CONTEXT: In spring of 1991, Bob and I went to see Cinderella, with Slaughter opening, in Kitchener Ontario at the Aud. They were both touring behind their new albums. Cinderella were supporting their third, the excellent Heartbreak Station. Slaughter were still rocking their debut, after already supporting Kiss the previous summer.
Both bands released live EPs to further promote the tours.
CINDERELLA – Live Train to Heartbreak Station (EP, 1991 – Japanese exclusive)
Japan sure loves the rock! That’s one reason they get such cool exclusives. (There are other reasons too, involving incentive to purchase domestic product rather than the less expensive US imports.) Live Train To Heartbreak Station, recorded in Little Rock Arkansas, is one such exclusive. A six song EP released in 1991, this was issued to support the Heartbreak Station tour. I was fortunate enough to witness a show on the Canadian leg of that tour, which suffered from poor ticket sales, an early harbinger of the grunge to come….
Having seen it live, this sounds purely authentic. I’m sure there are overdubs, 90% of live albums do have overdubs. However they are hard to definitively detect. Tom Keifer’s patented screech is right there, in your face, still in its glory days. The band is solid, augmented by organ and keys in the background. You can also hear the two female backing vocalists that the band were using at the time.
This EP consists of six tracks, two from each of the band’s three albums in existance at the time. All six songs were singles, although not all were hits. Even though it was not a hit, I think it’s safe to say that “The More Things Change” belongs on an EP like this It’s a great song in the opening slot. They also sequence the two ballads (“Don’t Know What You Got” and “Heartbreak Station”) right in the middle of the EP, side by side. I like that idea, get ’em out of the way. I think that was a smart move, albeit the girly audience screams can get old pretty fast. But man, the harmonies on “Heartbreak Station” are so sweet. I don’t care if the girlies loved it, that’s just a great song. Synth replaces John Paul Jones’ string section.
After the two ballads, the band cranked out their two best known rockers, “Shake Me” and “Gypsy Road”. Man, this takes me back. I can remember a time when I thought “Gypsy Road” was the best thing since sliced bread. And you know what? It still ain’t bad!
This is still one of the best, if not the best, Cinderella live packages on the market due to the vocal problems that Keifer would experience later on. It’s a shame it’s just an EP, but context is important. This was just a taster, a sample. Don’t forget Slaughter and Ozzy both released live EPs at the same time – it was the thing to do, I guess.
SLAUGHTER – Stick It Live (EP, 1990)
I absolutely hate listening to a live album when you can hear two or three tracks simultaneously of one singer. Here you can hear several Mark Slaughters singing together at once. Come on, Slaughter. We’re not stupid. And the thing is, from seeing them live opening for Cinderella, I know they don’t need the overdubs. The review that I wrote for my school paper at the time said, “Mark Slaughter has proved that his high-pitched wail is not studio trickery.” Well, you can’t tell that by this live EP, Stick It Live!
Take the opening track, “Burning Bridges”. At several points you can hear several Marks singing at once. Why was this done? Did the live recordings suck? Was it because the record company forced it? Or because it was the fashion at the time? I dunno. A live album (or EP) was considered an historical document, so too many bands felt they had to make them “perfect”. When in reality, perfect should have been as-is. My favourite live albums are often bootleg quality.
“Eye To Eye” follows “Burning Bridges”, opening with some stupid Crue-esque spoken word bit about an “ancient book of wisdom” and other unrelated nonsense. It’s a shame because “Eye To Eye” was one of their best songs. Once the song gets going, it’s fine, but you can still hear two or three Marks on the pre-chorus.
The track listing is as follows:
1.”Burnin’ Bridges” – 4:29
2.”Eye To Eye” – 6:25
3.”Fly To The Angels” – 6:07
4.”Up All Night” – 6:38
5.”Loaded Gun” – 5:44
2/5 stars. A pretty fine live set otherwise spoiled by the dreaded studio trickery.