sabbath, Dio, and even a little Whitesnake / Deep Purple (on the song “Crossfire”). Carl has always been a gifted songwriter, and he really makes these tunes shine. They are well-written, heavy, classy, diverse and memorable. Vocal performances are also uniformly stellar, with the Mark Tornillo numbers particularly standing out. As a welcome bonus cut, the album also tacks on “The Code,” a fantastic Canedy-penned song sung by the late, great Ronnie James Dio and previously featured on The Rods’ ‘Vengeance’ album in 2011. (Okay, “Madman” and “Live Free or Die” also appear on the ‘Vengeance’ disc, but they’re in different versions here.) Overall, this is a great record for listening to in the car, while driving around town, singing along and hitting those air drums.
Speaking of drums, Canedy’s way of featuring his playing on the ‘Headbanger’ album is interesting. Several of the songs (most notably “No One Walks Away”) are written around distinctive, prominent drum patterns. At the end of each song, Canedy does a flashy 20-30 second drum feature to show off his considerable skills behind the kit. It’s a great compromise really. By including these little “vignettes,” Carl gets to showcase his playing in a way that impresses and entertains without losing or boring the non-musician listener. A full drum solo shows up as a bonus track at the end. It’s actually a good solution to the dilemma of how a drummer should arrange a solo album. Bottom line: ‘Headbanger’ should be mandatory listening for fans of The Rods, or devotees of well-written classy melodic metal / hard rock in the old-fashioned style. May Carl Canedy continue to pound those drums, write those songs, and twist those knobs for many more years. Hell, I’d love to hear another solo album from him.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~