REVIEW: Ratt – Invasion of Your Privacy (Part Two of The Atlantic Years series)

Part Two of Five

RATT – Invasion of Your Privacy (Originally 1985, 2020 reissue — The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 box set)

Going triple platinum on their debut album, Ratt had a lot of expectations going into a followup.  They resumed working with producer Beau Hill and didn’t change up much in their formula.  The result was a double platinum second record, another sales success.  But what about the tunes?

Lead track “You’re In Love” was chosen as a speedy, sleek, metallic and melodic single.  A step up in songwriting, “You’re In Love” packs power and horny Stephen Pearcy passion.  Wicked solo by Warren DeMartini.  The simple riff/melody combo was all the rodents needed to score a hit and a career highlight.  As an album opener, it revs the engine but it is also the fastest track you’ll get on Invasion of Your Privacy.

A tasty heavy riff opens up “Never Use Love”, a nice chugging album track.  Nothing here in terms of a memorable chorus, so strictly album filler.  Not road tape worthy without a decent chorus.  Great Robbin Crosby solo though.  Fortunately the slick first single, “Lay It Down” comes in for the save.  Take “You’re In Love” and slow it down to a sexy locked groove, and you get “Lay It Down”.  Pearcy was not one for subtlety.  “I know you really want to lay it down,” he beckons, and no points for guessing what “it” is.

Track four, “Give It All”, is a decent album cut, with the hooks and chugging Ratt N’ Roll style riffs that people expected.  A track with single potential, had they released another.  Another pretty good album track, “Closer To My Heart”, slows it down but not quite into ballad territory.  More like a slow dirge to close side one.

The second side opens on “Between the Eyes”, a disjointed tune that needs some tightening up.  Some cool hooks but nothing to tie them together into a song.  “What You Give Is What You Get” boasts a cool, tough little chorus and some quality guitar.  Great tune other than a misfitting pre-chorus.  It has a dark, foreboding vibe that Ratt rarely nail this well.   “Got Me on the Line” is a pretty solid deep cut, typical uptempo Ratt N’ Roll.  The solo in particular smokes.  “You Should Know by Now” is a bit clunky, but you can hear what they were going for.  They were trying for a big pop rock chorus, but they welded it to the wrong song.

Closing on “Dangerous But Worth the Risk”, the album comes to a strong ending.  It chugs along with that Ratt N’ Roll groove that embodies the sound of Motley Crue assimilating all of Hollywood California in a single night.  Though Ratt’s sound is not something as unique as they used to sell it as, it does have a niche.  It rarely squirms out of that niche.  Invasion of Your Privacy does not stray far from the debut, and doesn’t add any new wrinkles.  It’s the next batch of songs and all but equal in strength to the first batch.

Each CD in this box set comes with bonus material from singles, and this time it’s a single edit for “What You Give Is What You Get”.  The guitar solo is sadly trimmed by 20 seconds for the radio, but no problem hearing this cool song twice.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Sean Kelly – Where the Wood Meets the Wire (2011)

SEAN KELLY – Where the Wood Meets the Wire (2011 Opening Day Entertainment)

By now, we all know Sean Kelly.  Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron, Helix, Crash Kelly, the list goes on and on.  As much as Kelly enjoys rocking out, he’s just as capable of chilling.  His 2011 solo release, Where the Wood Meets the Wire, could be the perfect gateway for those curious about classical music but afraid to dive in.  As stated on the back cover, this album “retools classical guitar works” and that might be just what you needed to get your Schubert on.

By pairing the classical guitar with a little bit of electric, Kelly combines two worlds.  Opener “Adelita” is certainly accessible enough for rock fans, having qualities not unlike a mellow Satriani ballad.  The percussion here is outstanding.

Kelly takes on classical guitar masterworks by composers such as Agustín Barrios and Joseph Kaspar Mertz, displaying some pretty impressive dexterity.  The odd shot of electric guitar is like a punch in the arm.  Some pieces such as “Rujero” (Gaspar Sanz) will appeal to fans of Blackmore’s Night.

Another highlight is an acoustic instrumental rendering of Gowan’s classic “A Criminal Mind”.  Appropriately listed as “Une Mente Criminale”, this brilliant arrangement is a worthy re-imagining of the original.  The unmistakable melody translates into the classical style quite well.  It becomes a bit of a tango halfway through when the tempo is cranked up!

Finally, a familiar voice joins in on the final track “Ave Maria”, and it is Brian Vollmer of Helix.  Vollmer, trained in Bel Canto, is a frequent Kelly collaborator in the rock world, so his crossover here is a real treat.  You get to hear what Vollmer can do that doesn’t apply to Helix.  What Kelly and Vollmer both share is a fearless inclination to explore styles and techniques usually untapped by rockers.

If the classical world still holds a nose to modern music like it seemed to when we were younger, Where the Wood Meets the Wire might be met with indifference by purists.  For those who don’t think boundaries between genres are a big deal, Where the Wood Meets the Wire could end up being a favourite.  Only way to find out is to listen.

4/5 stars

Don’t miss Sean Kelly on the LeBrain Train Friday May 21 at 7:00 PM

Sunday Screening: Jacob Moon – “Subdivisions”

Continuing with Friday’s theme of cover tunes, one of only a few that made multiple lists was Jacob Moon’s 2008 live rooftop rendition of Rush’s “Subdivions”.  A version that would earn the praise of Rush themselves.  You already heard Moon cover “Something For Nothing” on the 2112 boxed set.  Now hear and see the track that brought him to Rush’s attention in the first place:  “Subdivisions”!

 

Epic Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Cover Tunes Lists!

“I think it was safe to say that was by far my most favourite show.” – Chris T

Thank you Rob, Aaron, T-Bone, Harrison and Meat Man for tonight’s amazing panel.  The theme was Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Cover Tunes, brought to you by Meat.  Six lists, 66 songs, and very little overlap.  Having said that, there was one tune that made three lists, from an album that made four lists.  Watch the show to see what it was, or read Aaron’s notes below!

The lists commence at 0:20:30.

Incidentally, this show was record setting in terms of audience participation.  So many amazing picks and comments — most of them made in on screen, so check them out.

Once again your panel for this show was:

Ripping the Covers Off: Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Cover Tunes…tonight on the LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 64 – Nigen Tufnel Top Ten Cover Tunes

 

This week’s theme comes from your very own Uncle Meat:  best cover tunes!  And because it’s the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten, that means we’ll each have lists of 11.

Your panel this week:

Expect a very, very special beer de-canning tonight.

As always, it’s best to tune in live so you can participate!  Subscribe to my YouTube and let’s push it to the 1000 mark!

Friday May 14, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE AND NOTES:

As an experiment, and because we have so many special guests lined up, I’ve decided to try doing Saturday shows every once in a while.  This will give more friends the chance to participate!

New additions:  Tim Durling from the far more popular Tim’s Vinyl Confessions is up on Satuday May 29, at 3:00 PM.  You may have seen Tim on The Contrarians — he has done two episodes now.  The subject will be best Album Cover Designers.  Aaron will be joining us for that one!

We also have a theme for the June 11 show.  Best “Blind Buys” — albums you bought without knowing any songs or much about the artists.  The panel that night will be Aaron, Sarah, Kevin and, all the way from Scotland, J aka Jim Dead!

All aboard!

#903: Online Dating in the Brave New World (2000)

Attention:  Mike’s mom.  You don’t need to read this one.  Skip it please.

RECORD STORE TALES #903: Online Dating in the Brave New World (2000)

It was the year 2000 and the world seemed new to me again.  Iron Maiden had a fresh reunion album on the horizon, ushering in a long-awaited rebirth of classic heavy metal.  The snow was melting, and spring was in the air.  Things were going really, really well.  Especially at the Record Store.  My store had a “head office” (actually a broom closet) in its back room.  That’s why the upper management was always breathing down my neck.  But I had heard through the grapevine (actually Tom) that head office was moving to a new location across town.  They never told me, but Tom did.  I was elated.  Things were looking way up.

I also had what at the time I called “the best first date I’d ever been on”.  I even washed my car before driving to Hamilton to see her.  That’s how my parents knew something was up!  Her name was Terra and she fancied herself a photographer.  Strangely her apartment was filled with photos of herself.  That should have served as a warning.  T-Rev also dated a girl who was obsessed with photos of herself, and that didn’t work.  His story was told in a song by local band The Candidates called “Who’s Your Daddy Now?”  “Sold your soul for a photograph, I tore it up and had the last laugh.  Who’s your daddy now? He ain’t got nothin’ on me!”

But I had to take my chances.  The first date went so well that I called up T-Rev on my cell phone and told him I thought I met “the one”.

I did confide in T-Rev one thing that was unusual about Terra.  She didn’t drink or do any drugs, which I liked.  I rarely drank and had never touched a drug.  What was unusual was that Terra was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In my mind, trying to ease my concerns, I said “that means neither of us drink or do drugs – so that’s a good thing.”  I wouldn’t be heading out to bars with her, or anything like that.  I had to give her a chance for date #2.

She thought it would be fun to catch a sunrise together.  She lived in Hamilton so it would take me an hour to get there before the sun came.  I had never watched the sunrise with a girl before, so I was on board.  The people at the Record Store thought I had a screw loose.

“You’re going to drive to Hamilton at 5:00 in the morning, to watch a sunrise?” asked one of the supervisors.  They didn’t get why I thought it was such a cool idea.  It sounded romantic to me and I’d never done anything like that before.

I called Terra up the night before our sunrise date and she had suddenly changed her tune.  “That’s reeeaally early,” she complained about her own idea.

So that idea was off.  Instead I came down in the afternoon.  We hung out and watched MuchMusic.  Britney Spears had just come out with “Oops! I Did It Again” and I can remember watching that video in her apartment.  “I want a PVC bodysuit!” said Terra.  I just wanted to do anything but sit around watching MuchMusic.  After a few hours of watching Static X, Disturbed and other staples of the era, I headed home.

Date #3 was the weird one.  She had an AA meeting that night and didn’t want to miss it.  I offered to drop her off on my way home, and that turned into her inviting me to the meeting.  Going to it was one of the most regrettable decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

I didn’t know what I was doing.  I did not realize it was a “closed meeting” or what that meant.  I don’t know why she thought bringing me along was a good idea.  I was curious, and I liked Terra.  I trusted her that this was OK.

The AA meeting was in the basement of a nice church.  We all sat in a circle.  “When it comes your turn to talk, just pass,” said Terra.  So I did.  Instead I listened to stories that, quite frankly, I never should have heard.  Me being there was an invasion of the group’s privacy and I felt uncomfortable immediately.  I wanted out that door.  I waited for an appropriate break.

When the group leader broke the meeting into smaller groups, I said to Terra, “I have to go, I’m not comfortable, I’m really sorry.”  She said it was OK and that we would leave together.  We briefly spoke to the group leader.  His name was Mike too.  “We have groups for beginners too, if you feel you’d like to come back and talk about whatever is going on.”  This made me feel even worse.  I was masquerading as someone I was not, for the sake of sitting next to a girl in this room.  I thanked him and we left together.

I decided that would be our last date.

Which is why I am still surprised I went on date #4.  Mother’s Day weekend 2000.

The phone rang on the Friday night.  “What are you doing this weekend?  Do you want to come and hang out at my mom’s place in Huntsville?”

I silenced the alarm bells going off in my head.  The suddenness of the invite was strange but if she was introducing me to her mom, that sounded alright.  I packed a small bag and headed to Hamilton to pick her up.  A few hours later we were in Huntsville.  We went to a bar where her friends were.  There was a covers band playing.  I found a spot to watch.  They played “War Pigs”.  I was happy.  But where was Terra?  She left me there watching this band while she hung out with her friends.  Outside, one of them passed her a joint and she had a haul.  On the way back to her mom’s place, she said “I really shouldn’t have smoked that joint,” and I was shaking my head wondering what the hell I was thinking.

Her mom was really nice and made me feel very welcome.  They had a beautiful place up in Huntsville.  Huge, with a guest house in the back where I slept.  But by the end of the weekend, her mom was giving her shit for hanging out with her friends instead of the guy who brought her to Huntsville.  I felt the same way.  The whole weekend was her hanging out with friends, and me tagging along.  We never did anything just the two of us.  I felt good that her mom at least recognized there was something fucked up about it.  They had a big argument in the kitchen while I sat in the living room with one of her friends, not speaking, just staring at the newspaper.

I raced back to Kitchener barely in time for Mother’s Day dinner.  This time I really did mean it:  that was the last date.  That was the end of it.  No more.  I never saw her again.  I could tell when I’ve been hosed.  She promised me $50 in gas money that I knew I was never going to see.  I shot off an email mentioning the $50 debt, and that was our last communication.

Iron Maiden came out with a brand new single called “The Wicker Man” which served as my cheer-up.  I bought the CDs and the vinyl and immersed myself in new music.  I always turned back to music when stuff went sour with a girl.  In this case, one of my favourite bands were triumphantly returning with their strongest lineup.  Three lead guitars.  I couldn’t wait to hear it.  Terra was the past, but the “Wicker Man” was the future!  I felt that jolt of energy again.  The life-giving electricity of rock and roll.

Valuable lessons learned here.  Not many of my friends can say that they’ve been to an AA meeting.  I’ve been there and I know it’s not a place for outsiders.  A learning experience and not one I’ll repeat.

 

To be continued….

 

REVIEW: Styx – Cornerstone (1979, coloured vinyl reissue)

STYX – Cornerstone (Originally 1979 A&M, 2020 Universal red vinyl reissue – limited to 1000 copies)

With Cornerstone, Styx were on their fourth album in their most successful incarnation:  Dennis DeYoung, James Young, Tommy Shaw, and Chuck & John Panozzo.  Shaw was the newest member and a fierce creative force in songwriting, on guitar, and with his own lead vocals.  Styx had a string of hits with this lineup including Crystal Ball, The Grand Illusion, and Pieces of EightCornerstone would be their biggest yet.  Though imperfect, it’s loaded with memorable songs and dynamite performances from the poppy-pretentious-prog-rock quintet.

What a terrific song “Lights” still is, with that big fat keyboard lick and Tommy Shaw’s delicate lead vocal.  You can hear why the punk rockers sought to eradicate the likes of Styx and their contemporaries.  But Cornerstone went to #2 in the album charts, and “Lights” was one of the singles released in Europe.  It’s a song about performing on stage, something that most of us will never be able to relate to.  But there’s something in its sincerity that is just charming.  “Give me the lights, precious lights, give me lights.  Give me my hope, give me my energy.”

Another single follows called “Why Me” (which wasn’t intended to be a single, but we’ll get into that).  A head-bopping light rock delight.  One of those tracks where you say, “Yeah, decent song.”  You might forget about it later; you might forget which album it’s on.  But it’s cool, especially when a blistering saxophone solo hits the speakers.

The big hit is in the third slot:  legendary power ballad “Babe”, Styx’s only #1.  Its strength is its pure corniness.  Surely, it must have been corny in 1979 too.  Yet a word comes back to me – “sincerity”.  Dennis DeYoung sounds completely sincere singing, “Babe, I love you,” like he means it.  Indeed as I research the album, “Babe” was written for Dennis’ wife.  You can hear it.  And if I was writing a song for my wife, you’d find it corny too.

A natural follow up to this Dennis-fest is a solid Tommy Shaw rocker called “Never Say Never”.  One of those album tracks that couldn’t stand on its own as a single, but has a perfect slot on side one after the big ballad.  That is an important slot for any rock band’s side one.  You have to get the blood pumping and the circulation back into the extremities with something that has some pep.  Because before you know it, the side will be done.

And side one closes on an epic:  Tommy’s mandolin-inflected “Boat on a River”.  Shaw on mandolin, guitar and autoharp.  Dennis on accordion, Chuck Panozzo on double bass with a bow.  Although fully acoustic with no electric, “epic” is the best word to describe it.  Perhaps it is a precursor to the the current popular “sea shanty” trend.  Well, Styx did one in 1979.

Side two kicks off with a blast:  “Borrowed Time”.  It’s amusing to hear Dennis start the song by saying, “Don’t look now, here comes the 80s!”  But this fun romp will be almost completely forgotten when you are suffocated by “First Time”, one of the most syrupy ballads ever foisted upon us.  Too syrupy, though the string section is a nice touch.  And it would have been the second single, had Tommy Shaw not objected.  “Babe” was a smash, and so “First Time” was selected to follow it.  Tommy expressed concern at two ballads in a row for the first two singles, and threatened to quit the band over it.  Things got so nasty that Dennis DeYoung was briefly fired and then re-hired over the issue.  And thus “Why Me” was chosen as second single instead.  Probably for the best…though you never know.

What do we need now?  A James Young rocker!  “Eddie” is his sole writing and singing credit on Cornerstone.  And it rocks hard, James pushing the upper register of his voice.  You wanna talk deep cuts, well “Eddie” is one of the best.  Interestingly it’s also one of those songs where the verses are slightly better than the choruses.

The closing slot on Cornerstone is left to Tommy Shaw’s “Love in the Midnight”, an interesting choice, echoing the side one closer when it opens acoustically.  It is the most progressive of the songs, featuring an absolutely bonkers Dennis keyboard solo and suitably gothic “ahh-ahh-ahh” backing vocals within a section with odd timing.  Things get heavy and punchy.  Definitely going out with a bang and not a whimper on this one.

This transparent vinyl reissue looks and sounds nice. It’s a gatefold sleeve with lyrics, pictures, and moustaches.  Not as cheap as buying a vintage vinyl or CD…just a lot nicer to look at.

4/5 stars

 

 

RE-REVIEW: Ratt – Out of the Cellar (Part One of The Atlantic Years series)

Part One of Five

RATT – Out of the Cellar (Originally 1984, 2020 reissue — The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 box set)

Ratt’s first full-length Out of the Cellar was a multiplatinum smash.  The band didn’t come out of nowhere, with a successful EP already under their fur.  Though an undeniable commercial success, was Out of the Cellar that great?  Let’s listen with fresh ears to the recent reissue in The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 box set, and see if we can hear with objectivity what those rodents were up to.

The disorienting sound of backwards drums heralds in opener “Wanted Man”, an inventive way to make their introduction.  These Ratts were cowboys, although they wore too much makeup for the ranch.  A simple, slow, chomping riff is menacing enough while Stephen Pearcy growls though.  The capable harmonies of the band and especially Juan Crocier help nail the melodies that Pearcy alone can’t.  A great track worthy of a multiplatinum album.

“You’re In Trouble” is…less worthy.  Clunky bass, chaotic guitars.  But “Round and Round”?  Still as great as ever.  As regal as these rodents are ever likely to sound.  A keen sense of melody, rhythm and vibe mixed together with a sweaty Stephen Pearcy.  Brilliant solo work from Warren DeMartini, and perfectly layered harmonies under the production of Beau Hill.

A nice choppy guitar bodes well on “In Your Direction”, a slinky number that serves Stephen’s style well.  Square, head-bangin’ rhythm from Bobby “Da Blotz” Blotzer.  Decent song, but with only one trick.  “She Wants Money” is more fun, a fast upbeat blast on a familiar theme.  Robbin “King” Crosby on lead guitar here.

The second side opens “Lack of Communication”, a biting track just missing one key ingredient:  a decent chorus.  The saw-like riff smokes, the verses are great, but it never resolves into a definitive hook.

“Back For More” is a little disjointed but salvages it with a killer chorus.  Screamin’ Pearcy and the rodent choir give it the final polish.  Brilliant solo work here by Warren.  Then, one of the best non-singles “The Morning After” will leave you drenched.  It has a bit of a Quiet Riot vibe (Carlos Cavazo ended up in Ratt much later).  “I’m Insane” is mindless fun; just bad boy rock with the popular “I’m crazy” theme that their pal Ozzy was milking for millions.  Finally the album closes on “Scene of the Crime” which has a neat guitar hook that unfortunately is all but unrelated to the rest of the song.  Some cool melodies with the patented Ratt harmonies here.

The box set comes with minor bonus tracks on each disc.  This one has a single edit (3:46) of “Round and Round”.  No problem hearing “Round and Round” twice, but missing most of the solo?  Ugh.  Really bad edit.

Good start to the Ratt The Atlantic Years 1984-1990 box set, and better than memory served.  Rest in peace to Tawny Kitaen: the cover model on this album, the first EP, and the box set itself.

3.5/5 stars

#902.5: Spoogecakes 2 – Electric Boogaloo

Today’s chapter of Record Store Tales is a direct sequel to Part 35.5:  Spoogecakes!

 

RECORD STORE TALES #902.5: Spoogecakes 2 – Electric Boogaloo

LeBrain HQ has eyes and ears everywhere!   We are like Hydra:  cut off one head and two shall takes its place.

If you recall, when I launched this site in 2012, I had one anonymous hater.  Really nasty, too.  You can read the comments yourself.  This came right out of the blue.  The identity of the hater was confirmed by one of her co-workers at the Record Store:  an employee there at a location I once managed.  I had barely begun publishing my stories.  “Grow up or shut up,” went one of the kinder comments.  This only inspired me to keep writing, with more energy and frequency.  Obviously I had struck a nerve!  I actually owe this hater a huge thanks.  The drama she created catapulted me into another level, and the hits have only increased in the years since.  She provided the launchpad, so I do owe her my gratitude.  Craig Fee dubbed her with the nickname “Spoogecakes”, and I ran with that name for the Record Store Tales that followed.  I turned her hatemail into a chapter of the story.  Lemons into lemonade.

Hey, you wanna troll Record Store Tales?  Then Record Store Tales will troll you right back.  Some of my former co-workers there thought it was incredibly nasty of me exploit her vitriolic comments for views the way I did.  (What they thought of her actions — my so-called friends who were groomsmen at my wedding — they didn’t share that with me.)   I hadn’t planned on writing about her at all.  She was a non-entity and completely unimportant to my story.  She wrote herself in, as far as I was concerned.

Fast forward to the present:  she’s still at the Record Store, and just as endearing as ever.  A few months ago, I was just sitting here boppin’ through my day, when I got an email from a source bearing a tidbit of inside gossip.  My source revealed that Spoogey has been promoted to a manager of some kind, and isn’t the kind you’d want to work for.  I have obscured certain text to protect the identity of the informant, but the bones of their message are below.

“[Spoogecakes] is training someone, and that person has to leave home at 4 AM to get to the store, to suit [Spoogey’s] needs.”

Good luck with training someone after they’ve spent five hours on a bus.  Hope that worked out for ya.  Stuff like that never happened when I was training.  I drove people to and from training if I had to.  (Ask Shane.)

The training in question involves a box of used CDs that we would use to practice buying techniques.  How to check the discs for quality, how to check inventory, and how to price them.   The process of this training was previously detailed in Part 94:  Staffing.  (You can also watch a demonstration of me doing this in a live stream from last year.)  In all my time at the store, I never made anyone get up at 4 AM for this.  The story continues:

“In retaliation, the trainee wanted to leave a surprise for [Spoogey] in the box of used discs.  I got the impression it was a used sex toy.  The plan was for her to find it in the box with the other used items.”

My source said that the gist of the conversation was that “no one likes [Spoogey]. The manager of the store was in disbelief of her antics.”  The source also suggested that the conversation would have been a lot worse and more graphic if there were not customers in the store.

Some things never change!

Sunday Chuckle: Meet meet you in the Ladies Room

For those who follow my civilian life on Facebook, you know I’ve moved offices more than once in the past year.  Three times in fact!  Last week, I settled into my new space for the first time.  Probably the nicest office of the three I occupied so far.

Even though many people are gone, some still have a sense of humour…as you can tell from the photo below!