REVIEW: Dokken – Tooth and Nail (1984)

DOKKEN – Tooth and Nail (1984 Elektra)

Dokken always served up large helpings of cheese. Within the framework of 80s hard rock, their second album Tooth and Nail has been elevated to the status of classic.  Produced by Tom Werman and armed with nine great songs, Dokken were poised to move on to the big leagues.

The brief instrumental opener “Without Warning” leads directly into the full speed chug of “Tooth and Nail”.  George Lynch was the obvious star on guitar, but “Wild” Mick Brown certainly blows the doors off with his high speed drum work.  Don Dokken could hit the high notes when required, aided and abetted by bassist Jeff Pilson.  The quartet could go hard or soft, or right down the middle.  “Just Got Lucky” is perfect in the centre.  Not too heavy, boasting a chorus that sticks, and a fiery hot guitar solo.

The lesser known “Heartless Heart” gets by for its Lynch chugging, though its chorus is left wanting.  Even chuggier:  “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, which Lynch leaves a smoking ruin:  Don screaming over the wastes left behind by the incessant rocking.  And that’s side one.

Dokken were especially good at slower, heavy songs.  “When Heaven Comes Down” is one of those.  Lynch’s riff holds the fort while Don conjures apocalyptic imagery.  Then a classic:  “Into the Fire”.  This song has it all.  The chorus and riff are topped only by a killer middle eight and a flammable solo.  You can pass on the cliche “Bullets to Spare” which sounds like a Quiet Riot B-side.  But don’t miss “Alone Again”, one of the best ballads from the entire decade.  It defines the term “power ballad” all by itself.  From the words, to the melody, to the legendary Lynch solo, “Alone Again” sounds as good today as it did then.

Finishing it off you’ll get the incendiary “Turn On The Action”, a cross between Van Halen, Motley Crue, and 2/3rds of the Sunset Strip.  It’s a good closer, but derivative and absolutely a product of its time and place.

Tooth and Nail is two or three songs shy of 5/5 rating.  Though you may debate it among yourselves, Back For the Attack and Dysfunctional are superior albums.  Tooth and Nail, however, has something they don’t have, and that is a high percentage of Dokken concert classics.  “Alone Again”, “Just Got Lucky”, “Into the Fire” and “Tooth and Nail” are all cornerstones of a Dokken collection.

4/5 stars

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Sunday Chuckle: Don’t Go on Vacation

The picture above demontrates what happened when someone I know went to Spain for two weeks!

REVIEW: Aerosmith – Unplugged 1990

AEROSMITH – Unplugged 1990 (2017 Zap City broadcast CD)

When Aerosmith’s MTV Unplugged aired in Canada, we didn’t get the whole show.  We only got about half.  Now thanks to easily acquired broadcast CDs, you can get all 14 tracks in one handy place.  Because MTV were rigid about things being 100% live, you’ll get none of the annoying backing tracks that Aerosmith use today.  That makes Aerosmith Unplugged a strong contender for the best live Aerosmith purchase since Classics Live II.

“Hangman Jury” is a natural for an opener, and actually superior to the Permanent Vacation album cut.  “Monkey On My Back” is more surprising, being a heavier groove from Pump.  Deconstructed as an acoustic jam, it lays it down hard.  The first surprise of the night comes from the Air America soundtrack, to which Aerosmith contributed their Doors cover “Love Me Two Times”.  Frankly the unplugged version is better.  Tyler gets to honk on the harmonica and tear it up on the vocals a bit.

The first step back into Aerosmith’s past is 1974’s “Seasons of Wither”.  When this set was recorded in 1990, only people who owned Get Your Wings would really have known this song.  The purity of the unplugged stage is the ideal setting.  Then it’s onto 1975 and “Big Ten Inch Record”, the old R&B classic they covered on Toys in the Attic.  The album version with full horns is rearranged into an acoustic shuffle with individual guitar solos by Brad Whitford and Joe Perry.  That’s all before Thom Gimbel shows up with his sax!   This version kills.

Going even further back in time, Aerosmith pull “One Way Street” from the first album featuring a cool Perry solo.  For serious fans, “Smokestack Lightning” is a treat because Aerosmith have never recorded it before.  The oft-imitated Howlin’ Wolf cover is a natural jam for them.  They they unload the heavy artillery exactly halfway into the set:  “Dream On”.  Arguably the song everybody was waiting to hear; easily a highlight.  Playing with minimal instrumentation is a wise way to do it, though it picks up steam at the end.

“Milk Cow Blues” is rolled out next, a rarely played number from Draw the Line.  Full steam ahead just like the album version, you don’t wanna be standing on the tracks when this one rolls by.  Then, as if you’re daring them to try one that fast again, it’s “Toys in the Attic”.  Tyler and Perry’s voices blend naturally together in the unforgiving unplugged environment.

Returning once more to the first album, “Walkin’ the Dog” is the fifth of six cover tunes and the first encore.  It’s particularly cool because you get Tyler playing flute.  “Train Kept-a Rollin'” from Get Your Wings is the final cover, though presented twice:  “fast” and “slow” versions.  For a solid thrills-per-second ratio, you gotta go for the fast take.  Finally “Last Child” is announced to the excitement of one really hyped guy in the crowd.  The funky classic works surprisingly well.  A highlight from a show of nothing but highlights.

The CD had a few sonic clicks and quirks that may vary player to player.  That would be its only flaw.  Anyone buying broadcast CDs should be prepared for less than perfect audio.

4/5 stars

#762: When Is Your Art Really “Done”?

GETTING MORE TALE #762: When Is Your Art Really “Done”?

 

“Where are the starting points and where are the end points? When’s a song ‘done’? What the fuck does that mean anyway? ‘Done’? When’s a record ‘done’? Where does a record start; where does it end?” — Lars Ulrich, Some Kind of Monster

When Lars Ulrich asked the rhetorical question “When is a song ‘done’?” he wasn’t just yammering meaningless bullshit.  In fact he was colourfully paraphrasing Leonardo Da Vinci, who said “A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned.”  Da Vinci might be the best known example today of someone who laboured over his art.  Many of his paintings, including the Mona Lisa, conceal previous unseen versions beneath layers of paint.  Scanning the paintings with modern technology, we have been able to discern Da Vinci’s works in progress.  It is a little like peaking inside the mind of a creator as they create.

Imagine you’re finishing a painting of something completely imagined inside your head.  How much time will it take to be “done”?  Perhaps you have to make that sky a little more blue, or cloudy, to match your vision.  You will never be able to take a photograph of your imagination, so painting something is by its very nature a compromise.  You must decide when you are satisfied that you have accomplished your goal.  Let’s say you added that cloud to your painting.  It looks good to you.  Then you take a step back and look at the whole painting.  The corner where you added that cloud now looks too busy.  Did you overdo it?  Was the painting already “done”?

The same applies to music.  Axl Rose laboured over Chinese Democracy for 15 years.  There are, of course, some major differences between recording a Guns N’ Roses album and working on a painting.  With the rock album, there is far more outside pressure and this can become the dominating influence.  Even if outside forces end up pushing you to do something opposite from what they want, it has now effected your music.  The music will not take the same shape that it would have without that outside pressure.  Is that a good or bad thing?  It can be either!  Axl re-recorded the album at least once, and continually updated it as new members joined the band.  By the time 2008 rolled around and the record was “finished”, dozens of musicians and producers and managers and writers had made some kind of impact, no matter how small.

Let’s not forget George Lucas either.  The Star Wars creator fiddled with his movies continuously.  Do you really think the 1997 special editions were the first Star Wars that were changed?  Not even.  The initial updates happened in 1980, when George re-titled Star Wars as Episode IV: A New Hope.  He fidgeted with them steadily, even beginning a fairly recent conversion to 3D until he sold the rights to Disney in 2012. (Only Phantom Menace was released in 3D, with Disney putting the project on hold in favour of the sequel trilogy.)

You can obsess over and overthink art.  You can also rush it, and end up with something “unfinished” that might actually be better.  This often happens out of necessity.  Black Sabbath famously recorded their first album in two days.  They had been playing the songs live for months and were tight as hell (pun intended) but also had a very limited amount of time in the studio.  Maybe they would have loved to stay in there, experiment with different amps and guitars, get different sounds, but there was no time.  And so the debut album Black Sabbath pukes overloaded guitar, and you can hear amps hum.  You couldn’t have made it better if you tried.  (Zakk Wylde will try and will not succeed.)  Whatever they did on that album, they did out of necessity and it just happened to work.

Though my “art” is usually the written word (and occasionally video), I also love recording song introductions.  This is for our annual “Sausagefest” party, and it’s something that allows me to really get creative with sound.  In recent years, in addition to introducing the songs, I also create an introduction for myself.  It’s sort of an audio collage of things I found funny.  This started out of necessity — it was the only way I could get my comedic bits into the evening!  Now it’s something I work and obsess over.  And this is the question I’m currently struggling with:  When is it “done”?  I started recording bits for it almost a year ago, and I began piecing the whole thing together on May 11.  Now we’re at the tail end of June and I’m still making changes!

Without giving it all away, I like to begin my intro with a certain, recognizable musical theme.  You’d know it.  This year, a certain unnamed rock band recorded their own version of that classic theme.  I happened to be playing that album in the car when I realized, I had to use it!  As soon as I got home, I started editing the audio track that I thought was “finished”.  In a couple minutes, I removed the original theme and replaced it with the 2019 rock version.  It was a few seconds longer than the original so I also had to extend the space it fit into, but that’s pretty easy to do.  Now I’m even happier with the intro.

When will it be “done”?  It will be “finished” when time is up and I’m forced to turn it in.  Until then, I continue to listen for room to improve.

I’m no Leonardo, or a Lucas, and I’m not even a Lars Ulrich (although we have shared the same hair style on numerous occasions).  I do, however, have a keen understanding that art is never done in the eyes of the creator.

 

 

REVIEW: KISS Crocs – Classic Kiss clog

Crocs – Classic Kiss clog (2019)

One of the most hard-to-find rock collectables this season has been…a pair of shoes?  Crocs, no less?

Well folks, at mikeladano.com we are profoundly pro-Croc.  If you are among the many who think the shoe should not even exist, then this review will not be for you.  Just letting you know.

Kiss, who will put their logo on everything from condoms to coffins, have now finally completed the triumvirate with the venerable Crocs.  This crossover, almost as monumental as Spiderman joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, should have been obvious.  Kiss Crocs took everyone by surprise and the shoes quickly sold out.  They are a sleek, black shoe with the classic Destroyer-era logo emblazoned on the front.  The same logo can be found on the heel.  This all ties in with Kiss’ epic End of the Road final tour.

If you’ve never worn Crocs, be assured they are a durable shoe.  They are ideal for housework, camping, and swimming.  The plasticy-rubbery material is both soft on the foot yet offering firm support.  There is no-slip traction on the inside of the shoe and a decent tread on the sole.  This makes them ideal for river-walking while visiting Sausagefest 2019.

The Kiss Crocs come in four different styles, including one with an Ace Frehley moon boot look.  This one, the “classic clog”, is the only one with holes in the front of sides of the shoe.  This makes it better for water, as the others will simply fill up instead of draining out.  The choice is up to you — we recommend the classic.

5/5 stars

 

#761: Gimme Some Reggae!

GETTING MORE TALE #761: Gimme Some Reggae!

Like many things, I was first exposed to reggae music as a child.  And like many things I was exposed to as a child, Catholic school did not approve!

It was grade six, the same year I discovered Quiet Riot and Van Halen.  The ironic thing was first hearing reggae in class.  There was a film we were watching, the details of which are now lost.  Most likely religious in nature.  The music might not even have been specifically reggae.  It was Caribbean music of some sort, and I remember steel drums, but what I remember most was the teacher’s comment.  A few kids mentioned that they liked the music in the film (I was one).   The teacher responded, “The music was fine, but that kind of music is usually about drugs.”

She kind of put a wet blanket over it.  I felt deflated.

At home, I asked my mom if this was true.  “Some is,” she said.  “Some.”  The door was left wide open.  My mom was good to me.

The following school year, MuchMusic debuted on Canadian television.  It began as a pay TV channel, but we had it as part of a package including movie and sports channels.  We had to talk our parents into getting it, but the fact that there was a package with sports made it easier.  My mom could watch more Blue Jays, at least when my sister and I weren’t hogging the TV with music videos.

In 1984, MuchMusic played music videos and nothing but.  Now it’s the opposite.  In 1984, there weren’t many music videos to choose from.  There are two specific videos that I remember Much playing in regular rotation right from the beginning.  They were “Voodoo Chile” by Jimi Hendrix and “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley.  I didn’t care for Jimi (way too advanced for my age) but I loved Marley.  “Buffalo Soldier” clearly had nothing to do with drugs.  And that hair!  I couldn’t figure out dreadlocks.  What were they?  How did they do make them?  Dreadlocks looked cool, in an alien way.  Novel and interesting.  My sister and I loved watching Bob Marley videos on Much.  He was one of the few artists we actually agreed on.  I hated her Corey Hart and she hated my W.A.S.P.!

She and I were always in tune with each other on reggae.  There are no other genres of music that we agree so much on.  In the 90s, we rocked it to Inner Circle.  Like everyone else on the planet, we discovered them via Cops.  My dad watched Cops a lot!  He loved that stupid show and it became a Saturday night ritual.  We’d play a game where we’d point out any time a male was not wearing a shirt.  When “Bad Boys” came on at the beginning, my sister would hit that floor and dance!  And she did the same at Bob Schipper’s wedding, where she requested the DJ play that song.  We tore up the floor for that song, and avoided dancing completely otherwise.  Some may forget this, but Inner Circle had more than just one hit.  “Sweat” is actually a way better song than “Bad Boys”.

She had the cassette single for “Bad Boys” and in the summer at the cottage, we’d be cruising with my old buddy Peter in his car.  She always wanted him to blast her tape of “Bad Boys” any time we were stopped at a red light on the main drag.

I didn’t buy any Bob Marley until I was in my 20s.  Until that point, I adopted a pretty strict “metal only” policy to my music collecting.  There were few exceptions.  Kim Mitchell wasn’t metal, but he’s still firmly in the rock camp, occupying a quirky Zappa-esque corner to himself.  The kind of thing that some more adventuring metal heads were into.  The 1990s forced me to loosen my “metal only” policy.  When I began at the Record Store, I befriended Aaron and acquired my first Marley album from him.  It was the deluxe edition of Catch A Fire.  Go big or go home.

There was a kid at work, Matty K, who was way, way, way into reggae and all the associated activities.  He was whiter than white, but damn he sure knew his rap and reggae.  I began to enjoy Snoop Dogg because of him.  At night before closing the store, he always liked to play one of DMX’s prayers.  Ironically, of course.   It is reggae music that I always think of when I think of Matty K.  Listening to Marley and Peter Tosh at the store.  One of the few things we agreed on musically.

When I need something lighter, particularly for summer drives, I have a lot of genres to choose from.  Marley’s One Love compilation usually does the job.  I find it palatable to just about any passenger.  It raises the spirits and raises the roof!

Video: Sunset & Song

They say it’s the greatest sunset in the world.  You be the judge.

The location is Lorne Beach near Kincardine, Ontario. The song is “Leave You Now”, a very rare track by Gypsy Jayne from their 1992 cassette Alive and Wandering.

#760: Eliminated Headlight

GETTING MORE TALE #760: Eliminated Headlight

As children, we were told many stories of what being a kid was like in the 1940s and 50s.  The greatest toy was Mecanno.  (My dad’s Mecanno #7 set was a treasured possession.)  Movies were 12 cents on Saturdays, and you could stay as long as you like.  (Once my dad went to go see Red Rider with his pal Jerry Irwin.  He stayed for four — well, three and a half — showings.  Then his father phoned the theatre looking for him, as he was supposed to home a long time ago!  Boy did he catch hell at home!)  One thing my dad always emphasized to us was how sad he was that all his childhood toys were gone.  His little brother wrecked some, and his dad threw out the rest.  He says they’d be priceless today.  All gone; somewhere in a Guelph landfill.

When kids move away from home, they don’t take everything with them.  Things like old toys get left behind.  That’s how my dad lost all his stuff.  I had trust in him that the same wouldn’t happen to me, and my sister.  The number of times we had to hear about his lost toys, his Mecanno #7 set, and all that stuff…I assumed he wouldn’t do that to us.

I assumed incorrectly.

A few months ago my sister was over at his house, went down into the basement to look at the board games…our old childhood board games…and they were gone.

We found some of them in a storage bin, but the rest had been thrown out.  That included my copy of Chopper Strike, a turn based combat strategy game that came with intricate little pieces and a massive two-level board.  I bought it at a garage sale for a couple dollars in the early 80s.  It was complete.  The game came with an army of plastic jeeps and helicopters.  The copters had rotating blades, and the jeeps had moving anti-aircraft guns.  Lots of easily lost components.  Rare for an such an old game (1976).  We played it over and over and over again as kids.  I thought it would remain safely stored at the old house.  It cost over $50 to replace it with a complete one again (thanks, Mom).

At least my dad saved some of the obviously valuable games, like our original Star Wars and Transformers.  Everything else from Admirals to Careers ended up in the trash, lost forever.  Feeling bad, my mom bought my sister a new Careers game on Ebay (and replaced my Chopper Strike).

I thought that was it.  I thought the point was made.  I thought our possessions were safe again.

Wrong again.

Some of my old model kits are at the cottage.  The cottage is a great place to build a model.  My ZZ Top Eliminator kit has safely lived at the cottage for 30 years.  A few years ago I took it out, dusted it off, and secured a few loose pieces with glue.  The last time I saw Eliminator, it was fine.

This time, I noticed a few things on my shelves had been moved.  When I returned them to their proper places, I saw Eliminator was now a one-eyed cyclops car.  A headlight came off and was nowhere in sight.  It’s gone.  If it had simply fallen off, it would be on the shelf, next to the car.  I only had two suspects.  One of the two was more credible, while the other claims to know nothing.  I know it was my dad!

“You can always pretend it was in an accident,” said my sister.

I used to think my stuff was safe in the hands of my dad.  Now I realize I need to keep valuables far, far away from him!

Sunday Chuckle: Lord Stanley’s Blues

It’s an obscure but not unknown fact:  I kind of like the Boston Bruins.  I don’t do it just to be a contrarian; I genuinely like Zdeno Chara and enjoy the team.  I especially liked them when Rene Rancourt used to sing the national anthem.  When the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t playing, I’m “allowed” to cheer for whoever I want.  Obviously I was cheering for the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup.

The day after the Bruins lost to the St. Louis Blues, I found the paper below taped to mt computer screen at work.  Please note the misspelling of the word “your”.  Pointing this out to the gloating perpetrator, I sort of turned my loss into a small victory!

REVIEW: The Sword – Greetings From… (2017)

THE SWORD – Greetings From… (2017 Razor & Tie)

This is one clean sounding live album.  Yes it’s live, and you can tell, but there’s not a lot of crowd noise or wasted time.  Opening with a full-on “Buzzards”, The Sword sound made for the stage.  The Sword may not have invented the guitar riff, but they have certainly mastered the art of creating them.

“The Chronomancer I: Hubris” (from Warp Riders) has a slower Sabbathy groove circa Ozzy, but rendered heavier on the metal scale.  They’re tight live, but there’s a certain rock n’ roll loosey-goosey vibe on this album as well.  “Maiden, Mother & Crone” is another hot riff, amplified by the live environment.

New material is rolled out, with “Tears Like Diamonds”, “Mist & Shadow”, and “Agartha” presented in sequence.  “Tears Like Diamonds” combines hook and groove into one steamrolling song.  The heaviest track could be “Tres Brujas” from the third album which flies at Warp speed.  Then they go into a cover of “John the Revelator” which works amazingly well as a heavy metal celebration.

The only track to appear from the debut Sword LP is “The Horned Goddess”.  It ends a pretty steady onslaught of riffs with…even more riffs.  If you’ve endured it, congratulations — you just might be a rocker!

No fluff, no filler.  Greetings From… flies by just as fast as the spaceship on the awesome cover art.

4.5/5 stars