American Idol

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 – 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: Queen + Paul Rodgers – The Cosmos Rocks (+ bonus tracks)

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QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – The Cosmos Rocks (2008 Hollywood Records, iTunes + Amazon bonus tracks)

I was surprised as anyone else when, in 1997, Queen continued on as a three-piece (sans the retired John Deacon) with a new track called “Only The Good Die Young” (Queen Rocks). Since then, Queen has continued on with one-offs under the name “Queen +” with the name of the singer.  (Adam Lambert, you can fuck right off.)

When they started touring with Paul Rodgers, I salivated! I loved the live album Return Of The Champions, and I was chomping at the bit to hear some new music. Would I, as a long-time Queen fan, be let down?

Not really.

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There have always been Queen albums, particularly in the 80’s, that I felt had filler on them. Cosmos Rocks is like that. Some songs are awesome, worthy of the Queen legacy and a proud addition to the canon. Others are limp are dull. And, the best song didn’t even make the CD release! Read on….

The CD kicks off with what I consider to be some cheesy sound effects, similar to but not as good as “One Vision”. Then, Brian May’s guitar kicks in, and the first track “Cosmos Rockin'” really starts. This is a great track, a hard and fast rocker with May’s licks as fluid as ever. Paul Rodgers, perpetually young, is in fine voice. What a great start to a comeback album! Rogers and May ably handle all bass duties on this album.

Rodgers sings most leads on his own, with familiar sounding backing vocals by Roger Taylor and Brian May. On some songs, the lead vocal is split three ways, such as “Say It’s Not True” which is actually an older song from 2003. I like this touch, as it keeps the sound a little more rooted in old-school Queen which always had Taylor and May singing lead. When Rodgers sings, however, with his voice in full power, it is a brand new beast.

I have to say I was very happy with the choice of Paul Rodgers as lead singer, as he is simply one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, up there with Daltrey or Plant. He is also a gifted writer, although I’m not sure his writing really gelled with Queen. Still, he is vastly different from Freddie, and nobody could ever replace Freddie, so I think this was definitely the way to go. Certainly much better than picking up some guy who lost American Idol…

Some of the other highlights on this album were the heavy-handed first single “C-lebrity” which seems to disparage the reality TV that Queen would later embrace! I prefer the disparaging sentiment! “Surf’s Up…School’s Out!” is another rocker that blows the doors off most younger bands. “Say It’s Not True” is a highlight, as it is the most Queen-like. Of course, with Freddie gone, his dramatic flourishes and piano was also gone, leaving Queen as a straightforward rock band with May & Taylor firmly in charge. What they once had in unique operatic flourishes has been replaced by hard rocking guitars, for better or for worse.  It is what it is, and nobody can be Freddie.

“Small” is a fantastic ballad, worthy of the Queen back catalogue.  May and Taylor join Rodgers on the lush outro.  I absolutely adore this song.  But then when you think Queen have lightened up, “Wayboys” assaults the speakers, a rare political statement with a military drumbeat.  “Call Me” is another great tune, very vintage Queen in style, sort of an electric campfire singalong.

There is, unfortunately, a lot of filler on this CD, slow-paced plodders that don’t go anywhere or stay in your memory. The thing about the Queen of old is that they were very diverse. You could have a nice jaunty flamenco song like “Who Needs You” on the same album as an epic like “It’s Late”. Queen + Paul Rodgers lacks that diversity. Well, it would have had more diversity if the best song had been included….

That best track I mentioned, that isn’t even on the CD, is available as an iTunes download only. It is a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway”, and it is worth the purchase, because it is amazing. I love the oldies, and clearly these guys do too. I wish it had been included on the CD. There is no shame in having a cover tune on your CD, especially when you also have over a dozen originals as well! The iTunes download also came with a new live version of “The Show Must Go On”, but I have no idea when or where it was recorded, except it is a different version from the one on Return Of The Champions. Maybe it is from one of the Queen instant live CDs, of which there are plenty, or maybe it is from the Super Live in Japan DVD that comes with some editions?

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There was another bonus track too, one I haven’t heard, because only American residents can get it from the Amazon.com site. Canadians are SOL!  “Fire And Water” (a live version), originally by Paul in Free, is that bonus track. Come on, Amazon! Let Canadians buy it too!

This actually really pisses me off.

(ADDED NOTE:  I have since acquired that bonus track.  Read all about it here.)

The Cosmos Rocks is not a perfect Queen album, but one that stands up in the back catalogue as an interesting and entertaining sideroad.  The big difference is that The Cosmos Rocks has more, and bigger, guitars than many Queen albums of the recent past.

3/5 stars.