RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 9 comments

MAINRECORD STORE TALES

Parts 1 – 50  
Parts 51 – 100 
Parts 101 – 150
Parts 151 – 200
Parts 201 – 250
Parts 251 – 300
Parts 301 – 320

    RECORD STORE TALES MkII:

GETTING MORE TALE

#321-350
#351-400


DIRECTORY OF REVIEWS 

Music, Movies, and more

WTF?

 

Categories: Table of Contents

Blu-ray REVIEW: The Arrival (1996)

March 6, 2015 11 comments

ARRIVAL_0001THE ARRIVAL (1996 Lionsgate)

Written and Directed by David Thowy

I’ll confess that this review has little to do with rock and roll.  The Blu-ray disc does contain a killer 7.1 DTS HD surround sound mix, and that will appeal to those who appreciate a good 7.1 soundtrack.  I haven’t had the chance to review many 7.1 releases here.  Other than that, the only connection is that Charlie Sheen parties like a rock star, so he’s in the club honorarily at this point. He did in fact proclaim himself a “total freakin’ rock star from Mars,” and I’m not going to argue with Charlie Sheen.

When this movie came out back in the 90’s, I snagged a neat widescreen VHS copy in a clamshell case, which ironically has more special features than the Blu-ray or DVD releases! It’s weird and disappointing to me that the interviews from the VHS version are not available anymore, but whatever — when I found this disc at a cut-rate price I decided to make the leap from the tape to Blu.

The good: The 7.1 surround mix is really excellent. When Charlie Sheen first discovers an alien signal, it’s rotating around the room in a really cool way. There aren’t many discs out there in 7.1, but if you’ve got the equipment, here’s a good sci-fi movie to try out. The hi-def transfer also looked quite good.

The bad: Oh dear Lord, some of these mid-90’s movies have the worst CG effects. The Arrival has some of the worst I’ve seen in a movie of this stature.

Plot summary: Charlie Sheen is Zane Zaminski, an astronomer working for the JPL in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Mirroring the plot of the concurrently released (but much higher budgeted) Contact, Zaminski finds a “wow” signal and takes it to his boss, Phil Gordian (Ron Silver).  But there may be a conspiracy afoot — Gordian secretly destroys the tape, the only proof of the signal.  He has Zaminski fired, and attempts to destroy his credibility in the scientific community. Why?

The firing scene is especially enjoyable today, as Zane Zaminski has a paranoid public meltdown foreshadowing that of his tiger blood drinking, eternally winning, rock-star-wizard real-life counterpart.  It’s amusing from that point of view, but it’s also a really cool scene that Sheen and Silver both nail.

What follows is a series of mysteries, cover-ups and alien intrigue that links Zane to Ilana Green (Lindsay Crouse, Iceman) in Mexico. Dr. Green has found flowers growing in a small patch of grass in the frigid Arctic, and links it to a strange spike in CO2 emissions. But how is that happening, and to what ends?

Several exciting action sequences are to be enjoyed before Zane discovers what is really going on down in Mexico and why Gordian turned on him. It’s not a monumental earth-shattering revelation, nor is it a total surprise, but I won’t spoil it for you regardless.  The Arrival is a fun movie, and that’s all it’s really intended to be, so I’ll save the fun for you.

For the price I paid ($11), this disc was totally worthwhile regardless of the fact that it has zero special features. It’s a decent yarn, the sound is awesome, and it’s always nice to upgrade from VHS to hi-def.

3/5 stars

#372: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss

March 5, 2015 7 comments

KISS ARMY FRONT

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tales
#372: Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss

A while ago I recorded this segment for a proposed podcast over at KingCrimsonProg.  The podcast hasn’t come together yet, for the moment anyway, but I’ve decided to use my segment right here because it’s a subject of interest.  Listen to the embedded video below to hear my Top Five Reasons Why I Love Kiss!

REVIEW: Spinal Tap – This is Spinal Tap (soundtrack remastered)

March 4, 2015 20 comments

SPINAL TAP – The Original Soundtrack Recording from the Motion Picture “This is Spinal Tap” (1984, 2010 Universal remaster)

In true Spinal Tap fashion, it turned out that I reviewed their albums in the wrong order.  I went backwards, and the soundtrack to the motion picture This is Spinal Tap is the last Tap album for me to scrutinize.  Though Spinal Tap is a parody band made of actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, it is easier to just refer to them as David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel, and Derek Smalls.

If you happened to go through life without owning a single soundtrack album, then you must reverse that situation immediately.  All self-respecting rock fans must be able to laugh at the absurdities of their favourite genres, and Spinal Tap represent every mis-step that legendary rock bands ever took.  Spinal Tap forced real life rockers such as Judas Priest and Ronnie James Dio to laugh at themselves; a healthy undertaking.  Even though some artists didn’t see the humour in the movie This is Spinal Tap, others did and were quick to claim that certain scenes were actually based upon them!

The single/video “Hell Hole” opens the album, a rare Nigel lead vocal with David St. Hubbins on the chorus.  According to the helpful liner notes, this track was from Tap’s then-new reunion album, Smell the Glove.  Scorching guitar from St. Hubbins and Tufnel; slamming drums from Mick Shrimpton and spot-on organ by Viv Savage: it’s all here.  And let’s not forget the band’s secret weapon Derek Smalls on bass and backing vocals, thickening up the mix like a good brown gravy….

I always think of “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” as the song on which something is all but guaranteed to go wrong, live.  In the studio it’s a taut rocker with explicit lyrics:  “You’re sweet but you’re just four feet and you still got your baby teeth, you’re too young and I’m too well-hung but tonight I’m gonna rock ya!”  Lock up your daughters, but you don’t want to miss this scorching classic from 1974’s Intravenus de Milo.

“Heavy Duty” is a concert classic, originally from Bent for the Rent (1976), but to me it has long overstayed its welcome.  It is a mere skeleton of a song with not enough raw meat.  It does ask an important question in the lyrics, “Why waste good music on the brain?”  Interesting inquiry David; something to get the metal masses thinking.  For fans of Nigel Tufnel’s signature shredding, you will find much to love in his solo for “Heavy Duty”.  Moving forward to 1977, we are next treated to the title track from Rock and Roll Creation, Tap’s misguided collection of rock and roll psalms.  Thankfully the track “Rock and Roll Creation” itself boasts one of the band’s strongest choruses, though it is certainly hard to forget the scene in the movie when Derek fails to escape his pod.

The liner notes say that “America” is previously unreleased (I did not know that).  It was barely in the film.  This duet between Nigel and David boasts some heavy riffing, but not much in terms of melody.  Lyrically the song recounts the experience of Spinal’s visits to America, “pretty womens everywhere, Brady Bunch and Smokey Bear!”

Side one of the soundtrack closes with “Cups and Cakes”, a pre-Tap single from 1965 when they were still known as The Thamesmen.  This is a Tufnel creation about having tea.  Predating Sgt Peppers by two years, obviously the Beatles must have taken inspiration from “Cups and Cakes” for their own songs.  Strings and trumpets create the backing music while nary a rock instrument can be heard.

The legendary “Big Bottom” (from Brainhammer, 1973) was given some legitimacy when Soundgarden decided to cover it (as a medley with Cheech and Chong’s “Earache My Eye”).  In this track all the axemen play bass — there are no guitars!  Opening side two with a song that is all bass and no guitar was probably a genius move.  I just can’t explain why.  I’m just assuming. Unfortunately when Soundgarden covered it, they did it with guitars, failing to capture the mighty bass necessary to sing a song about bums.

“My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo, I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo”

From 1980’s poorly reviewed Shark Sandwich is the riffy “Sex Farm”.  Though Shark Sandwich might be considered one of Tap’s worst, “Sex Farm” is one of their most enduring anthems.  Readers of my regular feature here, Record Store Tales, may recall that my good friend Uncle Meat got written up at work for playing this song in store.  Supposedly somebody called in to complain about the lyrics.  This is Spinal Tap is his favourite movie of all time.  “I realize there is some innuendo,” says Meat.  “‘Plowin’ through your beanfield’…I just, you know, the thought of someone allegedly being so offended by Spinal Tap…” he trailed off.  (You can see the story in video form here, as this very CD was one of the Top Five Albums that Got Us in Shit at the Record Store.)

The best tune on 1975’s The Sun Never Sweats was undoubtedly “Stonehenge”, and I would argue that it remains the greatest Spinal Tap song of all time.  It is hard to encapsulate this opus in mere English.  Tap take us on a trip back in time with both Tufnel and St. Hubbins sharing lead vocals.  The mandolin break at the end is one of Tap’s most famous musical moments, as it is there that things often seem to go wrong in concert, regarding the giant Stonehenge prop that is supposed to appear on stage.

In my last year of high school, my mom bought me this soundtrack on cassette.  That helped enable a group of my friends to do a Spinal Tap “air band” at our school’s annual air band competition!  Lacking a mandolin player, they instead snagged one of our math teachers who played banjo, and had him come out on stage dancing in lederhosen.  Absolutely brilliant.  I’m glad to have participated in it in my own small way of lending the tape.  Bringing Spinal Tap to the highschool masses?  There must be an award for that.

The album comes to an end with two oldies-but-goodies.  Back to the Thamesmen days, it’s 1965’s “Gimme Some Money”, the flip side to “Cups and Cakes”.  The drummer was John “Stumpy” Pepys (Ed Begley Jr.), a “tall blonde geek with glasses” according to David.  Pepys died in a bizarre gardening accident.  This artifact from their skiffle period is best remembered for Nigel’s cool guitar solo.  “Go Nigel, Go!”  Then finally it’s “(Listen to the) Flower People” from the cumbersome titled Spinal Tap Sings “Listen to the Flower People” and Other Favourites (1967).  The drummer on this track was Eric “Stumpy Joe” Childs, who sadly choked to death on vomit (not his own) in 1974.  What is especially interesting about this track is Nigel’s use of the sitar, a full two years after George Harrison did on Rubber Soul.  Spinal Tap were exploiting the hippy movement and this track was one of their greatest successes.

The remastered CD comes with two bonus tracks!  The non-album single (1984) for “Christmas With the Devil” is presented in two mixes, one from the A-side and one from the B-side.  Prior to this, the only version of “Christmas With the Devil” available on CD was the re-recorded one on 1992’s Break Like the Wind.  The original single version(s) remained obscure until 2000, when Universal released them here.  Now finally having them all, I must say I prefer the 1992 version best.  The original does have a little more pep in its step, and there is a Christmas message from the band at the end.  The “scratch mix” of the single is not much different.

All joking aside, it’s crucial to remember that these guys (the actors) were not musical slouches.  Michael McKean was nominated for an Oscar award, for his music in 2003’s A Mighty Wind.  The musicianship is there and it’s intentional humorous.  You can hear musical jokes in the solos of Christopher Guest.  As a result, the soundtrack is not only funny but also timeless.  A good song is a good song is a good song, and some of the tracks here are actually really good when you break them down.  “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”, “Sex Farm” and especially “Stonehenge” are all really good songs when it comes down to it!

In the real world, all the songs were written by the trio of Guest, McKean and Shearer with director Rob Reiner.  The drums were handled by R.J. Parnell of Atomic Rooster, who played Mick Shrimpton in the movie.  On keyboards is David Kaff (Rare Bird) otherwise known as Viv Savage from the film.  (Rare Bird are probably best remembered as the band who originally did “Sympathy”, later covered by Marillion.)  The album was self-produced.  There is no questioning the chops of the musicians involved.  It’s hard to create a musical joke of album length that is still fun to listen to 30 years later.

4/5 stars

#371: The Birth of Grunge

March 3, 2015 34 comments

NIRVANA

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#371: The Birth of Grunge

1991.

The pendulum of rock music was swinging back to heavy. The world had tired of Poison, Warrant, and even the once mighty David Lee Roth. His latest album (A Lil’ Ain’t Enough) had tanked and the tour poorly attended. On the other hand, Metallica were transforming from the little thrash band that could into a worldwide juggernaut. Change was in the air, but what we didn’t expect were the dark clouds blowing in from Seattle.

I had been aware of a few newer bands. Soundgarden for example had some airplay with “Loud Love”, but I wasn’t impressed. There was another new group called Temple of the Dog that had a music video with two singers. “What’s up with this new band, Temple of the Dog?” I asked my highschool friends. They shrugged. “Haven’t heard of ‘em.”  Highschool ended and I began a new adventure at Wilfrid Laurier University, majoring in History. And that’s when I saw “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Because the schism of grunge and metal had yet to occur, it was played on the Pepsi Power Hour, where Temple of the Dog had also debuted. I had even read a Nirvana concert review in an early issue of M.E.A.T Magazine, but they weren’t really on my radar. I thought the singer had a great voice even though his ratty old sweater was pretty lame. I thought he kind of looked like a dirty Sting. The singer’s voice and the drummer’s chops were the best part of this band that otherwise didn’t click for me.

Some other singles and videos trickled onto the airwaves: “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Alive”, and more. It all happened so quickly. In a matter of months, a new crop of darker, detuned bands had replaced the likes of Van Halen on the charts. These new bands didn’t concentrate on an image, which in itself became their image. Shaggy beards, unkept hair, shorter do’s – these new rock bands didn’t look much like the old. Even their onstage personas were different. Where bands used to try to entertain and give bang for the buck, these new ones seemed to take a page out of shoegazer bands’ books. Layne Stayley from Alice in Chains was noted for standing still in one place on stage much of the time. Pearl Jam replaced lights and flashbombs with jams and crowd surfing. Worst of all to me was the disrespect this new crop had for the old, just like in the punk days of old. Krist Novoselic of Nirvana said on television that he hated heavy metal because it all sounded like with was spat out of a computer. The fact that heavy metal fans were buying his albums by the hundreds of thousands didn’t seem to click with him. Mudhoney were talking about beating up Sebastian Bach. It was getting crazy and a huge split happened within heavy rock music.

It was hard to keep up with the rapid changes. What was in a few months ago was deader than dead. What never would have had a chance of charting in 1990 was now #1. Artists that once looked cool suddenly looked ridiculous. But most importantly, the fun was disappearing from rock and roll. It was no longer enough to sing about cars or girls. Now you had to have something from your soul to confess, or a social issue to address. It was a lot less fun to sing, “Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies, oh he don’t know so he chases them away,” than it was to sing, “I got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for teacher.”

I resisted the change. I owned no grunge albums until late ’92, when I was finally drawn in by the song “Would” by Alice in Chains. The Dirt album took some getting used to, but it was at least built upon metal riffs. Pearl Jam and Nirvana remained all but incomprehensible to me. A couple years later, Soundgarden managed to suck me in with “Spoonman”. I had to admit that these bands had a lot of talented players: guys like Matt Cameron and Jerry Cantrell were earning mainstream respect among musicians. As these bands grew in popularity, I would always advise kids to keep an eye on the rearview mirror. “Yeah, Soundgarden are great. But have you ever heard original Black Sabbath? They were the original Soundgarden.” I didn’t want the roots (and my roots!) to be forgotten.

Grunge and I had an uneasy relationship for a few years, but soon it no longer mattered. Other types of music were coming to the forefront now, even more heinous and evil: pop punk, boy bands, and the post-grunge onslaught. I slowly grew to enjoy Pearl Jam and some Nirvana. I even own a Stone Temple Pilots CD or two. But my heart will always remain with the music that grunge nearly destroyed forever – hard rock!

Hard rock went into a sort of hibernation for a while, but it could never be killed.  Not even by something as all-consuming as grunge was.  Today, hard rock is back in business again.

The Four Horsemen: “Back in Business Again”

You never met a man like me
You wouldn’t understand
I’m in the rock’n’roll business honey
I’m in a rock’n’roll band
And we were headed for the top babe
Way back in ’91
Some record business scumbags took it from us
Well they forgot my gun
Well now we’re back in business folks
I’ve come to claim what’s mine
See we’re the Four fucking Horsemen
Back for a second time

I’m a fast talkin’, woman lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, good for nothin’ rock n roll star
In a hell raisin’, trouble lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, mother f***in’ rock n roll band
I make my dirty little fortune
In this rock n roll band
We’re here to entertain you
We’re back in business again
Hahahaha

Moron after moron at the meet and greet
They’d do just about anything for a front row seat
When you see me on the stage one thing you’ll understand
It’s what I do, it’s what I am, I’m just a rock n roll man
And you don’t hear me whining about my fame and fortune

I’m a hell raisin’, trouble lovin’, fast talkin’, good for nothin’ rock n roll star
In a trail blazin’, skin lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, mother f***in’ rock n roll band
I make my dirty little fortune
In this rock n roll band
We’re here to rock n roll you
We’re back in business again

Now pay attention
I got a little story here to tell ya
It kinda goes like this
You know I had a couple years off there babe
To kinda take some time
And I heard a bunch of whining, little wussy rock n rollers
Complaining about how fame and fortune’s got them down
I say we gather up all these little bastards
Shove them back to their lil’ nowhere town
See I was born on this stage
And I plan to stick around!

REVIEW: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy (1986)

March 2, 2015 40 comments

YNGWIE_0001YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN – Trilogy (1986 Polygram)

Trilogy: not only my first Yngwie Malmsteen album (cassette), but also the first Yngwie Malmsteen review here at mikeladano.com.

Trilogy was, appropriately, Yngwie’s third album.  It was also his first with new singer Mark Boals after the departure of the uber-talented Jeff Scott Soto.  I received this album (cassette) for Christmas of ’86 and it was all but instant dislike.  I knew a couple Yngwie songs, but none of the new ones, and I didn’t care for the new singer.  I saw this listed in an A&A Records and Tapes flier so I asked for it for Christmas.  All I really knew was that Yngwie was heavy metal and that he was a blazing fast player.  That did not prepare me for the distinctly European flavour and neo-classical leanings of Trilogy.

As it was, Polygram used to put out the shittiest quality cassettes.  My copy of Trilogy was unlistenable in a matter of months, so until I got it again a decade later on CD, I didn’t have a chance to let it grow on me.  In 1996 a used CD came into the store, and I was mocked for buying it by staff member the Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd.  Here’s a weird thing about our old store receipts.  They would imprint, permanently, whatever was on them onto the jewel case of a CD.  My jewel case for Trilogy still has a faint accidental imprint of the receipt, so I know that I bought it October 11 1996, at precisely 4:29 pm!  Apparently I paid by debit card.

Trilogy has grown on me over the years and now it’s a favourite Yngwie album.  I still get what I didn’t like about it as a kid.  The drums don’t sound very good (the album is self produced) and Mark Boals can be a bit over the top at times.  There’s no denying the guy has range and power, but it was all flat-out back then.  And of course Yngwie’s songs aren’t always the catchiest.  You need to give them time, and I have.

The one song that I did like as a kid was the mid-tempo opener “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”.  I’ve always thought the melody and hooks were strong, and I still think it’s the strongest track on the album.  “Liar” is also excellent, from the fast part of the spectrum.  It sounds at times like Yngwie really wanted to be Ritchie Blackmore, but that’s OK.  There are very few that can come even close to Ritchie Blackmore.  “Queen in Love” is another mid-tempo track, similar to “You Don’t Remember” and almost as strong.  As a kid, I found this one too slow.  As an adult, I’m playing air bass along to it.  (Yngwie played all bass on the album.)

YNGWIE_0002One of things that I was most excited about hearing on an Yngwie album were instrumentals.  “Crying” is the first, which features both classical and electric guitars.  I’m noticing Yngwie has a nice vibrato when playing classical.  This fine instrumental track is only hampered by the production values.  Too much bass and poor drum and cymbal sounds distract the attention.  The album side is redeemed by “Fury” which is another blazingly fast Yngwie electric medieval dance, and good enough for me.

“Fire” commences with some incendiary guitar, but the song itself is a plain old hard rocker with Jens Johansson providing keyboard hooks for the verses.  Then from some sorcerer’s bag of tricks is “Magic Mirror”, but it is indeed just smoke and mirrors.  Killer chorus aside, the song doesn’t catch, except when Yngwie is unleashing his own electric magic.  “Dark Ages” sets the scene; some dark cloudly and cold landscape about a thousand years ago.  This is a slow Dio-esque prowl, with Boals screaming his balls off.  It’s a bit much with the screaming, but the song does not suck.

I was expecting more instrumentals than this, but Yngwie saved a seven minute epic instrumental for last.  “Trilogy Suite Op:5″ is as bombastic as you’d guess it is.  Running the gamut in tempos and tones, Yngwie composed a track here that is highly enjoyable.  Jens and Yngwie get to duel with each other, but it’s definitely a guitar showcase.  Electric and classical, Malmsteen pulls out all the stops on his opus.  I mean, hey: it’s Yngwie J. fucking Malmsteen!

I am glad to say that I enjoy Trilogy a lot more today than I did in 1986.  Bonus points are added for the cover art.  Dio, after all, only had a single-headed dragon!

3.5/5 stars
YNGWIE_0003

WTF Comments: Everyone’s a Critic edition

March 1, 2015 36 comments

MUPPET-CRITICS

WTF Comments II: Everyone’s a Critic edition

Jeez, everyone’s a critic these days! Even critics have critics! Welcome to another installment of WTF Comments. This time I collected comments from readers who had a bone (or two, or three) to pick with my reviews!  I realize that sometimes my reviews can be a bit acerbic, but I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.  Sometimes I can be a bit harsh, but it’s all in fun.  It serves me right to have some critics of my own take some shots at me! First up, Bryan did not like my 3.5/5 (70%) review for the Rival Sons. Bryan’s comment was lengthy so I took the liberty of highlighting the parts I like best!

your gimmicky comment is idiotic. They record with real vintage gear because they are trying to create that vibe not for one song, but that’s who they are and frankly I’m glad. So much of what is out now is 150 tracks of productions and tricks that cater to the ADD society who needs a new sound effect coming at them every 10 seconds to keep their attention. Just enjoy the fact that these are guys are setting up a few mics into some of the best gear studios can pull out of the closet and they deliver great songs that they can actually reproduce live with backing tracks…hey, there’s a concept. If you can appreciate that you shouldn’t be reviewing music…you know..music???

also, STOP comparing them to Led Zeppelin just because the drums are open mic’d and there’s space. Go back and read the reviews when Zep was playing…the critics killed them…but somehow now their the greatest thing ever. Have you ever hear them live? I love Zep but Jay Buchanan can hit EVERY note on the album live, Plant couldn’t do that a lot of the time. But I don’t even compare the two, just enjoy the band without having to pigeon hole them. Basically your saying here’s this band, but we don’t really validate them because I heard something similar before. The album has potential…Geez.. the album kicks ass so just get past yourself and get on board. How about this for a review…”Hey everyone, in this day and age of laptops and samples, finally a band just plugs in and records to tape and here it is…enjoy some great rock with soul and vibe and enjoy these guys laying it out there while not pitch correcting and time aligning everything. AND, when you see them live they’ll sound like what you heard on your iPod, how refreshing. Rival Sons should be applauded and you should buy the CD”.

:-)

Thanks, Bryan!  I always thought being compared to the mighty Zeppelin was quite a compliment, myself. Then there’s Dave.  Dave also does not think much of my writing skills, in regards to Triumph’s 1986 turd The Sport of Kings:

This article is pretty lame. Please do some research before you post stuff like this. Triumph had issue with the producer Ron Nevison. He wanted them to have a hit single and he was trying to craft the songs to be radio friendly. The band had been pretty much cranking out an album a year for the whole decade and touring in between and the record company was demanding more. The band was spent! Some of the songs aren’t as strong as previous outings, but it sounds like you were never much of a fan in the first place. Never be embarrassed about the music you like…whether it’s Triumph, Kenny G or Michael Jackson. I like what I like and i don’t care what anyone else thinks!

Somebody needs to tell Dave that you don’t have to be “much of a fan” to write a music review!

Then lastly, there’s scm.  He or she isn’t a person of many words, but smc didn’t think too much of my Man of Steel movie review.

You continue writing articles about what great screen writers & film makers bring son. Man of Steel 4.5/5.

For the record: I am not scm’s son!  Hope you enjoyed these comments.

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Slaves and Masters (1990)

February 28, 2015 18 comments

Get some Epic Review Time right here for your weekend!

DEEP PURPLE – Slaves and Masters (1990 BMG)

The much ballyhooed Deep Purple MkII reunion came to a crashing halt when Ian Gillan was fired in 1988. Just as the band released their first double live in aeons (Nobody’s Perfect) and a new single (a remake of “Hush”) to celebrate their 20th birthday, Gillan was out again. Except this time he was fired. And this time, Roger Glover did not go with him.  Even his friend Glover said to him, “Ian you have gone too far this time.”  His drunkeness and anger towards Ritchie Blackmore had gotten the better of him.

Blackmore briefly considered reforming Rainbow, or launching a new Blackmore-Turner Blues Band.  He was however reluctant to break up Purple, liking the current chemistry he had with the other musicians.  After inviting a singer named Bill Mattson from up-and-comers Tangier to try out for Deep Purple, the band reluctantly gave former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner a shot.  They eventually invited him to join.  According to Turner, “I had to sit down with the boys in Purple and say, ‘Are we going to be true to Purple? Are we going to have the hard rockin’ blues image come out?  I really don’t want to scream.”  Turner would get his wish.  According to him:

“The guys told me, ‘We’ve never really had a singer.’  I go, ‘Well you had Ian Gillan.’  They go, ‘He’s not a singer’s singer. He’s a stylist.’  I go, ‘Ahh, I see what you mean, a stylist as opposed to a singer — it’s two different things.’  They wanted someone who can really sing and write songs, like what we did on this record, as opposed to The House of Blue Light record, which was no songs and really yielded nothing they could bring to the stage.”

Call it what you like:  Deep Rain Snake, Deep Rainbow, or just Deep Purple Mk V. Blackmore, Lord, Paice, and Joe Lynn Turner added a new album to the Purple canon called Slaves and Masters, with Roger Glover once again producing.  With most of the music already written by Blackmore, it fell to Turner and Glover to take those riffs and turn them into songs.  But what would it sound like?  Would it sound like Deep Purple, or Rainbow?

Slaves and Masters is a regal disc, different from everything else in the Purple catalogue, but beautiful in a subtle, understatedly powerful way. The first track and single, “King of Dreams” for example gives you an idea of the what the rest of the album sounds like. It is a rock song, based on the bass guitar groove, but mellow. It’s in the pocket. The power in the song comes from the groove and the soulful and smooth vocal by Turner. The lyrics are a subtle rebuttal to Ian Gillan’s scathing 1973 song “Smooth Dancer”, which was a backhanded attack on Blackmore. “King of Dreams” takes Gillan’s lyrics and turns them on their head:

“I’m a real Smooth Dancer, a fantasy man, master of illusion at the touch of my hand.”

If you think “King of Dreams” is too mellow, fear not. “The Cut Runs Deep” is second up, and after a brief deceptive piano intro, the old Hammond organ kicks in backed by some ferocious riffing by Blackmore. When Ian Paice picks up the pace (a fast “Kickstart My Heart” drum beat), you’re out of breath and beaten. All you can do is submit to it and take the body blows of drums and guitars.

“Fire in the Basement” is acceptable, a blues shuffle that serves its purpose.  Most of the album tends to be balanced between groove rockers in the “King of Dreams” mold, and ballads. There are quite a few ballads on this record: “Foretuneteller”, “Truth Hurts”, and “Love Conquers All”, which is fully 1/3 of the record.  That is not to say these are bad songs, for all three are actually quite excellent. “Foretunteller” is particularly wonderful, with some beautiful fingerpicked chords as only Ritchie can play. These are not ‘power ballads'; rather these are powerful ballads, dark and moody. After all, this is Ritchie Blackmore; and the man in black himself could never turn in pop trash.

The band were sure to end the album wisely on a 6 1/2 minute jam called “Wicked Ways”.  This is pedal to the metal Purple with Turner’s smooth rasp on top.  You can hear Blackmore letting loose with his pick scrapes and pyrotechnics, but they are unfortunately too low in the mix to come through.  Obviously Purple were going for a radio-friendly sound even on the heavy rockers, because you could remix this one heavy as hell if you had the master tapes!

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I remember listening to this album for the first time at the cottage.  I had rented the CD (remember that?) from a local video store in Kincardine, and I was recording it.  When “Wicked Ways” came on, my dad said, “Who is this group?”  Deep Purple, I said.  “They are obviously a musician’s band,” he said.  Normally he’d come up with one of his wisecracks like, “Why is the singer screaming so much, is he sick?”  Not with Deep Purple.  Upon “Wicked Ways” he bestowed one of his rare compliments.

There are only two poor tracks on the album: The lame-titled “Breakfast In Bed”, and “Too Much is Not Enough” which was written by Turner and outside writers. Otherwise, this is strong music. It is arguably not a Deep Purple album except only in name, but I think today most Purple fans are also fans of Rainbow.  It could have used a ballsier mix.

Regardless of the quality of the album, the tour was a reportedly a bit of a disaster. Having Joe in the group did enable them to play a few rarer tracks, such as “Burn” which was originally sung by Coverdale, but this wasn’t enough to sell tickets or convince fans that Joe was “the singer” for Deep Purple.

The band began work on a second Deep Purple Mk V album, but regardless of any progress made, Gillan came back for The Battle Rages On in 1993, ending this brief era of Deep Purple’s history.  But if you like Turner era Purple, there are still a few more rare tracks to be had.  They are as follows:

  • NEW LIVE“Slow Down Sister”, a single B-side, which was since reissued on a remastered version of Slaves and Masters.  It can also be found on the Shades 1968-1998 box set.  It cleverly recycles the riff from “Stormbringer” into a new song with a similar groove, although way more commercial.  This does not sound much like Deep Purple at all, and the funky bass does not sound like Roger Glover playing.
  • “Fire, Ice & Dynamite”.  This is apparently from a movie soundtrack called Fire Ice & Dynamite that I have never heard of.  I however have it on a Purple DVD called New, Live and Rare (2000).   This song is a Blackmore/Turner/Glover original, but Jon Lord did not play on it.  I believe Glover plays keyboards, and Paice was also present.  It is a pretty straightforward hard rock song, not too different from material on The House of Blue Light.  Decent song, and an uber-rarity.

Final note: this album just sounds better on headphones.  I don’t know why.

Check out Slaves and Masters for one of those lost Purple platters that, with a few listens, you could grow to love.

4/5 stars

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