#200wordchallenge

REVIEW: Duff McKagan’s Loaded – The Taking (2011)

Bought somewhere in Taranna in a forgotten sale bin.

DUFF McKAGAN’S LOADED – The Taking (2011 Armoury)

Duff McKagan is one of those guys who is always doing something.  He is not predictable except to be always active, usually in the context of a band.  Loaded is one such band, featuring three of Duff’s Seattle buds.  This is their third LP, a tight and focused affair with short and heavy songs.  Duff’s sloppy punk roots come forth, crossed with a healthy slab of heavy-as-fuck riffin’.  Duff’s shout-singing has never been more apropos, and there are even a few moments of guitar solo nirvana.

The music is all well and good; nothing in particular will rival Guns N’ Roses or even Velvet Revolver, but some tunes are pretty cool.  “We Win” has a simple anthemic quality, Leppard-like, that endears it well in the memory.  Better still is “Dead Skin”, a scorching punk rocker that would have set well with another of Duff’s bands, Neurotic Outsiders.  “Lords of Abaddon” and “Follow Me to Hell” which open and close the CD are fierce numbers that could cause speaker damage if cranked loud enough.

You really can’t throw enough praise at Duff McKagan, but The Taking is not one of his must-have efforts.  Save for a look in the cheapie bin.

2.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

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REVIEW: Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes – Live at Jones Beach (2017)

Gratitude to James Kalyn of the KMA for acquiring this treasure.

JIMMY PAGE & THE BLACK CROWES – Live at Jones Beach (2017 The Orchard Record Store Day EP)

Aficionados of Led Zeppelin and the Black Crowes rejoice! It has been a long time since the fantastic concert collaboration, Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes Live at the Greek (2000).  That double CD delivered a surprisingly bang-on dose of legendary Zeppelin cuts and blues covers.  Here, it’s a seven piece band consisting of Page, Rich Robinson and Audley Freed in a lethal triple guitar lineup.  The band was completed by vocalist Chris Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Greg Rzab and keyboard player Eddie Harsch.  Now you can hear three more tracks, from an additional concert at Jones Beach.

As expected, Pagey and the Crowes are whipped up into a blues jam rock frenzy loaded with atomic playing.  Off to Middle Earth with “Misty Mountain Hop”, a song easily conquered by Chris Robinson.  You may be surprised by how comfortably it fits the Crowes.  “Bring it on Home” seems more their style, and with Jimmy they turn it into a loud rocking assault.  The three guitarists are really able to bring to life “In the Light”, giving it the kind of depth it has in the studio.  Chris and Rich double the vocals to emulate the production on the Physical Grafitti original.

4.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

 

REVIEW: Dust – Hard Attack / Dust (1972/1971)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Supplemental:  Kerner and Wise.

DUST – Hard Attack (1972) / Dust (1971) (2013 Sony Legacy)

fans know the names of Richie Wise and Kenny Kerner.  This production team laid down the first two Kiss records, and although their production was not the best, they were the first.  But where did they come from?  A little trio called Dust.  Wise was the singer and guitar player.  Kerner was the manager, co-producer and co-writer.  They released two records as Dust, also featuring legendary Derringer bassist Kenny Aaronson and drummer Mark Bell.  These two albums, Hard Attack and Dust, were remastered and compiled as one CD by Sony in 2013 (presented in reverse order).

The cool thing is the Dust albums actually sound better than the Kiss albums.

Dust were a hard rockin’ band, distinguished by having loads of slide and pedal steel guitars (handled by Aaronson).  Dust were travelling the same roads as other bands such as Aerosmith, Cream, Free or Zeppelin, but with less of an identity.  The songs were good.  “Stone Woman” is slippery slick blues rock, while “Goin’ Easy” is a laid back southern acoustic blues.  And they could get heavy.  “Love Me Hard” is the kind of proto-metal that Budgie, Sabbath and Purple were doing on the other side of the Atlantic.

3.5/5 stars

This was a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

 

 

REVIEW: Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow (1975)

Purchased at BMV in Toronto, $4.99

scan_20161111-2JEFF BECK – Blow By Blow (1975 Sony)

Jeff Beck’s second solo album, Blow By Blow, was co-produced by George Martin.  The talents of both need no elaboration.  A guitar god and “the” producer’s producer were bound to make something special together.  With an ace quartet (Max Middleton on keyboards, Phil Chen on bass and drummer Richard Bailey), there were no weak links.

Blow By Blow spans many musical genres, all augmented with Jeff’s sharp and slippery fingerwork.  Funk, jazz, blues, Carribean and progressive rock all collide in the grooves.  The songs are instrumental hybrids of styles, but Jeff keeps it consistent.  His guitar speaks.  There really isn’t a better way to describe what he does with tone, technique and technology.  There is even an uncredited Stevie Wonder cameo on “Thelonius”.  If you can’t get enough funky clavinet, you’ll love Blow By Blow.

This albums is tops in almost every conceivable measure.  The drum rhythms and bass grooves are hard hitting and relentless.  Musicianship like this is rare and valuable.  Without Jeff Beck there could be no Steve Vai — this, I firmly believe.

Play Blow By Blow, and then play it again.  Thanks to George Martin’s fine musical sensibilities, it reveals new nuances each time.  A complete triumph.

5/5 stars

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This has been a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge.

 

 

REVIEW: Rock the Cradle Lullabies volume 1 – Dreamin’ with Def Leppard (2011)

CD given to me a couple years ago by Mr. Books.

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ROCK THE CRADLE LULLABIES volume 1 – Dreamin’ with Def Leppard (2011 Happiness Records)

They call these lullabies, but I’m not so sure about that word.  Bon Jovi did an actual album like this, and titled it This Left Feels Right, I believe.

Slowed down, acoustic bluesy and laid back instrumental versions of Def Leppard songs will be found on this CD, easily digestible by anyone.  Their effectiveness as lullabies has not been tested under lab conditions but for casual listening in any age group, it should be well received.  As stated on a sticker on the front, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen from Def Leppard make guest appearances (three songs each).

The liner notes state that the technique for “lullification” of these hits involved distilling them down to their core melodies.  That makes the songs both easily identifiable and readily enjoyable.  A mellow slide guitar often fills in for a lead singer.  Phil and Vivian’s work should be identifiable for fans to pick out.  Ballads tend to work better than rock songs like “Photograph” or “Pour Some Sugar”, and there are even a few surprising selections from outside the usual Pyromania and Hysteria suspects.  “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)” is a particularly good mellow treat.

Buy it for your baby, or yourself.

 

zzz/5 stars

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This is a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge

REVIEW: The Cult – Hidden City (2016)

scan_20161008THE CULT – Hidden City (2016 Dine Alone)

There have been a few times in Cult history when it seemed unlikely they would be making any more albums.  Thankfully, these fears were unfounded.  Thankfully, because The Cult are so damn great at making albums.

Their latest is Hidden City, and it continues their upwards trajectory.  Teamed up once again with Bob Rock, the band created a powerful recording, very Cult-like and loud.  It is a cohesive and impressive collection of songs that tend to defy individual description.  It is easy to pick our favourites such as “No Love Lost”, “Birds of Paradise” or “Hinterland” (my personal fave), but Hidden City is more than the sum of its parts.  Its components are strong compositions that highlight the strengths of the band:  Ian Astbury’s powerful and unique voice, and Billy Duffy’s unmistakable riff stylings.  Hidden City collects the light and shade and presents them as a multi-coloured hue.

Its grooves are huge but textured.  The songs reveal more hooks the more you listen.  The Cult’s performances are top notch.  The album is electrifying.  Hidden City must be considered a latter-day high water mark, an album that builds on the last few records and continues pushing forward.  The Cult rule again.

5/5 stars

This is a 200 word review in the tradition of the #200wordchallenge

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#513.5: The #200wordchallenge is done!

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GETTING MORE TALE #513.5: The #200wordchallenge is done!

A huge thank-you to all who participated in this #200wordchallenge!

From August 29 to September 2, writers were challenged to write music reviews by the same length rules as old print magazines: 200 words.  No more no less.  One of us even took it upon himself to take the challenge further with the old “Hit & Run” review style — a hard 80 words!   Thanks to rock journalist Mitch Lafon for the impetus for this adventure.

The end result was 30 posts by six writers!  Speaking for myself, I enjoyed the experiment.  Mitch was right:  forcing yourself to adhere to a hard 200 words does sharpen your skills.  In addition, the challenge succeeded in bringing Vinyl Connection out of retirement (for now?)  so no matter how you slice it, the #200wordchallenge has brought some good to the world.  Each writer who participated even contributed more than they originally estimated they would!  Perhaps the #200wordchallenge injected a shot of inspiration.

Be sure to visit our friends below, and check out their work.  Thanks to each of these talented folks, we had a fun week.  And a big thanks again to Mitch Lafon, a rock star in his own right.  Click below for the posts, and give them all a hand (or 200 hands)!

 

 

VINYL CONNECTION:

GOODGIRLFRIEND (Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend
TRANS GILMOUR EXPRESS (The Orb featuring David Gilmour – Metallic Spheres)
DEAR HERR FROESE (Tangerine Dream – Phaedra)

1001 ALBUMS IN 10 YEARS:

The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good
Hanoi Rocks – Back to Mystery City (1983)
Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun (1999)

STICK IT IN YOUR EAR:

MSG (1981)
Badlands (1989)
Stereophonics – Performance (1999)
Tragically Hip – Roxy and Elsewhere (1993)

MIKE LADANO:

Ratt – Ratt & Roll 8191
Two – Voyeurs (1998 Japanese bonus track)
Journey – Look Into the Future (1976)
REVIEW: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction (Remixed & Remastered)

BOPPINSBLOG:

Black Sabbath (The End World Tour -Toronto 2016)
Prophets of Rage – EP
Misheard lyrics (bonus)

“HIT & RUN” 80 word reviews:

KEEPS ME ALIVE:

Aerosmith – Devil’s Got a New Disguise – The Very Best of Aerosmith
Jim Cuddy – All In Time
Jim Cuddy – Skyscraper Soul
Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch
Willie Nelson – The Great Divide
Willie Nelson – Countryman
Holly Golightly – Slowly But Surely
Pegi Young – Foul Deeds
54-40 – Smilin’ Buddah Cabaret
Elliott Smith – Figure 8
Trews – Acoustic: Friends And Total Strangers Deluxe Reissue
Jake Bugg – On My One
Weezer – Weezer (blue)

REVIEW: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction (Remixed & Remastered) #200wordchallenge

200 word


Scan_20160826MEGADETH – Countdown to Extinction (2004 Remixed & Remastered edition, originally 1992)

Dave Mustaine is a visionary, there is little question of that. He knows what he wants with each record and goes for it. With this one, “precision” was the word of the day. Recorded digitally, Countdown to Extinction is perfection embodied. Not one bum note, every beat is metronomically correct. So what could possibly be improved on a remaster?

This excellent series of Megadeth remasters are actually all remixed from the original tapes. This was done with Dave himself at the helm, still the perfectionist. Countdown being flawless already, I’m sure he didn’t have to do much remixing. You can hear some changes and some additional effects added here and there, and some different takes of instrumental tracks. In general though, the differences are the kind only diehards will notice. This CD sounds three-dimensional even on the cheapest of sound systems.  Dave Mustaine, this is your Sgt. Peppers!

I won’t even bother discussing the tunes. You know them all anyway.  “Symphony of Destuction”, “Sweating Bullets”, “Foreclosure of a Dream”…they are all excellent examples of technically sharp and aggressive heavy metal.   For bonus tracks, you get one hard-to-find B-sides and some interesting demos, but not the coveted rare Trent Reznor remix.

4.5/5 stars

 


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REVIEW: Two – Voyeurs (Japanese bonus track) #200wordchallenge

The #200wordchallenge continues!  The complete review for the original Two Voyeurs CD can be found by clicking here.

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TWO – Voyeurs (1998 DML Music Japan)

Rarity acquired!  After many years of searching, I snagged a mint condition Japanese copy of Rob Halford’s album as Two with John 5.  It was priced affordably and included the obi strip, always important to collectors.  The Japanese copy has a second booklet with pictures of the band, missing from the original CD.  Rob and John casually enjoying coffee in front of a wall of X-rays?  It’s in here!

The bonus track is called “In My Head” and it’s surprising how different it is from the album at large.  It still sounds like the industrial metal of Two, but criss-crossed with dirty blues.  It’s like Two meets the Black Keys, in a wormhole from before the Black Keys even existed.  Rob has occasionally shown a penchant for mixing the blues in with his heavy metal.  Witness “A Little Crazy” from the first Fight album.  John takes a really cool and inventive solo break on this track complete with plenty of slide.  Had this track been on the original album, it might have had more appeal with the rockers, though that’s admittedly a long shot.

It’s not easy to find, but worth finding for the industrial blues of “In My Head”.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Ratt – Ratt & Roll 8191 (1991) #200wordchallenge

200 word

It’s the #200wordchallenge!  Rock journalist Mitch Lafon has challenged me to up my game.  Back in his print days, Mitch used to have a strict 200 word quota — no more no less.*  It separated the wheat from the chaff.  Click the link to see all the entries.

Scan_20160822RATT – Ratt & Roll 8191 (1991 Atlantic)

Ratt used to claim that their music was so unique that it deserved the title “Ratt n’ Roll”. This 19 track compilation is the one to get to test that theory. With all the key songs, including two from the first EP and a newbie, Ratt & Roll 8191 (Yes, that’s the actual title) will provide all the spills, thrills and chills that Ratt are known for. And in fact, it makes for a heck of a 77 minute CD. You’d think that would be overkill. You’d be wrong. Sleezy hard rock, flashy 80’s guitars, big drums and hooks are in store for you.

So “You Think You’re Tough”? Spin this CD “Round and Round”. Before you know it, “You’re in Love”. Get down and “Dance” just like “Way Cool Jr.”! Soon you’ll be “Back For More”, in fact it’s only “One Step Away”. Or one click away, rather, but keep in mind that “Nobody Rides For Free”. Still, Ratt & Roll can be found affordably. If you’re loaded with cash, look for a Japanese version with a 3″ bonus EP from MTV Unplugged featuring guest Michael Schenker!

If you don’t pick up this album, “Shame Shame Shame” on you.

4.5/5 stars

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*Not including title or score