Alex Grossi

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys (2020 Japanese import)

QUIET RIOT – Hollywood Cowboys (2020 King Record Co. Japanese import)

We all wanted Frankie Banali go out on a high note.  He fought hard.  His battle with cancer was inspiring.  Unfortunately, his last Quiet Riot album Hollywood Cowboys is not memorable except as the drummer’s finale.  The shame of it is, they previous album Road Rage was pretty decent so it wasn’t unreasonable to get hopes up for the sequel.

The songs just aren’t memorable enough.  It’s bad when you can’t remember which track was the single (“In the Blood”).  The opener “Don’t Call It Love” is better; singer James Durbin was able to infuse the chorus with some passion.  The problem is none of the songs stick.  Can you remember how “Change Or Die” or “Wild Horses” goes without a listen?  “In the Blood” isn’t terrible by any stretch but there are no real singles on this album.

The musicianship is fantastic, with Frankie drumming like only he could.  There’s some tasty organ on “The Devil You Know”, but no hooks.  You can hear that they worked hard on Hollywood Cowboys, adorning songs with “woo oo ooo” backing vocals and lickity-split solos by Alex Grossi.

Some highlights include an AC/DC-like blues called “Roll On”, and the ballad “Holding On” which nails the vintage Quiet Riot vibe.  There’s also a blast of Priest-like metal called “Insanity” that has plenty of power if lacking in melodies.

The album sounds as if rushed, which would be understandable given the circumstances, but that’s the impression it gives.  Even the cover looks rushed.  The mix is really saturated and could have used some more loving care.  To its credit, it is probably the heaviest Quiet Riot album ever, from drums to riffs.

Here’s the mindblowing part.  Only one guy on this album is still in Quiet Riot, and that’s guitarist Alex Grossi.  James Durbin left before it was released, and he was replaced by former QR singer Jizzy Pearl (from the 10 album).  Legendary bassist Rudy Sarzo is returning in 2022, replacing Chuck Wright.  Lastly and most regrettably, Frankie’s stool was filled by former Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly.  None of that is relevant a Hollywood Cowboys review, it’s just recent history.  One does wish for more stability in the lineup, and perhaps Sarzo will bring that.

The Japanese import bonus track this time out is a lacklustre acoustic version of “Roll On”.  Frankie plays with brushes, so it’s interesting from a drummer’s point of view.  Sadly it’s the kind of bonus track that’s just not worth the price paid for the import.

Hollywood Cowboys is a scattershot collection of parts that never coalesces into songs.  Everybody wanted Frankie Banali to succeed, in every way possible.  But one must also be honest in a review, and can take no pleasure in shitting all over Frankie’s last record.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – One Night in Milan (2019 CD/DVD)

QUIET RIOT – One Night in Milan (2019 Frontiers Deluxe Edition CD/DVD)

James Durbin made me a believer.

On paper, the current Quiet Riot shouldn’t be my thing.  A band with no original members and a frontman from one of those singing contest shows?  No thanks.  Except it’s actually good.  After years of flailing around with different replacement singers, Frankie Banali finally hit gold when he got James Durbin.  Wisely, Frankie chose to do a live album with him.

One Night in Milan is a terrific live CD/DVD set, aided and abetted by a singer who is 100% into it.  Durbin has charisma and the frontman chops, but importantly, he’s not trying to be Kevin DuBrow.  He still uses the striped mike stand, but otherwise Durbin is his own person.  His range is out of this world, and though his voice may grate on some ears, he sounds terrific to this listener.  The whole lineup, including Alex Grossi on guitar and veteran Chuck Wright on bass, has gelled.

Quiet Riot get points for doing the opposite of what most bands do.  They didn’t ignore their 1990’s albums!  “Whatever It Takes” (from Down to the Bone) and “Terrified” (from “reunion” album Terrified) sound awesome live.  “Terrified” in particular has been a long time coming, a true hidden classic from a forgotten era.  On the other hand, there are only two songs (“Freak Flag” and “Can’t Get Enough”) from their newest album Road Rage.  There’s only so much room on a live CD, and it’s otherwise stuffed with stone cold Quiet Riot classics.  It’s cool to hear deeper cuts like “Condition Critical”, “Thunderbird” and “Let’s Get Crazy” live.

The DVD, featuring all the songs from the CD, is even more convincing.  Banali continues to thunder like no other drummer, a true phenomenon.  There’s more stage talk included, and Banali introduces “Thunderbird” performed live for the first time ever with piano.  Durbin is always the focus on stage, although Wright and Grossi are both mobile, entertaining performers.

If you’re just not into Quiet Riot without Kevin DuBrow, that’s fine and you should stick to what you like.  However it’s safe to say that James Durbin has saved Quiet Riot from becoming a pointless parody of itself.  With James center stage, this band has a future again.

4/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Road Rage (2017 Japanese version)

QUIET RIOT – Road Rage (2017 Frontiers Japanese version)

We’ve always been honest but truthful Quiet Riot fans here at LeBrain HQ.  We’ve been banging our heads for almost 35 years now, and they included some ups and some downs.  The death of Kevin DuBrow was heartbreaking.  Some of our Quiet Riot reviews haven’t been the most popular, but we have always maintained an open mind.  Frankie Banali’s resurrected Quiet Riot with no original members left a bad taste in the mouth, especially after management attempted to re-write the band’s history on WikipediaPages were edited to indicate that the Metal Health album was Quiet Riot’s debut, seemingly in order to qualify Banali as an original member.  Ugly and undignified; but music talks and bullshit walks.  Quiet Riot’s first post-DuBrow always was 2014’s 10, with Love/Hate singer Jizzy Pearl taking over as the band’s sixth lead singer.  It wasn’t that good and it’s conceivable that the band know it.  No physical edition was ever released, and you can’t even buy a download anymore.

So, it’s delightful to be able to say that the new 2017 Quiet Riot album called Road Rage is…not bad at all!  Actually quite good!

It’s even been rocky since 10.  Jizzy Pearl left amicably, to be replaced by ex-Steven Adler singer Seann Nichols.  They recorded a new album, even released one full song online…and then suddenly Nichols was out!  American Idol alumnus James Durbin was hired in short order, and re-wrote and re-recorded the entire album.

Skeptics, be silent.  Our fair and balanced take on Quiet Riot in the past should speak volumes for the review you are about to read.  It would be far easier to mock Quiet Riot for their choice of a TV show contestant as a frontman, but it would be grossly inaccurate.

Durbin’s youthful enthusiasm will either win you over, or leave you complaining that he’s “not enough like DuBrow” and it “doesn’t sound like Quiet Riot”.  Here’s the truth — that’s good.  We’ve endured one soundalike singer after another.  Durbin has a fresh spin, and there’s little question the guy is just pleased as hell to be fronting this band!  he gives it all on “Can’t Get Enough”, a new uptempo Quiet Riot party tune.  Co-writer Neil Citron must have written the riff with a classic Quiet Riot vibe in mind.

Then it’s down weird street a little bit with the Indian-flavoured intro to “Get Away”.  It takes a moment, but once you realize “Hey, this isn’t the same old Quiet Riot”, you will be able to realize that “Get Away” is a damn good song.  It’s actually quite melodic rock, but with a Zeppelin groove.  Then it’s the pro-weed “Roll This Joint”, which has a seriously decent Zep vibe too.  The lyrics are pretty cheesey (“I’m with Cheech and Chong and Willie and Marley!”) but you gotta cut Durbin some slack.  He’s young and it’ll connect with some of that crowd.

The thing is, you just can’t dislike Durbin.  He wins you over, especially on the lead single “Freak Flag”.  This is the most Quiet Riot sounding track of the disc, but with Durbin it’s no carbon copy.  “Freak Flag” kicks ass and you can imagine it working great live.  Same with “Wasted”.  That chorus (“Take a shot!”) grows fast.  Even the ballad “The Road” doesn’t suck.  Through the 11 tracks, it’s clear who the star on this album is.  The new frontman rose to the challenge.  In the back, Frankie Banali’s providing the Quiet Riot backbeat; the linkage between past and present.  Guitarist Alex Grossi also turns in a worthy performance, and Chuck Wright (bass) has a co-write on the slippy-slidey “Still Wild”.  Despite the circumstances in the making of the album, Quiet Riot sound more focused than they have in decades.

Frankie’s revival of Quiet Riot has been going seven years straight, through five singers before getting James Durbin on board.  Only the singer has changed; Grossi and Wright have stood by through thick and thin.  No matter what, Quiet Riot will continue.  Fans should be advise that the first album with Durbin has turned out great, and let’s hope this is a long-term lineup.  He’s got the necessary range to sing vintage DuBrow, but in his own voice.  And that voice is growing quite compelling.  Not every song is killer, but the majority of the album gets the job done.  Enough to justify putting your money down.

The Japanese version of Road Rage has an exclusive bonus track.  It is an acoustic version of “Make A Way”, one of the heavy album tracks.  This isn’t a crappy remix, but an entirely new recording of the song in acoustic arrangement.  It’s different enough that it actually seems like a new song.  Bonus track:  win!*  

As Durbin sings, “Take a shot!”  Give Road Rage a road test.  Just don’t “Knock ‘Em Down”, or you will have to “Get Away”.  The quality of this album in terms of sound and songs gives the new Quiet Riot a level of credibility they didn’t have before.  Easily their best album since 1993’s Terrified or even before.  Let your “Freak Flag” fly, James Durbin!

3.75/5 stars

*  Former singer Seann Nichols made a comment in an interview that implied the version of Road Rage with his vocals was released in Japan; this is unfortunately not the case.  If you have any Seann Nichols versions of the Road Rage songs, please contact us here.  We are dying to review them in contrast to the final album!

 

 

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – 10 (2014)

We’ve had a couple strong new releases in a row here of late: The new Helix and Judas Priest albums have been particularly great.

I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

NEW RELEASE

CoverQUIET RIOT – 10 (2014 iTunes or Amazon mp3 download)

I’ve made no secret of my dislike for the happenings in Quiet Riot recently.  I find their current reunion, with no original members, to be tenuous at best.  Singer after singer, Quiet Riot stumbled onwards before finally hiring Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate and Ratt fame.  With Pearl they’ve managed to record an album.  10 is the name of that album, another thing I find a little disrespectful.  The name 10 seems to me to imply it’s their 10th album.  It’s not; all fans know Metal Health was their third, not first, album.   This seems to play into an earlier attempt to re-write the Quiet Riot related Wikipedia pages to state that Metal Health was the band’s first record.  Why?  I can only speculate that this is done to promote the current Quiet Riot as having “original members”, when in fact they have none.

However, I’m going to listen with open ears, because that’s what I’m here to do.

First track, “Rock in Peace” is one I like quite a lot.  What I don’t like is the muddy, muddy sound.  The drums sound like they’re in another room.  It’s too bad because I think the song has potential.  As for Jizzy, it’s easy to adjust to him as lead singer of Quiet Riot.  Although he doesn’t sound like the late Kevin DuBrow too much, he does have certain screamy qualities in common with DuBrow.  This enables him to adapt to the Quiet Riot sound.  The lyrics quote the band’s biggest original hit, “Metal Health”, which is alright.  Halford’s quoted himself before too.  OK, so production aside, not bad.

“Bang For Your Buck” has some tasty guitar by the talented Alex Grossi, making his first Quiet Riot album appearance here.  Unfortunately the otherwise fine song is held back by Jizzy, overreaching and straining.  Grossi really does redeem the song especially with the solo…but damn this album sounds muddy.  Congested.  Like I have a head cold while listening to it.

Third in line is the weird titled “Backside of Water”.  I don’t know what that title means, and since this is a digital release, there are no lyrics.  It smokes along nicely, with more fantastic Grossi guitars, but it’s an unremarkable song that doesn’t sound like Quiet Riot, except in the sense that Quiet Riot has a lot of unremarkable songs.  The Ratt-like “Back on You” is outtake quality.  I’m sensing that the guys think they can just throw a shout-AC/DC-style chorus on something and call it catchy, but it doesn’t work that way.

“Band Down” is what you’d call a “down n’ dirty” rocker.  I’d call it dull, and poor sounding.   I think they’re trying to recapture that “Stay With Me Tonight” vibe, but without a memorable chorus.  But “Dog Bone Alley” is worse, absolutely sunk by horrendous backing vocals.  It has a slinky, heavy groove, and some smokin’ guitars, but that’s not enough to build a song with.

Alex Grossi, Jizzy Pearl, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright

Alex Grossi, Jizzy Pearl, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright

Quiet Riot’s biggest stumbling block has always been songwriting.  That’s why some of their biggest hits are covers.  Quiet Riot 10 continues that frustrating tradition.   Just like albums such as Alive and Well had some good songs and solid moments, so is Quiet Riot 10.  And that’s only six songs!

What Quiet Riot did to make a full album is include four live songs, kinda taking a page out of the ZZ Top book, a-la Fandango!  These tracks are all obscurities, songs not available in live versions before.  They all feature Kevin DuBrow, but could Frankie have not found better sounding recordings?  From Quiet Riot III is a horrid sounding version of “Put Up or Shut Up”.  This is bootleg quality, and not even good bootleg quality.  Too bad; sounds like it was a good version.  Then, from the stinky Rehab CD comes an unnecessary “Free”.  So it’s heavy, whoop-de-do.  It’s a shitty song, and the vocals are so damn distorted at times that it sounds as if Kevin’s under water.  “South of Heaven” too suffers from these sonic defects.  It seems like they were going for a Zeppelin “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” kind of vibe, but as if the mothership crashed into “The Ocean”.  (See what I did there?)  Kevin even yelps, “Push, push!”  It’s a shame because Frankie really is a smokin’ drummer.

The final track is a nine minute rock n’ roll medley.  This is a great jam.  Humble Pie’s “Red Light Mama, Red Hot!” is a great little obscure choice.  Kevin sounds like he’s having a blast.  Actually the whole band sound like they’re having more fun here than they were playing their own originals.  This seques into other more familiar hits, still harkening back to that old British blues rock sound.

Live many albums of Quiet Riots past, 10 stumbles and fails at times, while producing pleasing hard rock surprises at others.  The sonic issues are a surprise to me.  I hope a physical CD release, if there is to be one, would improve the sound.

2/5 stars

1. “Rock in Peace” 4:00
2. “Bang For Your Buck” 3:52
3. “Backside of Water” 4:18
4. “Back on You” 3:24
5. “Band Down” 3:17
6. “Dogbone Alley” 4:29

Live
7. “Put Up or Shut Up” 4:18
8. “Free” 4:05
9. “South of Heaven” 5:25
10. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley” 9:22

 

For further reading, check out Jon Wilmenius’ review of Quiet Riot 10.

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Rehab (2006)

Part 2 of my 2-part review of the Quiet Riot Twin Pack set.  Twin Pack bundled the band’s final two releases:  a retro live album, and the final studio album, Rehab.

QUIET RIOT – Rehab (2006 Demolition)

I love Quiet Riot, even more than I have reason to. Metal Health was the first “metal” album I ever bought, on cassette, and I’ve re-bought it three more times since. I just love that album, and I admit it’s probably 60% music and 40% nostalgia. Since it came out, I’ve managed to collect a lot of Quiet Riot.  Prize possessions are my CD copies of Quiet Riot I and II.  This Twin Pack set was important to me because the version of Rehab contained herein has the European bonus track, “Wired To the Moon”.

It turns out, however, that Rehab kinda sucks. It has its supporters who enjoyed the heavier, bluesier sound.  Rehab unfortunately repeats the problem that Quiet Riot have had for many years:  they don’t write very many good songs!  Kevin DuBrow and Frankie Banali were reduced to a duo after the departures of Rudy Sarzo (who went on to Dio and is now in Tateryche) and Carlos Cavazo (now in Ratt).  Rehab had the right ingredients in place, with the awesome Tony Franklin on bass and Glenn Hughes providing backup vocals, but it was not to be. I give them an A for effort, as I am usually in favour of heavying up the sound and adding blues elements.  They get a D for execution.

The concept was to leave behind the glam rock, but the songwriting is so underpar.  Choruses and verses don’t mesh, melodies don’t stick in the head, and riffs don’t hit you where it hurts. The best song, “South of Heaven”, is a really good Zep-ish tune though.  “Strange Ways” features an incredible solo by Neil Citron, like a cross between jazz fusion and Eddie Van Halen.  Jazz Halen?  On the other hand, “Old Habits Die Hard” is one of the more colossal failures.  Aping Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends”, DuBrow sinks this one all by himself with his overwrought lead vocal.

There are some good moments.  Pretty much all the guitar solos and instrumental sections are incredible.  The drums are good.  A song called “Beggars and Thieves” is one of the better songs, because it is anthemic and memorable like old Quiet Riot.  Unfortunately, that cannot be said of most of this material.  Glenn Hughes classes up the place by several notches when he shows up at the end, but this also highlights Kevin DuBrow’s limitations.

I dislike the cover art and packaging.  DuBrow’s wig, oh my God.  Seriously? The old Quiet Riot logo is also gone, and the masked mascot dude is barely visible.  The album was self-produced by Kevin and Frankie, but they really should have spent some money on a producer with a decent set of ears.  These songs would not have passed muster with any serious producer.  The title of Quiet Riot’s final album is now a sad irony, considering DuBrow’s overdose at age 52.

2.5/5 stars

And sadly, almost unbelievably, the band’s legacy has been tarnished even further with Banali’s hack version of the band currently touring without any original members.  And Kevin rolls in his grave.