20th century masters

REVIEW: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2005)

THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2005 Universal)

Every journey has a first step, and by luck of the draw, my first Bosstones is their 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection CD.   This was purchased in the 3-for-$10 bin at BMV, during the now-legendary 2018 Toronto excursion with Aaron.  It was the only Bosstones found on that trip, unfortunately, but one is better than nothin’.

I like Universal’s 20th Century Masters series; most of them anyway.  Some are pretty terrible, but in general they compile key hits with the occasional non-album gem.  The Bosstones’ instalment covers the major label period from 1993’s Ska-Core, The Devil, and More EP to 2000’s album Pay Attention.  Pretty much “the stuff you might know”.   I say this because I knew a lot of these songs.  Which is good!

It’s the brass that makes everything sound so damn tasty.  The first blockbuster punch of “Someday I Suppose” and “Don’t Know How to Party” bring the horns to the fore.  When you have a gravel-voiced singer like Dicky Barrett it helps to have some sax and trombone to deliver more melodic hooks.  This frees Barrett to sing in his in inimitable style, scraping the paint from the walls with sonic sandpaper.

The rest of the band are more than capable of handling background vocal chores, as demonstrated by the 1993 Bob Marley cover “Simmer Down”. Dennis Brockenborough (trombone) ably joins Barrett for “answer” vocals, enriching the Bosstones’ brew.  The quality cover tune is swiftly followed by another:  “Detroit Rock City” from the 1994 Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass.  Catch the Gene Simmons cameo at the front, telling Dicky he couldn’t do “Detroit” but any other song would be fine.  Gene was forced to eat his words, because here’s “Detroit”, with a brick-solid wall of horns and chords.  Inclusions like this are great because fans who didn’t want a Kiss tribute album and can’t find the single can just buy 20th Century Masters instead.

Moving on chronologically, “Kinder Words” and “Pictures to Prove It” are more tough, hook-laden ska rock.  Tracing the river of cool hooks back to its source, they rise from the well of brassy horns and backing gang vocal melodies.  The Bosstones formula is hard to resist once you jump in.  Then, once Dicky Barrett’s unique voice gets hold, you’re in the tide.  From the same period, a “clean remix” of “Hell of a Hat” is another inclusion that would help out collectors; it’s from a promo-only CD single.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones had a major hit with 1997’s “The Impression That I Get”.  It’s completely deserved because it’s a brilliant single.  It doesn’t vary from the core Bosstones sound, it just distils the elements down to a concentrate.  It’s an obvious gateway point to the band, an invitation to a pretty cool party.  From the same album (Let’s Face It) are two more recognisable hits:  “Royal Oil” and “The Rascal King”.  And though they are not as familiar, “So Sad to Say” and “She Just Happened” from Pay Attention are pretty much just as good.

This is one 20th Century Masters CD that I don’t regret owning.  Brilliant band, solid tunes throughout and a couple rarities for the connoisseur.  Get Mighty.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Kingdom Come – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection

KINGDOM COME – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2003 Universal)

Kingdom Come are a German/American band that rose from the ashes of Stone Fury.  For those who may not remember, Kingdom Come were quite infamous in their day.  Gary Moore wrote a song called “Led Clones” (with Ozzy singing lead) about Kingdom Come and bands of their ilk who were seen to be milking the now defunct Zeppelin cow.  The “Led Clones” riff directly aped “Kasmir” by Zeppelin, as did Kingdom Come’s lead single “Get It On”.  A little Zeppelin influence is fine, but Kingdom Come enraged Jimmy Page himself when one of their guitarists claimed he’d never heard a Led Zeppelin album.

The Zeppelin angle was one direction that Kingdom Come exploited in their early days, and though they grew out of it by their second album, the damage had been done. Their nickname became “Kingdom Clone”, the punchline of many jokes. This is why a simple 20th Century Masters compilation may be all the Kingdom Come you actually need.  Herein you will find all but one of their hits, and a fair few tracks from their first three studio albums.  Two guys from this band ended up in Warrant:  Rick Steier and James Kottak, who is also the longest-serving drummer that the Scorpions have ever employed.  By the third album, the original lineup had completely dissolved leaving singer Lenny Wolf the sole original member.

The one missing hit is a track called “Loving You” from the first LP, an acoustic ballad, sort of a sub-“Battle of Evermore”.  The other hits are here:

  • “Get It On”, the single that made them famous, which wears its Zep influences on its sleeves.
  • “What Love Can Be”, essentially Lenny Wolf’s transparent rewrite of “Since I’ve Been Loving You”.
  • “Do You Like It”, the first single from sophomore album In Your Face.

Lenny could have gotten away with some of the Zeppelin references if he didn’t try to sing so many Plant-isms.  You can only ma-ma-ma so much before you sound like Robert Plant, and Lenny could have tried to be his own singer instead.  You have to lay some of that at the feet of producer Bob Rock, who could have said, “Cut that shit out.”

The second album was a move away from that.  Keith Olsen got a sharper, more vibrant sound than Bob Rock did (though Rock really got a great drum sound for James Kottak).  Reportedly, some stores refused to stock the second LP because they thought the band’s name was Kingdom, and the album called Come In Your Face.  Too bad, because the incendiary “Do You Like It” was critically acclaimed for its drive.  The other In Your Face tracks included here absolutely represent a move away from Zeppelin and towards a more mainstream, slightly European rock sound.  Good songs, especially the mid-tempo “Gotta Go (Can’t Wage a War)”.

The third album, Hands of Time, came and went without a sound and Lenny was dropped from the label.  Reviews suggested it was soft and ballad oriented, but there are two decent slow rockers here from that album.  “Should I” has a slow grind topped by a passionate vocal.  The one included ballad, “You’re Not the Only…I Know” has a weird title but a great melody.

The great thing about the 20th Century Masters series is the ability to get key hits for a low price from bands that you may not want albums from.  The 11 tracks on the Kingdom Come edition are all worth owning, no duds in the bunch.  That makes this CD an easy one to pull the trigger on.

4/5 stars


REVIEW: Motley Crue – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection

MOTLEY CRUE – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2003 Universal)

As a change of pace, this review focuses not on what is on the album, but what was left off.  This 20th Century Masters is more than a little shoddy, as this series can often be.  So let’s talk about what it is not.

  • Too Fast For Love

“Piece of Your Action” is a great little ditty from the debut record Too Fast For Love. What you’re missing though: the speedy single “Live Wire”!  It makes little sense to have this one without “Live Wire”.

“Shout at the Devil” and “Too Young to Fall in Love”: Great choices. Both are classic 80’s metal. What you’re missing is hit single “Looks that Kill”.  But as Meat Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

“Home Sweet Home” is Motley’s biggest hit ballad ever, but where is the Brownsville Station cover “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”?  Can you believe it’s not on here?  And it’s not because it’s a cover, because, well, we’ll get there.

  • Girls, Girls, Girls

The title track makes good sense to include, but why is “All in the Name Of…” on here instead of “Wild Side”? Also missing, but understandably so, is the ballad “You’re All I Need” which never made much impact.  “Wild Side” though remained a concert staple to the end, so that’s one you’ll need to find elsewhere.

  • Dr. Feelgood

There were five singles on this album, and of course you can’t include them all on a 20th Century Masters CD. What you do need are the title track and lead single “Dr. Feelgood”, and obviously “Kickstart My Heart”.  “Kickstart” was an explosive statement by the band, proving they were as mighty as ever without the drugs.  Those two songs embodied the album, but there’s no “Feelgood” here. Inexplicable!  Certainly one of the biggest oversights on this disc.

Great song!  Not on this CD!

  • Decade of Decadence

For reasons that are unexplained and perhaps best left that way, instead of including any of the above better known songs, 20th Century Masters has the far less famed “Rock ‘N’ Roll Junkie”, and Sex Pistols cover “Anarchy in the UK”. “Junkie” is a Feelgood outtake, original released on The Adventures of Ford Fairlane soundtrack in 1990. “Anarchy” was recorded for Motley’s first greatest hits, Decade of Decadence. Neither song is essential, and both are on Decade. Why are they here? “Primal Scream”, which was a powerful single, is a must have. But it’s not here.  Yet another song you’d still have to get elsewhere, because it’s awesome and important.

No complaints here.  “Hooligan’s Holiday” is included from 1994’s self-titled album with John Corabi on vocals. Nice to see this single represented instead of ignored.

At this point, for a compilation like 20th Century Masters, I don’t think you need to explore the 90’s. But, from 1997’s dreadful Generation Swine comes the title track. Not the minor hit single “Afraid” mind you, but the title track which did nothing and went nowhere.  Baffling!

Ending the album with “Hell on High Heels” brought the compilation up to date for its 2003 release date. Unfortunately, there was nothing on New Tattoo worth bringing to the table. Tommy Lee had left and there was a serious dip in quality, even after Generation Swine.  Although it was the only Motley album featuring late drummer Randy Castillo, New Tattoo is simply a turd with no songs that are up to snuff. Crappy way to close a pretty crap compilation, though.  Motley Crue’s instalment of 20th Century Masters sounds as if it’s a single disc from a double CD compilation, and the other CD’s been lost.  Sorry Motley, this CD gets the dreaded Flaming Turd.

1/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: KISS – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004)

KISS – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004 Universal)

These 20th Century Masters DVDs were a fun way to pick up key music videos from major bands at a cheap price.  Today this role is largely filled by sites such as YouTube.  The Kiss edition features five of their biggest from the 1980’s:  One with makeup, four without.  One each from Creatures, Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, and Crazy Nights.

“I Love It Loud”, of course, features the band in full makeup and costumes, including Ace Frehley, even though he did not play on Creatures of the Night.  This brilliant video spoofed the popular “rock and roll is brainwashing our kids” fears of the 80’s.  In this video, Kiss use their incredible brain powers to do that very thing.  Gene can even melt objects with his fire breathing, through a fucking television set.

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Let me set the stage for you in the clip for “Lick It Up”:  It is the Future.  Nuclear war has seemlingly reduced America to a wasteland, the population are dressed in rags.  The only human beings left alive are women…and of course the four guys from Kiss (now including Vinnie Vincent on guitar).  Only they can bring salvation (and music) to the surviving ladies.

“Heaven’s On Fire is a pretty standard 80’s video.  The band frolic with babes, Gene wags his tongue, Eric shakes his hair.  This video is however notable as the one and only appearance of guitarist Mark St. John (who replaced Vinnie Vincent) on lead guitar.

The clip for “Tears Are Falling” isn’t the best.  It’s a better song than a video, but there’s a cool part where Bruce plays a guitar solo in the rain.  It’s too bad that Kiss chose the Asylum period for a garish set of sequined covered bathrobes, a popular 1985-86 trend.

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“Crazy Crazy Nights” boasts some pretty big production values and the debut of the “new” late-80’s KISS sign.  I hated the softening of the musical and visual direction of Kiss in this video.  This is the beginning of Paul Stanley merely dancing with his guitar in videos, rather than playing it.  Watch the video.  At no point is Paul doing anything more than wearing or dancing with his guitar!

Eric Carr was the drummer on all tracks, rest his soul.

3/5 stars


DVD REVIEW: Styx – 20th Century Masters: The Video Collection (2004)

STYX – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004 Universal)

These 20th Century Masters DVDs were a fun way to pick up key music videos from major bands at a cheap price.  Today this role is largely filled by sites such as YouTube.  The Styx edition features six of their cheesy best, and Styx did indeed make some cheesy music videos back in the day.  There are no frills and no extras, just the vids, so let’s have a look.

Tommy Shaw’s “Blue Collar Man” is a rock staple with cool lyrics.  This is a live version, and because of the big KILROY backdrop, I’m assuming this is from the Styx Caught in the Act DVD.  I love the 80’s clothes although the haircuts haven’t changed as much as you’d think.  The best part of this video is watching the late John Panozzo flailing away on drums, a sight that Styx fans certainly miss.

Thankfully, “Come Sail Away” is not live:  it is the cheesy original.  A bearded Dennis DeYoung croons and tinkles, hair highlighted by the spotlights.  John Panozzo’s afro can be seen bobbing over the drum kit, before Shaw and James Young kick in with the chords.  The band dressed in white appear to glow on stage, and it’s a gloriously terrible music video.  Things like this have kitsch value to me.  “Too Much Time On My Hands” is also the original, and this is just indescribably bad, so I’ll just present you these still photos to show you what I mean.  It’s pretty hilarious.  Fortunately it’s a good song!

“The Best of Times” is among my favourite Styx songs, in fact I had it played at my wedding reception. Judging by Dennis’ sparkly vest, it’s from the same video shoot as “Too Much Time On My Hands”.  It has some of the same camp value, but without the embarrassing “acting” scenes.  But damn, isn’t this a great song?  Shaw’s “Boat On a River” is also excellent.  Tommy plays mandolin, while bassist Chuck Panozzo weilds a big stand-up double bass.  DeYoung’s on accordion, mustachioed instead of bearded.  The folksy tune has always struck me as very Queen-like.

Finally, “Mr. Roboto” closes the DVD, as it must.  Taking scenes from Styx’s short Kilroy Was Here film, it depicts Jonathan Chance (Tommy Shaw) searching for imprisoned rock star Kilroy (Dennis DeYoung).  Kilroy is seen attacking a “Roboto” prison guard and thereafter making his escape wearing the mask of the robot.   It’s a nifty little sci-fi music video, something I’m a huge sucker for.  “Mr. Roboto” is still a great memorable song with a cool little video.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Kenny Rogers – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection

KENNY_0001KENNY ROGERS – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection (2004 Universal)

A CD like this, at this price point (generally around 5 bucks) is perfect for the non-fan like me.

I’ve always liked Kenny’s songs, but I was not a fan. My mom bought me a copy of The Gambler when I was a kid (well, it was for my grandpa but he already had it, so she let me have it). I only listened to the title track. I like a handful of Kenny Rogers songs, the rest I find too sappy. So this CD is perfect for me. It’s all the Kenny I need.

I can only review this CD based on my own likes and dislikes, and stuff like “Crazy In Love” is just too sappy. But “Lady” is cool, it has some drama to it. It’ll never make it to one of my road trip CDs, but it’s cool. “She Believes In Me” is another softy, but there’s something schlocky about it that I enjoy.  Let’s be honest, I bought this CD for “The Gambler”, “Ruby”, “Lucille”, “Reuben James” and one of the greatest psychedelic funk rock songs ever written, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”. They wisely sequenced the CD with this song last. Saving the best for last!

As with all 20th Century Masters CDs, there are some brief liner notes for the unitiated, and a brief running time. Good enough for me. I’m given to understand that “Someone Who Cares” is a non-album single, so that’s a bonus.  Unfortunately, it’s slower than molasses in January.  Thankfully, “Something’s Burning” by the First Edition has some upbeat parts to offset the ballads.

Normally I rank these 20th Century Masters discs no higher than 2 stars, but I’ll go higher this time, because I’ll never need to buy another Kenny Rogers CD.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Buddy Holly – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of

Happy birthday David. You were a fan, this is for you.

BUDDY_0001BUDDY HOLLY – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Buddy Holly (1999 MCA)

Normally I rank all of these 20th Century Masters CDs as 2 stars across the board. That’s mainly because I am a believer in buying the albums, not the greatest hits.  With an artist like Buddy Holly, it’s much less about albums and more about his singles.  For Buddy I prefer compilations.  20th Century Masters are budget priced, limited to 10-12 songs, and brief running times.  In this case I think it’s worth spending money on.

This one is pretty near-perfect for a quick starter set. Every song is amazing, not a weak one in the bunch. From “Not Fade Away” to “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, and of course the classic “Everyday”, this is a CD to listen to start-to-finish with nothing to skip.  “Words of Love” is still a masterpiece, using the then-new technique of double tracking the lead vocal.  It still sounds full, deep and perfect.

Meanwhile, “Oh, Boy!” is full of joie de vivre, Buddy leading the charge gleefully.  “Rave On” is very much in the same mold, completely memorable and toe-tapping.  “Think It Over”, by Buddy and the Crickets is an old fashioned rock and roll song with a nice big grand piano, completely fun.  The CD closes with “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, a Paul Anka song featuring Buddy backed by orchestra and acoustic guitar.  It’s just one of the greatest songs ever written, period.

There are better and more complete compilations out there, but not at the price that this series sells for. Buy this first, check out some Buddy Holly, and once you’ve digested these songs, move onto the bigger picture. I think new music is more easily digested in small packages and this is the best way to go if you are new to Buddy Holly.

5/5 stars all the way, I still listen to this all the time.

REVIEW: KISS – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss Vol. 1, 2 and 3

Part 41 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!   We’re deep into the second compilation years of Kiss.  This time I’m doing three at once!

KISS – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kiss Vol. 1, 2 and 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)

This series is one I find quite enjoyable (The Millenium Collection in general, which spanned many artists). For a budget price you get 10 to 12 hits in a brief running time. Perfect for people who aren’t fans but want some hits.  If you know where to go you can get these for around $5.  Imagine that — three discs of awesome Kiss for $15.  Not a bad value.

Let’s start with Volume 1, shall we?

I am a fan. I don’t play this series often, but I do enjoy it. The problem here is, of course, you can’t sum up the early years of Kiss in 12 songs. Here’s the album breakdown:

  • 2 songs from Kiss
  • 1 song from Hotter Than Hell
  • 1 song from Dressed To Kill
  • 1 song from Alive!
  • 2 songs from Destroyer
  • 2 songs from Rock And Roll Over
  • 2 songs from Love Gun
  • 1 song from Dynasty

Considering what this album is, the only thing I don’t like is the inclusion of “I Was Made For Loving You”. I would have put on something like “Shout It Out Loud”. Dynasty doesn’t really fit in with the other albums included here, but it came out in 1979 and therefore couldn’t go on Volume II (the 80’s).

1. Strutter
2. Deuce
3. Hotter Than Hell
4. C’mon And Love Me
5. Rock And Roll All Nite
6. Detroit Rock City
7. Beth
8. Hard Luck Woman
9. Calling Dr. Love
10. Love Gun
11. Christeen Sixteen
12. I Was Made For Lovin’ You

Volume 2 continues the concept.  It contains tunes from the following records:

  • 2 songs from Creatures Of The Night
  • 2 songs from Lick It Up
  • 2 songs from Animalize
  • 2 songs from Asylum
  • 2 songs from Crazy Nights
  • 2 songs from Hot In The Shade

Although between Volume I and Volume II, a couple albums slip through the cracks (Unmasked, The Elder, Killers) this CD is a pretty good summary of key singles from 1982-1989. Only a few singles are missing (“Who Wants To Be Lonely”, “Turn On The Night”, “Let’s Put The X In Sex”, “(You Make Me) Rock Hard”, “Rise To It”). I don’t think I would have subsituted any of those, for any of these:

1. Creatures Of The Night
2. I Love It Loud
3. Lick It Up
4. All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose
5. Heaven’s On Fire
6. Thrills In The Night
7. Tears Are Falling
8. Uh! All Night
9. Crazy Crazy Nights
10. Reason To Live
11. Hide Your Heart
12. Forever

Volume 3 is the shakiest of the three.  It leans a bit too much on live versions of popular hits for my tastes.  I would have preferred more studio songs, but KISS didn’t release that many studio albums in the 90’s so there’s not much you can really change. Here’s the album breakdown.

  • 2 songs from Revenge
  • 1 song from Alive III
  • 3 songs from Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions
  • 2 songs from MTV Unplugged
  • 3 songs from Psycho-Circus
  • 1 song from the Detroit Rock City soundtrack

I think 3 is too many Carnival Of Souls songs on a hits CD aimed at the casual fan, and I think “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” is a terrible song with no redeeming value.  Sorry Paul.  In reality, it should almost be considered a Paul solo track:  No other members of Kiss played on or were anywhere near that song.  It’s also never been performed live by the band.

This disc is notable for being an easy, cheap place to get two rare tracks.  “Nothing Can Keep Me From You” is one, and the unplugged version of “Got To Choose” is another.

1. God Gave Rock & Roll To You II
2. Unholy
3. Domino
4. Hate
5. Childhood’s End
6. I Will Be There
7. Coming Home (Unplugged)
8. Got To Choose (Unplugged)
9. Psycho Circus
10. Into The Void
11. I Pledge Allegiance to the State of Rock & Roll
12. Nothing Can Keep Me From You

For the whole set:

3/5 stars