Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews! Poking the bear since 2010.

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen – I Can’t Wait (1994 Japanese EP)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – I Can’t Wait (1994 Pony Canyon Japanese EP)

Immediately following the Seventh Sign album, new Yngwie Malmsteen material surfaced in Japan.  Three songs and two live tracks served as a nice dessert after a pretty good studio album.  Mike Vescera remained on lead vocals.  The lineup is largely the same as The Seventh Sign, but with Barry Sparks added on bass (probably just for the live songs; it sounds like Yngwie on the studio cuts).

Title track “I Can’t Wait” is one of Yngwie’s strongest ballads.  Though it starts with uncharacteristic acoustic strumming, the song transforms into the kind of epic ballad that you expect from the guitar god.  Vescera’s range and power are on display.  Great song.  And you don’t always say that about Yngwie tunes.

“Aftermath” is a pounder.  Slower, determined, great drums.  Lots of shredding come solo time.

The two live songs are “Rising Force” and “Far Beyond the Sun”, hits from the days of yore.  Recorded live at the Budokan earlier in the year, it must have felt something like home for Mike after his stint in Loudness!  “Rising Force” is an ass-kicker, pedal to the metal, and the whole band rising to the occasion.  That’s it for vocal tracks though.  “Far Beyond the Sun” is one of Yngwie’s best known guitar compositions, familiar and beloved for its exquisite neo-classical stylings.  As for this version?  Flawless and inspired.

The final track is a studio instrumental called “Power and Glory (Takada’s Theme)”.  This was done as a theme for a Japanese pro wrestler and few will be familiar with it.  Slow, plodding, with the repeated chant of “Ta ka da!”, it is hard to really like.  Yngwie’s acoustic work is always brilliant, but difficult to digest here.

Good EP overall.  Hard to find.  Snag if you find for a good price.

3.5/5 stars

Rest in Peace, Sarge

It has been almost 20 years since I last saw Sarge in person.  2003?  2004?  The “greatest piercer in southern England” make the trek to Canada once again to hang out with our Niagara Falls friends, the Legendary Klopeks.  Sarge loved Canada.  He was hoping to make another visit from Bournemouth, post-pandemic, or so he told me in one of our late night chats.

Late night for me; for him in England it would have been early morning.  We talked science fiction into the wee hours.  We’d speculate on what Marvel was going to do next and what was going on elsewhere in entertainment.

The last time I saw him, we were in St. Catharines and he gave me the awesome Motorhead T-shirt seen below.  He brought it especially for me.

A few weeks ago, Sarge’s wife posted that he was in hospital with bleeding in the brain.  As if that wasn’t enough, he got Covid while he was there.  I hoped we hadn’t had our very last chat about Thanos and Loki.

But we had, and with no time stone to turn things around.  No soul stone for a final meeting.

I’ll never forget my favourite Sarge story.  He told me this tale when I interviewed him years ago:

The year was 1986. Sarge was out at the bar. Although he had no way of knowing, Philip Lynott from Thin Lizzy had died that day, and the bar was playing his music in tribute to the fallen rock hero. Sarge, however, was not a fan. When he openly criticized the music of Thin Lizzy with some choice words, a large man with “bad teeth, long black hair and a low gruff voice,” told the young Sarge to fuck off. This was Sarge’s first and last meeting with the infamous Lemmy Kilmister!

Rest in peace my friend.

 

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen – The Seventh Sign (1994 Japanese import)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – The Seventh Sign (1994 Pony Canyon Japan)

Former Loudness singer Mike Vescera can be forgiven for moving on with Yngwie J. Malmsteen.  The Swedish guitar wizard was on his 6th lead singer, and despite lacklustre sales, the gig was one that came with a certain amount of prestige.  Fortunately it was a winning combination.  Their first album together, The Seventh Sign, boasted a dozen tracks with most of them pretty good.

Opening “Never Die” recalls the fire of “I’ll See the Light Tonight”.  If you’re familiar with Yngwie, you know what to expect.  Blazingly fast neoclassic guitar licks, speedy riffs and aggressive vocals.

“Like the sky, I’m perpetual, I never die!”

It’s a good opener, in the fast-paced Dio vein of rock.  Fortunately Yngwie slows it down for the wah-wah inflected bluesy rock of “I Don’t Know”.  The main riff here is catchy enough and Yngwie adorns it with plenty of licks.  Vescera has a powerful set of lungs, an absolute requirement when singing with Yngwie.  He gets to show off his abilities a bit on the decent power ballad “Meant to Be”.  “Forever One” makes it two ballads in a row, though the second is less “power”, and employs some acoustic portions.

For heavy, don’t miss out on “Hairtrigger”.  Vescera is in top form here, and the sputtering speed rocker satisfies to the end.

An instrumental slow blues called “Brothers” follows, and you might think “this album sounds overloaded with ballads”.  But yet that isn’t the impression you get listening.  These are not wimpy songs.  They have power and loads of guitar.  The actual effect you get is that of a heavy album.

The awesome title track gets it cranked on side two right from the start.  There’s some intricate classical guitar but then, wham — the mighty riff.  It’s a blur but it smokes.  “The Seventh Sign” is one of Yngwie’s best tracks of ’em all, if you like ’em heavy.  Vescera rises to the challenge.  As for the playing, even when we’re focused on that heavy riff, Yngwie still has time for some whammy bar nuttiness.

“Bad Blood” is a heavy blues, maybe going for a heavy Purple vibe (check that organ), but without a memorable melody behind it.  Vescera is the star here; the guy can sing anything.  It really gets stinky on “Prisoner of Your Eyes”, the worst of the ballads.  Amberdawn Malmsteen is responsible for the fetid lyrics.  This is rotting limburger cheese topped with surströmming as a garnish.  Would you like a side of industrial vinegar?  One word:  “cringe”.

Back to quality, the sitar introduces “Pyramid of Cheops”.  Insofar as Egyptology in metal goes, this is not a top track.  It does crush, but up against classic Maiden, Dio or Blue Murder, it’s no competition for the champs.  One has to admire Yngwie’s restraint for the most part, as he just grinds at the riff.

Another album highlight, “Crash and Burn”, really goes for the neoclassic vibe.  The faux-harpsichord is a delightfully baroque touch, but then the song takes off for the skies.  Great Yngwie riff, a fine example of neoclassical gone right.  Vescera keeps it heavy.  Then it’s the final instrumental, “Sorrow” which sounds like it should.  Sparse classical guitars pick out a mournful melody.  It’s a comedown from “Crash and Burn” and works brilliantly in that regard.

The Japanese, of course, got a bonus track.  Called “Angel in Heat”, this unremarkable song features Yngwie on vocals.  He’s going for a Hendrix vibe again, but the song is pretty atrocious.  Without Vescera to save the song, it’s for collectors only.

Like any Yngwie record, you could objectively state that most of the songs on The Seventh Sign would be better with less playing.  But then it wouldn’t be Yngwie, would it?  He’s often been criticised for not coming up with enough memorable material, but most of the songs on The Seventh Sign are above average.  Having a great singer didn’t hurt either.  It’s one of the guitar madman’s better records.

3.75/5 stars

THREE-VIEW: Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)

Part Nine of the Def Leppard Review Series

Deluxe edition review:  Hysteria deluxe (2006)
30th Anniversary edition review:  Hysteria 5 CD 30th (2017)
Classic Albums DVD review:  Hysteria (2002)
Historia VHS review (1988)

Note:  This being the third Hysteria album review, we will be taking a different approach.  The first two reviews were detailed and comprehensive so please check those out for all the nitty gritty.  This one will be more nostalgic in nature.

DEF LEPPARD – Hysteria (1987 Vertigo)

Kiss were always my “favourite band”, but the majority of my highschool years from 1987 to 1989 were all about Def Leppard.  Although they wanted to be the biggest band in the world with this album, many of us were cheering for them to win.  The band had endured years of adversity since the triumph of Pyromania.

Most obviously was Rick Allen’s car accident.  It was hard to imagine how the drummer was going to come back from it, losing his left arm and almost his right as well.  But he did.  He frickin’ did it.  Rick Allen, the Thundergod, returned and Joe Elliott said it was biggest “up” the band ever had.  How could you not want them to win under those circumstances?

The biggest change on Hysteria (so named to characterise the last four years of their lives) was obviously the drum kit.  Rick Allen had a style, employing classic grip and wicked rolls.  Now he had a new electronic kit, with samples triggered by foot pedals and an arsenal of modern sounds.  Allen adapted with a fresh style, leading the charge with a chugga-chugga and some bam-pow.  His new style is one of the defining traits of Hysteria.

The first single here, and first taste of the new Leppard, was “Women”, an unorthodox pick.  A slow grind led by a synth-y sounding bassline from Rick Savage, it is neither a ballad nor a scorcher.  It’s not immediately catchy either, but it drew us all back in for a second third and fourth lesson until we were hooked.  The sound:  clean, precise, with layers of vocals and assorted melodic tones.  But shit, did the band ever look cool in the video.

Hysteria arrived on my tape deck Christmas of 1987.  It quickly monopolized my listening time, though it took a couple spins to “get it”.

“Rocket” threw me for a loop.  I considered it filler; too contemporary and not enough rock.  Bogged down with samples, backwards vocals and tricks.  It sounded like the kind of song that would be impossible to perform live (though they did).  Over the years I’ve warmed up to “Rocket”.  The tribal beat inspired by Burundi Black makes it quite unique in hard rock, and the lyrics are delightful once you realize that Joe’s just naming all his favourite bands and albums.  The meticulously recorded chorus really illustrates the intricate kind of process at hand.  Each voice recorded separately and mixed down to the final product.  Then there’s the long droning middle section, a unique construction worthy of a detailed listen.  “Rocket” was another odd selection for a single, but it was a hit as the seventh and final one almost two years after the album was released.

It was hard to resist “Animal”, even though it was a blatant sonic declaration that Leppard were going for hits.  As the second single from the album, it made some impact with its circus-themed music video.  Light rock, with a punchy chorus, “Animal” was a well-written track with yet more of those immaculately recorded backing vocals.  In the lead singer department, Joe was content to sing more and scream less, a trend that would continue.  The fact is, the guy didn’t have to scream, though he’s terribly good at it.

Hysteria has a variety of tracks, but only two are ballads.  “Love Bites” was selected as fifth single, and a smash hit it was.  I wondered why they used a Judas Priest song title, but the song actually has country origins.  Producer “Mutt” Lange brought the bones of it to the band as a twangy country song.  The end product is nothing like that, with odd computerized voices and a slow dramatic build.  Like every song on the album, the chorus kills.  The band (with Lange) had really honed in on writing and recording technically perfect songs.  There’s a lot going on in the mix on “Love Bites” but none of it is wasted.  Everything’s necessary for the right vibe.

“Step inside, walk this way!  It’s you n’ me babe, hey hey!”  Shakespeare it ain’t.  A hit, it was!  “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, the fourth single, was the breakthrough smash that launched this album on the charts for two years.  Def Leppard had ripped off a couple classic rock tunes here, but they were selling them to kids who never heard the originals.  Mixing rap and rock, Leppard sold a bajillion singles and umptillion albums to kids worldwide.  It wasn’t even an obvious hit.  The genre-bending song took some getting used to initially.

Closing side one, the sixth single:  “Armageddon It”.  The stuttering guitar riff made it easy to like, if a bit light.  This tune is fun to listen to with headphones on, to help break down all the different tracks of guitar.  The cool thing that each guitar part is catchy on its own.

The North American videos for “Sugar” and “Armageddon It” were filmed live, and showed off Leppard’s innovative “in the round” stage.  From the TV in the basement, it sure looked like the ultimate concert experience.  We’d get a full taste of it on the In the Round: In Your Face home video (1989).  Today you can get this concert on both CD and DVD.   The CD version is included in the comprehensive Hysteria 30th Anniversary box set.

Opening side two is the track we all thought should have been a single:  “Gods of War”, an epic in its own right, from the same lineage as “Overture” from the 1980 debut album.  With Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sampled in the tune, it just sounded cool.  Steve Clark’s E-bow opening drone sets the stage for a dramatic tune full of riffs, hooks and guitar action.  It’s not political, just anti-war like many Ozzy tunes of the time.  Its length probably prohibited it from being a single…but they did edit down “Rocket”.

The first non-single on the album is the hard rocker “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”.  Some odd vocal effects keep it from being a standard guitar rocker; almost every song on Hysteria has some strange twist in the mix.  Though more laid back in groove, this is the first tune that hearkens back to old Leppard.  Slicker, sugar coated and easier to swallow though.  It is paired with “Run Riot”, a similar track with a faster tempo.  Tasty guitars from Collen and Clarke, chugging drums from the Thundergod.  Screamin’ Joe sounding like the Joe from Pyromania, and Savage sounding less synth-y than the other tracks.

The last single on the album was actually the third single released:  the brilliant title track “Hysteria”.  The diamond-like flawless ballad was laid down literally one note at a time, giving it a precise but delicate nature.  It was arguably the most pop Leppard had ever been, and that’s just fine.  When you have a song this good, it doesn’t matter what you call it.  Best tune on the album?  Arguably.  The precise picking is delectable and Joe has one of his best vocal performances right here.  Unlike other songs on the album, it’s low on sonic gimmicks.

If there was one song to eject from the album, it’s the penultimate track “Excitable”.  Back to gimmicks, it relies too much on samples and weird digitally manipulated vocals.  It sounds like it was intended to be a crossover hit.  It could have been replaced by a superior B-side (which we’ll get to).

The album closer is a majestic mid-tempo not-quite-ballad-thing called “Love and Affection”, possibly the second best tune on the whole album after “Hysteria” itself.  It’s all about taste, but this deep cut is one of the strongest.  It’s all about the song, no extra trimmings, just melody and arrangement.  It easily could have been a single.  There’s this one chunky Steve Clark lick that just slays me.  Rick Allen’s pound has never been more suited to a track as it slams through the chorus.  A really triumphant track that I would have released as ninth single after “Gods of War”!

Although it took a year (until the release of “Sugar”) to recoup its costs, Hysteria was an undisputed win for the band that worked so hard for it.  Their loyalty to their drummer was not to lost to fans and media alike, and actually worked in their favour creating a new and exciting 80s rock sound.

But there was more to Hysteria than just the 12 tracks.  Remixes and live material aside, there were five notable B-sides.  All excellent in their own right.

Backing “Women” was the straight-ahead rocker “Tear It Down”.  These B-sides were not produced by Mutt and therefore have a more raw edge, akin to older Leppard.  “Tear It Down” rocked relentess, hard but mid-tempo cool.  After a one-off live TV performance, the song was earmarked for re-recording on the next album….

On the flipside of “Animal” we find “I Wanna to Be Your Hero”, with a ballady opening and hard rocking middle.  How did this song not make the album?  Clearly one of the best tunes, it has both a chugging riff and a pop-smart melody.

The heaviest tune backed the softest.  “Ride Into the Sun” was the B-side to “Hysteria”, and what a smoker it is.  A re-recording of a song from the Def Leppard EP, it is also re-arranged with new lyrics and new chorus.  It’s far superior and kicks every ass in the room.  The B-side to “Sugar” was “Ring of Fire”, just as heavy as “Ride Into the Sun” but not as immediately catchy.

Finally, the last of the B-sides was a cover.  A very confusing cover indeed.  “Release Me” featured their roadie Malvin Mortimer doing something that might be considered singing.  To add to the mess, the band all switched instruments with Joe on piano, so nobody really knew what they were doing.  The band credited the song to “Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys” and in the liner notes, Joe claimed “Rarely in my travels have I come across such a monumental talent as Stumpus Maximus.”  Only when Stumpus unfurls his unholy screams at exactly 2:36 did I get the joke.

The Hysteria sessions yielded some unfinished material as well, that Leppard would finally release in the 1990s.  One of these tunes, a screaming “She’s Too Tough”, first saw the light of day on Helix’s 1987 album Wild in the Streets, released two months ahead of Hysteria.  Brian Vollmer is one of the few singers who can do justice to Joe’s challenging vocal.

Hysteria is available in a comprehensive 5 CD/2 DVD box set with all the B-sides, remixes, and live tracks.  It includes the Classic Albums “making of” documentary, all the music videos, and the entire In the Round: In Your Face concert on CD.   It is, without a doubt, the best way to own the most important Def Leppard album.

But before you buy, some perspective.

There’s a legendary 0/10 review by Martin Popoff that I’d like to share some quotes from.  If I’m over-enthusiastic about Hysteria, then consider this.

  • “High tech, tasteless, and devoid of life whatsoever.”
  • “Even Elliott’s vocals, probably the last vestige that hasn’t completely been swallowed by robots, sound like some kind of dry-wheezing mechanical lung wired to the man’s death bed.”
  • Hysteria is a major assault to anyone’s intelligence.”
  • “An offensive kick in the head sent straight from the rock ‘n’ roll bored room.”

Take my rating with a grain of salt.

5/5 stars

 

Gallery of single covers

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983

Next:  

 10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia (Record Store Tales)

“Remember Me” by Journey on the Sunday Song Spotlight

It was a little shocking when Steve Perry left Journey in 1997 after a very brief reunion. Even more shocking was his swift replacement by Steve Augeri of the little-known Tall Stories. It did not take long for them to release new music with the fresh-faced singer. “Remember Me” came in the summer of ’98 on the back of the hit movie soundtrack for Armageddon.

The new track sounded exactly like Journey!  A little bit harder than much of the recent Trial By Fire music.  Notably (and noticeably), “Remember Me” also features their new drummer, Deen Castronovo.  The lead singer change was the bigger news of course, but with Augeri, Journey cut a hot first track.  The classic Journey hard rock anthem sound was recaptured.

“Remember Me” begins with the chyme of an acoustic guitar but soon bursts into life with the rest of the band.  Jonathan Cain’s tinkling keyboards create a melodic undertone, but Augeri is front and center of the track.  He can hit the notes with the right amount of power, and fooled a few people into thinking he actually was Steve Perry!  Not a bad debut.

 

Remember me
Find myself all alone
In darkness without you
Now I can’t turn away
From what I must do
You know I’d give my life for you
More than words can say
I’ve shown you how to love someone
I know you’ll find a way
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
I’ll live on somewhere in your heart
You must believe
Remember me
No way I can change my mind
I don’t have the answers
If you could see through my eyes
You’d let go of your fears
And though I have to leave you now
With the thought of each other
I miss your touch
You call my name
I am with you forever
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
With the change we can’t explain
Remember me
I’ll live on somewhere in your heart
You must believe
Remember me
You know I’d give my life for you
More than words can say
I showed you how to love someone
I know you’ll find a way
Say goodbye
Close your eyes
Remember me
Walk away
The sun remains
Remember me
Be there to watch over you
Remember me
Feel I’m gone
My heart lives on
Remember me
Don’t you think of this as the end
I’ll come into your dreams
Remember me
Close your eyes…
Say goodbye…
Remember me
Say you will

Happy Birthday Steve Perry, from Tim’s Vinyl Confessions

Thank you Tim Durling for asking me to sit with you on this special Steve Perry episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions!

Happy birthday Steve Perry!

List Purposes: Top Five Tony Martin with Mike, Harrison and Marco

Great set of lists tonight from Harrison and Marco as we dug deep on our favourite Tony Martin albums!  With Thorns fresh on store shelves, and the prospect of Martin-era Sabbath reissues, it’s the perfect time to talk Tony.

We also played an old track from Slam Glory, featuring Marco’s uncle Ray D’Auria on lead vocals.  Great band from the Raw M.E.A.T Vol 3 CD.

The comments were terrific once again, and thank you all for watching!  See you next time!

 

Rest in Peace, Michael Lee Aday – “Meat Loaf”

Though he hasn’t been in the best of health in recent years, I didn’t see this coming.

Because of his size, Michael (Marvin) Aday named his first band Meat Loaf Soul.  The name stuck.  He was offered recording contracts, but felt that he wasn’t being taken seriously.  He worked in musicals, such as Hair and the The Rocky Horror Show, which gave him his big break.  As Eddie, he was cast in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He was unforgettable even in that jam-packed film.  Next came Jim Steinman, and Bat Out of Hell.

Bat and Bat II will go down as some of Meat Loaf’s most remembered albums, among Dead Ringer, Midnight at the Lost and Found, and Bad Attitude.  His movie career continued to bloom with memorable roles in films like Fight Club and Spice World.  He even sang and appeared as Jack Black’s dad in Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny.

Meat Loaf had intended to record seven songs for a new live/studio album this month.  Sadly this will never come to be.

Rest in peace, Meat Loaf.

Tony Martin gets his due: Top Five Tony, tonight on the LeBrain Train!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and Harrison

Episode 95 – Cinco de Listo – Top Five Tony Martin Albums

Harrison has been wanting to do this show for a long time.  Let’s show Harrison some appreciation for tonight’s topic:  Top Five Tony Martin albums!  Everything is up for grabs, including Black Sabbath, the Cage, and his solo work.  In fact, just last week, Tony released his long awaited new solo album called Thorns.  I’ve had a week to absorb it.  Will it make my list?

We also have a special treat for you tonight.  Not just a bonus list, but a bonus list from Marco the Contrarian.  And not just a bonus list from Marco — but a video!  It’ll be as if Marco was here with us!  Unfortunately he could not make it due to a Contrarians taping at the same time.  You’ll be hearing more about that Contrarians episode from me in the future.

I hope you can join us tonight to discuss all things Tony Martin and Black Sabbath too.  Do you like his new album Thorns?  Tell us tonight on the LeBrain Train.

Friday January 21, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on YouTubeFacebook and also Facebook!

VHS Archives #117: Fred and Tom from Cinderella 1990

Fall 1990!  Cinderella were in Hamilton Ontario to sign autographs and meet up with Dan Gallagher from the Pepsi Power Hour.  Fred Coury and Tom Keifer chatted with the Dan Man about their new album Heartbreak Station.  Other topics:

  • MC Hammer
  • A side project with Coury, Stephen Pearcy, Tracii Guns, Kyle Kyle and Taime Downe
  • Touring
  • Talking to the fans

Not a long interview but certainly a glimpse of times!