Around Hear, Cleveland Rock Edition

Cleveland Rock, Because Cleveland Rocks: Cleveland expatriate Ray Benich has written an anthem for his sorely missed hometown. The bassist for late-'60s/early '70s psychedelic rock band Damnation of Adam Blessing wrote the song, "Cleveland Ohio (Hard Earned Love)," hoping it would catch on not just with listeners, but also with other musicians.

"I would like to see other Cleveland musicians cover [the song]," says Benich. "The chorus would remain the same, but have other cats make up a verse about the other local musicians that influenced them. That's why I called my version 'Part One.'"

The song was inspired by a jam night in Delaware, where Benich moved when he married a woman from there. Benich told the host he was from Cleveland, "a real city with some freakin' great musicians." Laughing, one of the players challenged him to name one. His answer became the song's first lines: "Eric Carmen and Benny Orr/Neil Geraldo and a whole lot more." An early version of the song is posted at Benich would like to re-record it locally.

"Some of the guys I mention in the song I've known personally," says Benich. "Others I've never met, but we all cut our rock 'n' roll incisors on the same industrial-strength rock 'n' roll that has made and continues to make Cleveland a great town."

Damnation recorded four albums and toured nationally between 1968 and 1973. Danish acid-rock band On Trial recorded Damnation's proggy "Driver" on their 2002 album Blinded by the Sun.

RIPPER WATCH: Tim "Ripper" Owens will release his solo debut, Play My Game, Tuesday, May 19. International indie metal label SPV/Steamhammer will release the disc.

"Vocally, it's still me," says Owens, who also sings for guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen and local heshers Beyond Fear. "The difference with Beyond Fear is [the group] is influenced by other members, and it's more aggressive. [The solo disc] gets back to the basic roots of hard rock and metal, like old classic albums like [Black Sabbath's] Heaven and Hell and [Judas Priest's] British Steel - the kind of songs you can put on, put your fist up in the air and nod your head. Catchy choruses. I think the music makes the vocal melodies stand up more."

The record features past and present members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Queensryche, Nevermore, Whitesnake, Megadeth and Ozzy Osbourne's band. Cleveland guitar ace Neil Zaza just laid down a shredding solo for the title track.

Owens says he plans to tour as long as possible following the CD's release, with a backing band that includes Beyond Fear guitarist John Comprix. After that, Beyond Fear will record its second album, which will likely be released on SPV. Its self-titled 2006 debut was Owens' best- reviewed work to date (including his stints with Judas Priest and Iced Earth).

"Everywhere I go, everywhere in the world, the first thing everybody asks me about is the Beyond Fear record," says Owens.

The overlapping Parma rock crews of the Nick Wolff Band and Gunfire! Getdown! each have new records on tap. The Wolff Band will release the punky In It to Win It on Friday, February 27, at a Jigsaw Saloon (5324 State Rd., Parma) show with Weezer cover band Weener. Doors open at 8 p.m.; tickets are $5 advance, $8 at the door. The album - originally titled Surrounded by Morons - was mastered at Cleveland Audio Studios by ex-Dropkick Murphy Ryan Foltz, who also recorded and produced the bluesier GG record, Songs for Trash. Wolff survived a recent massacre at the Jigsaw's Nick Wolff Celebrity Roast, where bandmates and friends, including Cheap Tragedies' Tony Erba and the Subtones' Holly Berry, skewered him. Meanwhile, the Gunfire CD-release show will be Saturday, March 7, at the Spitfire Saloon (1539 W. 117th St.)

50 Cent goes reggae on Jamaica Kings, a new mixtape by Cleveland crew Vice-Souletric Beats: DJ Vice (a.k.a. Ill Advice from local progressive hip-hop ensemble Play Havoc) and Entourage DJ Jack Da Rippa. The mix features Fiddy rhymes over Bob Marley classics. Download it free at

Singer-guitarist Rose Kuehl and drummer Holly Manning have left behind their band Rebel Girl to pursue the bigger, brasher Reform School Girls. The new band features Kuehl's former bandmates from early-'90s rockers Cherry Bomb, singer Jeannine St. Clair and second guitarist Sue Minton. Texas import Ashley Munster plays bass. The group makes its debut Saturday, February 28, opening for Breakfast Club at Doc's Bar and Grill (1100 W. Royalton Rd., Broadview Hts.).

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