JIM CREAN – Insatiable (2016 Rocker Records)
If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK. You probably know of his famous friends. Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows. Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more. But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes. Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.
In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show. He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother. Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”. Very odd. The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy! If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal. Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.
Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James. With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”. Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match. Best of all, Crean can pull it off! Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy. Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”. Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016: killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice! Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis. A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove. Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).
The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover. Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums. (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.) This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.
Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes. If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here. “Magic Touch” is, of course, great. It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings. As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.
Added Can-Con bonus: Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.
Added extra bonus: My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.
If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you. If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.