#712: Does Paul Stanley Get Enough Credit for Writing Killer Riffs?

GETTING MORE TALE #712: Does Paul Stanley Get Enough Credit for Writing Killer Riffs?

Think for a moment about the greatest guitar riffs of all time.  “Smoke on the Water”, “You Really Got Me”, “Iron Man”, and “Whole Lotta Love” might make your own personal favourites.  Indeed, these songs usually show up on any decent list of great rock riffs.  Planet Rock did a dubious list in 2017, featuring the classics and questionable choices like The Darkness.  It also featured a number of hot licks by Hendrix, Ozzy, and Van Halen.  The usual suspects.  They do get points for including Budgie’s “Breadfan”.

I once read a quote by a guitar player* who said he hated Jimmy Page because “He already wrote all the greatest riffs, and I’m jealous.”  Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, the Young brothers and even the young fellas from Metallica are often credited as the greatest riffmasters in rock.  They’ve all done their part to enrich our lives with memorable, chunky and headbangin’ guitar riffs.  But so have others.

Consider Kiss’ Paul Stanley.  Once upon a time, the singer was considered one of the best with very few rivals.  You’d often see his name on singers’ lists with guys like Freddie Mercury and Ronnie James Dio.  Paul must, absolutely, be considered one of the greatest frontmen in history.  That is hard to dispute.  On the other hand, few give him credit for his guitar.

“I’m no slouch,” said Paul of his guitar playing.  He’s even responsible for some Kiss solos.  But as a riff writer?  We rarely think of Stanley, yet behold the songs!  Looking only at tracks with lone Paul Stanley writing credits, the list of monster riffs is impressive.

  • “Black Diamond”
  • “Hotter Than Hell”
  • “C’mon and Love Me”
  • “Rock Bottom”
  • “God of Thunder”
  • “I Stole Your Love”
  • “Love Gun”
  • “Tonight You Belong To Me”
  • “Magic Touch”

Paul had some pretty awesome riffs on co-written songs like “Mr. Speed”, “Makin’ Love” and “Creatures of the Night”, but since other writers may have contributed, we’ll exclude those.  This list also doesn’t include his catchy acoustic riffs like “Hard Luck Woman”, or lesser-known later material like “Modern Day Delilah”. If you wanted to delve further into Sonic Boom and Monster, there’s plenty of Paul’s guitar thunder without co-writers.  This is strictly a list of the most impactful material:  the 1970s.

So Stanley doesn’t get enough credit.  Does this make him a riff master, up there with the other guys?

I’m going to go out on a limb:  Maybe, leaning towards yes.

“God of Thunder”, “I Stole Your Love” and “Love Gun” are monolithic enough to stand next to an Iommi or Blackmore riff.  Just like a Deep Purple fan knows there is more to them than just “durrh durrh durrh!”, a Kiss fan can recommend a number of rock solid riffs from their albums.  A huge number of those are Paul’s, although certainly Gene did just fine with “Deuce”.  “Deuce”, admitted Gene, is just a Stones lick played backwards.  Paul’s best stuff is less derivative than that.  “God of Thunder” is just that — “God of Thunder”.  You can say it sounds vaguely Sabbathy, but it doesn’t sound like anything specific.  Same with “I Stole Your Love”.  As for “Hotter Than Hell”?  Much like a great Sabbath song, it boasts two killer riffs in one track!

Elitists like to scoff; make fun of adults in makeup and spandex.  Fair enough.  Tony Iommi never needed makeup or particularly tight pants to be a rock star.  Sabbath played with the “Satanic” gimmick but didn’t rely as heavily on image and flash.  Kiss wouldn’t have made it in the first place without the makeup and costumes, but as they developed, they had the music to back it up.

Do yourself a favour and go back to listen to Paul’s classic guitar riffs.  They are often highlights of the song, little rock solid gems that are ready for air guitar.  He really hasn’t received the credit due for coming up with a number of simple, solid and dynamic riffs on his own.  Should his name be spoken with Page, Blackmore, or Young when talking of riffs?  We’ve made our case, so get Kiss’ed on these classics.

 

 

 

Might have been Nuno Bettencourt

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GUEST REVIEW: Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I (1987)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin

Happy Halloween, kiddies!  Here’s guest writer HOLEN MaGROIN with the final review in his series for Halloween 2018.  In case you missed ’em:

Oct 3:  Soundgarden – Screaming Life/Fopp EPs
Oct 10:  Batman / Batman Returns movie reviews
Oct 17:  Fastway – Trick or Treat Original Music Score 
Oct 24:  The Shining movie review (?)

And now:

HELLOWEEN – Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part I (1987 Noise)

It’s 2AM in my land, and I really need to catch the Z’s. I put this review off way too long, and now I must suffer the consequences. But if you thought I was going to miss the last review of the month (on Halloween nonetheless) you are very incorrect. Sleep deprivation is no stranger to this man, I SHALL FORGE AHEAD WITH MY TRUSTY KEYBOARD TO REVIEW… Helloween – Keeper of the Seven Keys Part I. This is my review of the power metal classic, it’s going to be just as kickass as the album itself, and I don’t care if no one agrees. I’m right in my own little world, and that’s all that matters to me. Really this is just stream of consciousness, which is impressive because I’m barely awake. Awake as in “I Awake” by Soundgarden. There’s a good Halloween tune.

Holy shit, Batman! I’ve got to stay focused. Anyway, Helloween – We Couldn’t Think of a Longer Fucking Title if We Tried, So Fuck Anyone Trying to Review This You Stupid Pricks Pt. 1 is a classic power metal release. Manowar can piss off; Helloween is the real deal. Unlike Manowar, Helloween knows how to make an album with classics instead of just one to two good songs and a whole lot of Viking poser bullshit ballads (Manowar sux). This album is a real step up for the band in that Helloween finally realized that they needed a good singer, so they got Michael Kiske who basically sounds like a German Geoff Tate with a little less power. I’m talking prime real estate Geoff Tate too, so this is pretty good as far as metal singing goes.

When I first put on this album there were obvious classics, “I’m Alive”, “Twilight of the Gods”, “Future World”, and the epic “Halloween”, but all the other two full length tracks “A Little Time” and “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” revealed themselves to me upon repeated listening to be the genre staples that they claimed to be. There are only six songs on this beautiful slab of wax because “Halloween” is over thirteen minutes long, and two songs are an intro and outro respectively. And I do respect them, because they’re not very long and they add to the tension instead of impeding on the awesome. These are complex, compelling, melodic tunes that don’t get sunk by their European ambitions. “Holy wars… in the skYYYYYYY” the classic “Twilight of the Gods” bridge will have you tapping your fist against the wall in no time, because it’s so good. LOVE IT ALL. It’s worth it. If you’re a metal fan and don’t have this in your collection, you’re doing it wrong my amigo.

5/5 Pumpkins

 

Author’s Note: I’m sorry, everybody!

REVIEW: Steve Perry – Traces (2018 deluxe edition)

STEVE PERRY – Traces (2018 Fantasy Records deluxe edition)

So what’s the story?  Does Steve Perry still “got it”?

He does.  We just might not agree on what exactly “it” is.

Traces is Perry’s first solo album since 1994’s For the Love of Strange Medicine.  He’s been keeping a low profile since leaving Journey after 1996’s Trial By Fire.  If you were worried that Steve Perry has gone “soft” and his voice has changed in that time…then you were right!

But that’s not a bad thing.  Steve Perry’s voice is one of a kind.  The soul cannot be copied; it’s just raspier now.  If you want the youthful range, go listen to Journey instead.   Or buy Arnel Pineda’s forthcoming solo album.  If you want an older, wiser but still the same Steve Perry, he is here on Traces.  He’s collected 10 slower songs, some more upbeat than others like the lead single “No Erasin'”.  Each one still retains Perry’s ability to compose memorable material.  These songs are honed, short, and to the point.  Even the ballads are pretty basic: quiet and contemplative, but with soft hooks.  All fat has been trimmed.  “We’re Still Here”, “No More Cryin'” and “We Fly” are among the best tracks, but “No Erasin'” is the clear highlight.

The deluxe edition, a Sunrise exclusive in Canada and Target for the US, has five more songs of varying styles.  “October in New York” sounds like a quiet piece from a stage musical.  “Angel Eyes” goes more for soul, while “Call on Me” has the tropical flavours you might remember from Journey’s “Baby I’m Leaving You”.  The fabulous “Could We Be Something Again” has a choir on it.  The good thing about the bonus tracks is you can tell the reason they were cut was not quality.  It was simply that they don’t fit in with the direction of the main album.

Traces is not for Journey fans who wanna rawk.  This is for fans of classy pop rock, soft rock, and the ballads on Trial By Fire.  If that’s you, get Traces (the deluxe of course) and take some time to dig a little deeper.

4/5 stars

 

#711: Why Kiss Need to Suck it Up and Bring Ace Frehley Back

GETTING MORE TALE #711: Why Kiss Need to Suck it Up and Bring Ace Frehley Back

In a recent episode of Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon, former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley said, among many things, that it would take $100,000 per show for him to play on Kiss’ recently announced End of the Road tour.  While that amount of money may seem like ransom, Ace might be able to make those kinds of outlandish demands.  He may have Kiss over a barrel of sorts.

Ace is in a good position right now.  2018 is an interesting time for this Kiss farewell tour to happen, because of what Frehley has been up to.  Since acrimoniously splitting with the band in 2001 (after a previous “farewell” tour), Ace has rebuilt his credibility and his standing.  Over the last decade he’s regained the respect of fans who feared he could no longer write, with a series of increasingly good solo albums.  AnomalySpace Invader, and the recent Spaceman have been well received by fans and critics alike.  Most importantly, since 2016, some crazy things have happened.  First Ace reunited with Paul Stanley on Origins, Vol. 1, a covers album.  Then Ace re-ignited his friendship with Gene Simmons, as Gene promoted his Vault box set.  Gene appeared on Spaceman, and now Ace is touring with Gene’s solo band.  Ace appears cozier with Kiss than he was when he was actually in Kiss.

Throw the farewell tour into the mix.  Kiss will be touring with the current lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer.  Some fans still call Singer and Thayer “scabs”, merely imitating Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  Eric Singer has won over more fans than Tommy Thayer has.  Perhaps it’s because Singer has been in the band longer and played on the legendary Revenge.  More likely, the fans resent how closely Thayer imitates the licks of Frehley — on the orders of Simmons and Stanley, let’s not forget.  At the end of the day, they sign the paychecks, and the employees play the way they want them to.  That’s why they are still in the jobs all these years later.  Regardless, fans have largely accepted Singer as the drummer in the Cat makeup.  Peter Criss has retired with dignity, and realistic fans know that he’s no longer really capable of playing the kind of tour that Kiss are looking at.  Peter had his farewell with Kiss and his chapter certainly appears to be closed.

Frehley, however, is on a new leg of his career and the quality of his new material is encouraging.  In addition to his ask of $100,000 per show, Ace has also suggested the real way to end Kiss would be one final studio album.  It’s almost as if he’s throwing down the gauntlet to Kiss.  An Infinity Gauntlet with only four stones:  Ace, Paul, Gene and Eric.

A studio album might be a bit far fetched.  Monster is from 2012, and Kiss seem scared of their own shadows in the studio.  But Ace on tour?  It simply has to happen before it’s over.  Not doing so would be a slap in the face.

Fans are going to demand it.  Black Sabbath blew it on their The End tour.  Bill Ward probably couldn’t have done a tour, but to not invite him back, for at least a few songs at the end?  A wasted opportunity that can never be repaired.  The original Black Sabbath were all still alive.  Bill Ward was willing and able.  The Sabbath camp didn’t want to hear it, and so finished with 3/4 of the original band plus Ozzy’s drummer Tommy Clufetos.  It’s sad to say, but the next reunion of the original Black Sabbath might have to be at one of their funerals.

Deep Purple can never reunite their original or even their Mk II lineup.

Led Zeppelin will never be whole again.  Neither will Queen, Styx, Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden.  Sabbath had the chance, and they let it go.  Truly a regrettable, ego-driven mistake.

Kiss cannot make the same mistake.  True, without Peter Criss, it’s not the originals, but Criss has not expressed interest or ability.  Ace has.  Repeatedly.  And we know the clean and sober Ace today can do it.  He is on another creative high, and already getting along with Paul and especially Gene.  To lose this opportunity in the face of the fans would be a mistake some would be unwilling to forgive.

Start the tour, as normal, with Tommy.  Bring Ace out for a couple guest appearances.  See how it goes.  I’ll tell you how it will go.  Ace would sing “Shock Me”, the crowd would go bananas, and you’d be forced to do it again.  And again.  And again.  Eventually, Tommy could bow out gracefully having had his farewell.  Ace could take over from that point.  Or do half a show each.  There are many permutations for this to work.  This is almost exactly how Duff McKagan returned to Guns N’ Roses.  You’re Kiss; you can figure it out.

Don’t let money stand in your way, Kiss.  Money is not forever.  History is.  You do not want to go down like Black Sabbath, when you could go out the way fans want to see you.

Nobody knows how much time they have left on Earth.  The next reunion cannot be a funeral.  We also don’t really know how many shows Paul’s voice has left before it’s gone for good.  A reunion with Ace Frehley must happen before it is too late.

What about Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick, you ask?  It would be wonderful to see them guesting too, but let’s not set hopes too high (even though Vinnie has been spotted in Kiss makeup).  Focus on what is important:  that is getting the original Spaceman back for the final leg(s) of this tour.  Fans may have to be vocal.  (As if Kiss fans are anything but.)

What if Kiss just flat out refuse to pay Ace’s greedy ransom, and Ace can’t be negotiated with?  It would be a loss for all parties, particularly the fans.  While Kiss will still play spectacular shows, would ticket sales be any different from the last few tours?  Kiss have always done well enough (that’s why they keep touring), but the 1996 reunion tour made $144 million gross, which Kiss haven’t equalled since.  A farewell tour without Ace, and with Paul’s voice in its current condition, simply won’t touch that.

With Ace though?

With Ace, they would generate a lot more hype, press and positive reviews.  Ace Frehley, playing as great as he is today, could inspire yet another generation of kids to pick up the guitar.  It’s what Ace does.  He is a superstar, and even the most staunch fan must admit that Tommy Thayer is not.  If Kiss want to go out as big as they can, they need Frehley.  It’s that simple.

No dates have been announced yet.  Paul Stanley has teased on his social media that the band is rehearsing.  They’re talking about doing a 25 song set.  There is plenty of time for more pieces to fall into place.  A big piece is Spaceman-shaped.  They need to make it fit.   Without Frehley, The End of the Road tour will just be another Kiss tour.  New costumes, sure.  That alone won’t sell tickets.

Kiss have always been a band that claimed to “listen to the fans” and “gives the fans what they want”.  This then would be Kiss’ last chance to live up to it.

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: Hell of a Hat

Jen gave me this hat.  I wore it to work and was told I looked like “the villain from an Indiana Jones movie”.

 

But which one?  René Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Panama Hat from The Last Crusade?

You decide!

GUEST REVIEW: Iron Maiden – 01/22/1981 Beat Club

By Harrison Kopp

IRON MAIDEN – 01/22/1981 Beat Club (Video)

Good day everybody; Harrison here with a public service announcement/review. You see, on the 20th of September 2018, something amazing happened. As part of their endeavours to digitise their archives, the Beat Club (a poor man’s Rockpalast), surreptitiously uploaded a video to YouTube. But this was no ordinary video. It was a video of an Iron Maiden show. As Iron Maiden are renowned for their stinginess with archive material and reissues [1], this upload was met with celebrations across cyberspace for those in the know. And for those not in the know, here is this review of the show to bring it to your attention.  [The video can be found at bottom — LeBrain]

As you will be able to tell, this show falls in the Di’Anno era, of which the only official video release was the six song “Live at the Rainbow” from 1980, which left fans clamouring for more. (Yes, I am aware of the 1980 show on Disc 2 of The Early Days but given its status as a curiosity due to its terrible quality, I’m ignoring it for the purpose of this review). As a side note, while the original six-and-a-half song broadcast of this show has been available as a bootleg for quite a while, this is the full twelve song show (and a little more), without the visual effects of a degrading VHS either. Unfortunately, the audio and video are just ever so slightly out of sync.

We kick things off rather characteristically with the taped “The Ides of March” heralding the band’s arrival onstage and it’s instantly clear, that this is going to be so much better visually than Live at the Rainbow. While yes, the Iron Maiden stage set of the Rainbow is not present, neither is the tape hiss of that show, which, rather obviously, leads to a much better sounding show. That’s not all. The atmospheric theatre lighting of the Rainbow is also gone, having been replaced by the ever-present TV studio lighting. While it does break the immersion a little, the net result is a picture that despite being only 480p, puts virtually every other video from that era (and some after it too [2]) to shame. It really does look fantastic for its age. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The band have the performance to back it up too. [3]

The performance commences rather uncharacteristically with “Prowler” following “The Ides…” instead of the quintessential “Ides of March/Wrathchild” combo, although this was well known as “Prowler” opened the original broadcast as well. With Paul Di’Anno and Clive Burr both in fine form, “Prowler” doesn’t get much better than this.

Next up however, is something that did not feature on the original broadcast nor features on any Maiden video since: one of my favourite songs from the debut, “Charlotte the Harlot”. It becomes clear here, as the band kick the energy up to 11, of the great hindrance that Wil Malone’s production on the debut was. Steve Harris is right. It didn’t even begin to capture their ferocity live. Thankfully this mix rectifies that error, and this song is a definite highlight of the show, no mean feat in a Maiden performance. Another broadcast song, “Wrathchild” follows on, with the honour of being the first song of the show from their then unreleased second album. An awesome rendition of the enduring Di’Anno era classic, there’s not much else you can say about any of Maiden’s performances of this song.

On the other hand, there is much to say about the performance of “Remember Tomorrow”, except, not much of it has to do with “Remember Tomorrow”. During the second verse there’s a most interesting sound coming through: the sound of a technical failure, and the band stop playing soon after, having a beer and mucking around with their guitars as the problem is fixed. I’m so glad they left this interlude in. It shows a little bit behind the scenes and is a nice deviation from the main stuff, one that is not often shown, even on these full show sorts of things. Eventually someone decides to stop using up tape, and we cut to the start of the second go at “Remember Tomorrow”, which is done by the numbers in spectacular Maiden fashion.

With things definitely back on track the band plough into “Transylvania”. When it comes to instrumentals, Maiden really knocks it out of the park, and I do wish they’d done more. This performance is no exception, although I do think I might prefer “Genghis Khan” from Killers. Now, despite being one of their few singles at the time, “Running Free” didn’t make it onto Live at the Rainbow. This travesty thankfully does not reoccur here, and while Live After Death boasts the ultimate “Running Free”, Di’Anno and co. are no slouches and that’s reflected in probably one of this line-up’s best performances of the song.

Another Killers song, “Innocent Exile” is next. It’s done well, and as this is before the era of the twig-snapping bass tone, you get a nice full little bass workout from ‘Arry as the intro. [4] “Sanctuary” comes next. It’s one of my least favourite Di’Anno era songs and I fully believed it outstayed its welcome on subsequent tours. It’s not the best rendition either: Di’Anno mixes some lyrics up and the solos are not up to the usual standard.

Now here’s something interesting though: “Killers”. This show was recorded only 11 days before that release of Killers, yet this version of “Killers” is the most experimental I’ve ever heard it. The intro and the guitar harmonies have a spacey feel to them and there’s even the changing up the lyrics for a couple lines. Di’Anno’s screams being mostly absent for most of the intro only accentuate this experimental vibe. It’s nice to have a good quality video now of the album lyrics (most of them anyway).

“Another Life” is the next song, one that was fade-cut halfway as the credits rolled on the original broadcast. Now it’s here in all its glory: a good, if perhaps almost filler song from Killers. It’s a fiery rendition, but it suffers from “If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it three times”. The drum solo is sadly but expectedly skipped on this show, pushing this good, if unspectacular song into the background.

This slight lull in awesomeness is immediately rectified with “Phantom of the Opera”. The original Iron Maiden epic, it was played at breakneck pace at the Rainbow show and it’s not much slower here, a slight shame because “Phantom of the Opera” is one of the few songs I think isn’t better when done faster. That being said, it’s still a chunk of pure awesome no matter how you slice it.

Of course, now it wouldn’t be an Iron Maiden show without “Iron Maiden” and it wouldn’t be an awesome rendition of the song without Paul Di’Anno. [5] The end of the show is signalled in spectacular fashion, with the ever-reliable Eddie making an appearance to send off the show in style. Except that it’s not the end yet. They were recording for TV after all, so the band semi-encore with another rendition of “Sanctuary” to replace the muffed version from before. And then it’s over. One hour’s worth of early classics and deep cuts by the best band on earth. [6]

Watch now or else.

4.5/5 stars (-0.25 for audio/visual sync issues, -0.25 for lack of Di’Anno screams here and there)

Tracks: – Intro/”Ides of march” – “Prowler” – “Sanctuary” – “Phantom of the Opera” – “Iron Maiden” – “Wrathchild” – “Innocent Exile” – “Sanctuary” – “Another Life”

 

[1] This year is the 20th anniversary of the 1998 remasters.

 

[2] The 1983 live album and video Alchemy by Dire Straits is a prime example of this. It has terrible lighting, being way too dark most of the time. But then again, most landmark live albums don’t have video components anyway, so we should be grateful to have any sort of video of Alchemy in the first place. Although when it comes to picture quality verse age, you can’t beat Deep Purples Granada 1970 performance.

 

[3] Don’t even get me started on the video of The Rolling Stone’s Live at the LA Forum 1975. Complete waste of valuable high-quality film.

 

[4] ’Arry’s bass tone on Maiden England ’88 is a thing of beauty. (Actually no, it really isn’t)

 

[5] The only Dickinson rendition of this song I think is truly awesome is the Beast Over Hammersmith one.

 

[6] Sorry LeBrain.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – The Original Soundtrack (2018)

QUEEN – Bohemian Rhapsody – The Original Soundtrack (2018 Hollywood Records)

“Best Queen greatest hits yet,” said a trusted fellow Rock Connoisseur.  “Nahh”, I thought, remembering the red and blue CDs I grew old with.  But his theory might just hold water.  For fans new and old, listening to the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack from start to finish is very satisfying.

The movie’s getting torn to shreds by the critics.  Don’t let that scare you away from the album.  Worth the price of admission for die hard fans is the new Queen version of the “20th Century Fox Fanfare”.  Who needs an orchestra when you have a Brian May?  Then it’s “Somebody to Love”, which you can imagine playing over the opening credits, can’t you?

“Doing All Right…revisited” is a pre-Freddie version of the Queen song, by the pre-Freddie version of the band, called Smile.  This is a first for collectors, and is hopefully a taste of more Smile music to come.  Moving on chronologically, it’s the scorching classic “Keep Yourself Alive” from the legendary Live at the Rainbow ’74.  Because Queen was one of the greatest live bands of all time, having live tracks mixed in with hits won’t phase the old fans.  Folks out there who hate live versions (yes they exist) will whine that the originals aren’t included.  That’s OK because sometimes Queen live was actually as good or better than Queen in the studio.  “Keep Yourself Alive” is one such track.

One can’t fault the song selection.  “Killer Queen”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Under Pressure”, “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Will Rock You (in a movie remix) represent the radio perennials.   Other favourite Queen songs are present in a mini-set from Live Aid.  It’s not the whole set, unfortunately, but a large slice:  “Bohemian Rhapsody” (also present earlier on the CD in its studio version), “Radio Ga-Ga” “Hammer to Fall” and “We Are the Champions” are stellar performances from an historic concert.  No one is poorer for having these.

You may question your need to own a remix of “Don’t Stop Me Now” with too much guitar, or a live “Now I’m Here” from the Night at the Odeon album.  Well, you’d do it to get “Fat Bottomed Girls”, which was chopped from the Live Killers album, or “Love of My Life” from Rock In Rio in front of 500,000 people.  It’s a trade-off with you as the winner.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rod Stewart – The Story So Far: The Very Best Of (2001)

ROD STEWART – The Story So Far: The Very Best Of (2001 WEA)

Sir Roderick Stewart might be best known for his covers, though he certainly wrote his fair share of corkers.  He’s the kind of artist that made certain covers his own, to the point that some think they’re his originals.  “Downtown Train” (Tom Waits) is a good example.  So is “The First Cut is the Deepest” (Cat Stevens).  Rod’s versions are iconic.  Something about his blue-eyed raspy soul.

Stewart is also known for his successes in multiple decades.  He was big in the 60s, with Jeff Beck.  He was huge in the 70s with the Faces  as a solo artist.  He successfully rode out the disco era with a huge hit (an original, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, co-written by Carmine Appice).  He became a massive pop star in the 80s, and even kept the momentum going through the start of the 90s with MTV Unplugged.  Finally he became an adult contemporary sensation in the 2000s with his Great American Songbook albums, before finally returning to writing original music.  Rod just has an ear for a good song, and an ability to wrap his inimitable voice around it.  The Story So Far: The Very Best Of Rod Stewart captures a huge chuck of music from the late 60s to 2001.  It’s separated into two discs, for two moods:  the upbeat A Night Out and the softer A Night In.

Is The Story So Far all you need?  No, but it touches the bases.  It’s easier to think of songs that aren’t included.  You’ll still want to get “Handbags and Gladrags”, “Infatuation”, “Broken Arrow”, and many more.  This CD set will help you hone in on what you want, and you’ll still get plenty of goodies.  From “Stay With Me” and “In A Broken Dream” all the way through “Some Guys Have All the Luck”, and into the unplugged “Reason to Believe”, it’s loaded with quality.  In fact there’s only one dud, which is “Don’t Come Around Here” with Helicopter Girl (who?) from 2001’s dreadful Human.   The programmed beats reek of an age past when everybody turned to computers to stay trendy.

There are even a couple hard to find tracks.  “Ruby Tuesday”, from Rod Stewart, lead vocalist was not originally released in North America.  “All For Love” is a Bryan Adams song featuring Rod and Sting from the Three Musketeers soundtrack.  “In A Broken Dream” is an oldie by Aussie band Python Lee Jackson, featuring Rod at the mic.  These are good songs worth owning.

One misfire on a compilation of 34 songs ain’t bad, and Rod’s ballads are as good as the rockers so both discs are equal in strength.  Get your “Hot Legs” on the dance floor with some “Young Turks”.  You’ll have a great time, “Ooh La La”, so “Tonight I’m Yours”.  “Tonight’s The Night”, so go get some Rod Stewart!

4.5/5 stars

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW: The Shining (1980)

Guest review by Holen MaGroin

Welcome back to Halloween Wednesday!  Here’s guest writer HOLEN MaGROIN with the next in his series of Halloween themed reviews.  He’s got a scarrry one today. 

Oct 3:  Soundgarden – Screaming Life/Fopp EPs
Oct 10:  Batman / Batman Returns movie reviews
Oct 17:  Fastway – Trick or Treat Original Music Score 

THE SHINING (1980 Warner Bros.)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the rare instances where the film greatly surpasses the animal hedge madness of Stephen King’s novel. King reportedly hated the film because it changed the details of his book so dramatically, but all of the changes made to the film serve to not only translate it better to a visual medium, but also to create a deeper and more compelling story with a much more satisfying ending.* Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is quite possibly the greatest horror movie ever made. It’s a deeply visceral thrill that deals with the supernatural and the psychological, while managing to include enough slasher elements to satisfy those types of horror fans. There’s really something for everyone in this movie, except Stephen King.

Everyone knows the story by now. Jack Torrance procures a job as winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel and takes his wife and young son to stay with him, alone in the mountains. Jack is a struggling writer looking for a place to concentrate on his work. One day his wife decides to make seafood, and accidentally under-cooks the crabs. Jack’s intestines are sent into an uproar. Unfortunately for him, someone has locked the bathroom door. He doesn’t want to run to another bathroom and risk more leakage, so he axes down the door. This leads to the iconic image of his face sticking through the bathroom door that has been used as the cover for all recent home video editions. If you look closely, you can see that Jack Nicholson accurately portrays a man that has liquid shit running down his leg into his shoe, a man about to have an anal geyser. It’s an absolutely brilliant performance of such raw ass… I mean raw emotion that has stood as one of the defining performances in any horror movie ever. Is there a greater horror than realizing you’ve just soiled yourself?

Unfortunately for our heroes, all the food in the Overlook Hotel has been stricken with Salmonella, leaving their butts so raw that they are shining, hence the title. The only one immune to the bacteria is Danny, as he has supernatural abilities to digest anything. That’s where the paranormal aspects of the film come in. Danny talks to some ghosts that try to help him save his parents from the torment of toilet time. Danny sends a telepathic message to the old Overlook cook, and he immediately moves hell and earth to get over to the Overlook hotel.

Once the cook arrives he brings new food to last them through the winter, and decides to stay and celebrate the holidays with the Torrance family. They all laugh and dance around the Christmas tree as Jack Nicholson does his Tonight Show impression.

“Here’s Johnny!”

The whole family laughs in wholesome unison as Jack professes his unconditional love for both his wife and child. It’s a tender moment, as the whole family embraces cook Dick Hallorann as the newest addition to the Torrance gang. Dick has secretly bought Danny the new fire truck he’d been wanting before he made his way up to the hotel. On Christmas morning, Danny’s eyes light up as he had not been expecting to get it. The four get together in a loving embrace and their hearts fill with jubilant joy. My God, I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

The horror has been evaded, or so they think. Everything turns around when they receive a package in the mail, despite no one being able to get up to the hotel. Who could have left this package? They open up the package, and find a VHS copy of Bobcat Goldthwait’s debut standup HBO special, Share the Warmth. What’s odd about this movie is that the standup special was not taped until 1987, and this film takes place in 1980. To film the movie, Kubrick actually was able to send the cast and crew into the future to 2012 in order to make it even more eerie by predicting actual world events.** Rather than predicting natural disasters, or sports scores or anything like that, Kubrick became highly intrigued by this Bobcat character, and decided to abandon the novel to make his own piece of art. This is ultimately why King was not satisfied by the movie, and didn’t understand it when it came out in 1980 given that Bobcat had not reached a world stage yet. When the family finds the movie, everything goes off the rails. After watching the VHS together, Danny learns a whole lot of naughty words that should never be used by such young children. They also all immediately become big fans of the man with such Kaufman style talents and his penchant for social commentary. Bobcat’s earliest fans!

As the weeks go by, the family is pleased to find another VHS of a film called Shakes the Clown in the mail. It’s a lot different than his standup special, and exceptionally strange, but they ultimately enjoy the ride, even if it was not nearly as strong as his standup special. The next week, the family receives the holiday Bill Murray film Scrooged that features Goldthwait as the fired assistant. They determine that the movie ultimately sucks hard, but they love the parts containing Bobcat as the holiday liberator. That’s when the spirits sending the tapes stop being so kind to the family. Next they receive Police Academy 2Police Academy 2 is easily the shittiest of an incredibly shitty franchise (only speaking for the first three, as that’s when I checked out forever), a series of films Bobcat himself would later call Police Lobotomy. The family is distraught over the wasted talents of Bobcat. Another week goes by and they find instalments 3 and 4 in the mail, and are just as horrified at the glaring examples of shit personified in Police Academy fashion. This is a franchise so shitty that the best joke involving them was actually in Wayne’s World. At this point in the film, Danny and Dick begin to have psychic visions. They can’t make out exactly what’s going to happen the next week, but they begin to have visions of a horse, and Bobcat. The horse seems to be talking. Their worst fears are realized the next week when a fresh copy of Hot to Trot is sent to the house.

The family is so horrified by the turn Bobcat’s career has taken that they all suffer terminal illness, an eerie omen of the five Razzie Awards nominations that this piece of shit would be nominated for. The next week, the critically acclaimed Bobcat film World’s Greatest Dad shows up, proving to be a chilling end to the Torrance family. If they had just hung in one more week, they would have been saved by seeing the great movie.

Years later in the early 1990s, Bobcat shows up at the Overlook Hotel to perform for the guests. He’s greeted by a bell boy, and tells him that it’s nice to perform at the hotel for the first time. The bell boy cryptically replies by saying, “I’m sorry to differ with you sir, but you are the comedian here. You’ve always been the comedian.” Bobcat looks puzzled, and spots a peculiar picture on the wall. He looks at it further and sees the picture on the wall from 1980 of the Torrance family all crying holding Hot to Trot in their hands. Bobcat lets out one of his trademark screams, and the credits role.

Kubrick knows to end the film on such a disturbing note, because he knows how to play his audience. That’s why this film is considered to be one of the most classic examples of modern horror cinema released today. The feelings that you experience watching this movie moves you in such a way that you feel afraid to ever travel to a hotel, or watch one of Bobcat’s many shitty movie decisions from the 1980s. This is the greatest horror movie ever made, and there’s simply nothing else to say.***

5/5 Pumpkins

* LeBrain agrees wholeheartedly and is jealous he hasn’t written this one up yet.  But he will.  The soundtrack including music by Wendy Carlos is genius too.

** Not to mention the NASA conspiracies.

*** That sure was something!  I hope readers get it.

#710: I Can’t Grok Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #710: I Can’t Grok Rock

Before we proceed, we must put some time into trying to define the work “grok”.  One of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, Robert A. Heinlein, coined the word in 1961 in his epic novel Stranger in a Strange Land.  Perhaps you recall the “I Grok Spock” slogan from the late 60s when fans mobilised to save Star Trek from cancellation.  There’s no easy definition of the word, although “I grok” can mean “I love”, among many other things.  Depending on its usage, “I grok” can mean:

  • “I hate”
  • “I see” or “I understand”
  • “I fear”
  • “I live”
  • “I am a part of”
  • “I drink” or “I eat”
  • “I think”
  • To use Heinleins own words, grok means to understand something “so thoroughly that you merge with it and it merges with you.”

Grok means all these things, and according to Heinlein, “a hundred other English words, words which we think of as antithetical concepts. ‘Grok’ means all of these.”

Heavy stuff, but the more I think (or grok) on it, I realise (or grok) something very sad.  As much as I love, cherish, adore and try to further my understanding of it, I think I can never fully grok rock music. In order to do that, I would have to understand it to a depth I have not reached yet.  As a non-musician who has tried and failed to do play it, true grokking of rock music has eluded me my whole life.

Music exists in several ways simultaneously.  There are the vibrations in the air that are soundwaves on different frequencies.  There are the hairs on your inner ear, moved by the soundwaves.  This physical action is converted to electromagnet signals, sent to your brain and then interpreted and perceived as music.  I can comprehend these things, but true understanding of music means understanding its structure.  Why do those frequencies sound good together?  Why does a recurring rhythm sound good to you even if you don’t know it’s 7/8 time?  Or even know what 7/8 time is?

There is an underlying mathematics to music, an almost mechanical precision.  Well guess what.  I’m no mechanic either!  I have to pay someone to change the oil in my car.

I’m fortunate enough to have Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the family, who truly does grok music.  As an improvisational musician, she creates living music in and of the moment.  She and the players she works with can grok it on an instinctual and intellectual level.  The funny thing about this is that I used to have to help Dr. Kathryn with her math homework.  On paper, I was better at numbers.  Within music, it turns out she can really grok math.

I’ve spent most of my life with music in my ears.  There are bands whose history I have an understanding of deeper than my expertise in that of Canada, and I’m a history B.A.!  There are songs that I have memorised down to the last note and beat, such as “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath.  But I still don’t really comprehend how it’s was constructed, why it works, or what makes it unique.  And it drives me insane.

I’ve tried, Lord knows I’ve tried!  I thought I’d pick up the guitar again a few years ago and see if my older, wiser mind could grasp the universal secrets of music.  Again, I failed.  I put my guitar away, but now we have a couple acoustics.  I’ve been strumming.  You can’t kill this curiosity.  I really don’t think I will ever grok rock in the truest sense, but I keep trying!

It’s a frustration situation, but rock and roll isn’t about quitting.  That much I do grok.