REVIEW: Jim Crean – The London Fog (2019)

JIM CREAN – The London Fog (2019 Visionary Noise)

Vocalist extraordinaire Jim Crean is back with two new solo albums.  Not only is there a 16 track covers album called Gotcha Covered, but also The London Fog, a new original CD.  As usual, Crean boasts a killer hitlist of special guests, including Carmine & Vinny Appice, Mike Tramp, Rudy Sarzo, Chris Holmes, Steph Honde and plenty more.  Buckle up — it’s a heavy duty trip.

The London Fog goes wide open from the start, with the two new songs Crean released on last year’s Greatest Hits:  the excellent “Scream Taker” (tribute to Ronnie James Dio) and the riffy “Conflicted”.  “Scream Taker” features Dio alumni Vinny Appice and Rudy Sarzo.  These tracks follow the traditional blueprints of classic 80s metal, particularly “Conflicted”.  (The dexterous bassist that I initially mistook for Billy Sheehan is actually A.D. Zimmer.)

Want more riffs?  Then get “Broken”!  There’s a great chorus here: Melody and power, with some tasty licks from Steph Honde.  “Aphrodisiac” takes things to a more nocturnal place, but more menacing.  Still, there’s always room for some dirty rock, and that would be “Lady Beware”.  If Dokken’s classic lineup released another song today, it would probably sound a lot like “Lady Beware”.  This is the kind of rock we all miss, and have a hard time finding today.

Jim Crean is equally at home on rockers and ballads.  “Let It Go” (with Honde on piano and keyboards) has an epic quality for a ballad.  It might be a bit Scorpions, Whitesnake (circa 1987) or Guns N’ Roses…the comparisons are up to the listener.  The keyboard solo is a cool touch.  Then heavy sounds circulate on “Loaded” (more Zimmer on bass), but yet Crean maintains a knack for melody.

A familiar voice welcomes you on “Candle”, a Mike Tramp (Freaks of Nature) cover featuring Tramp in a duet.  The song is new to these ears, and I like how the parts shift and change moods.  A riff for the ages follows, on an original track called “1981”.  Again I’m reminded of Dokken, the classic era.  It’s hard to recapture a time period with such clarity, but Jim Crean has a talent for writing that way.  Some of his originals could very well be from another time.  (Drummer Colleen Mastrocovo gives “1981” a serious kick.)

Another obscure cover:  Robin Zander’s 1993 solo track “Time Will Let You Know”, a classy ballad from an underrated album.  Jim doesn’t try to sound like Robin Zander, but does it justice.  Then it’s Rod Stewart’s dance classic “Passion”.  Very few singers have the right rasp to do Rod Stewart justice, but Jim Crean is one of them.  That’s the always slick Tony Franklin on bass.  And get this!  Franklin’s Blue Murder bandmate Carmine Appice, the same guy who played on the the original “Passion”, also plays on this cover.  He approaches both versions very differently.  Rod’s version is slick dance rock, and this is more like metal that you can dance to.  Same song; familiar but a completely different arrangement.  If John Sykes ever played with Rod Stewart, maybe this is what they could have sounded like.

“Passion” could have closed the album and you’d be completely satisfied, but there’s more.  A funky “Fool” sounds like Aerosmith, and who’s that on guitar?  Ray Tabano, the original Aerosmith guitarist before Brad Whitford joined the band!  This song is more Aerosmith than anything that band has recorded since 1993!  Then it’s another lesser-known cover and duet:  Angel’s “Don’t Take Your Love” featuring original Angel singer Frank DiMino.  Great melodic rock songs are always welcome, and this one is truly great.

Finally comes the metallic closer “Tears” featuring Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P.).  The contrast between the heavy riffs and Jim’s melodic vocals is what makes this style work so well for him.  The riff has a W.A.S.P. vibe, but Crean takes it in a totally different direction.

Another fine album from Jim Crean and friends.  Fans of hard rock “the way they used to make it” will thoroughly enjoy.

4.5/5 stars

Check back for a look at Gotcha Covered, coming soon.

REVIEW: Frank Zappa – Baby Snakes (1983)

Third review from Mike and Aaron go to Toronto…Again!  This Zappa bought at Sonic Boom for $10.99, original green Rykodisc case intact.

BABY SNAKES_0001FRANK ZAPPA – Baby Snakes (1983, 1995 Rykodisc)

Baby Snakes is the soundtrack album to the Zappa film of the same name, famously using clay animation by Bruce Bickford.  This bizarre landmark of a movie deserves a bizarre soundtrack, which Frank ably delivers with his ace band including Tommy Mars (violin) , Terry Bozzio (on two tracks),  Adrian Belew (guitar) and more.

Yet the title track is remarkably accessible.  Sure, there are the typical Zappa elements: high munchkin voices, low Zappa moans, eclectic and humourous lyrics…and playing out the wazoo!  There’s nothing wrong with these “Baby Snakes” as long as you can keep up with the time changes.  (This is an edited version of the same song from Sheik Yerbouti.)

Before you know it, you’re live in funky New York listening to “Titties and Beer”.  These live tracks were recorded Halloween 1977 at the Palladium.  Will Frank sell his soul to the Devil?  Is Frank rough enough to get into hell?  Does he have the style that it takes?  Listen to “Titties and Berr” and find out (I won’t spoil it).

“The Black Page #2” is infamously hard to play, so just listen up and hear how the pros get it done.  The percussion alone makes heads spin.  Another seamless transition goes into “Jones Crusher” which has a classic soul of rock.  The vocal parts are damn fine, the lyrics hilarious, and Frank’s outro solo smokes.  A rock and roll slant on “Disco Boy” is a tad faster than the studio counterpart.  This hilarious ode to vanity and ultimately masturbation is just fun, because who doesn’t love ripping on disco?

PUNKYSide two of the original LP was made up of just two tracks, both long bombers:  “Dinah Moe Humm” and “Punky’s Whips”.  The Ryko CD blends the two sides together without a break.  You can hear the band quote “Sunshine of Your Love”) at one point  in “Dinah Moe” (they quoted “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” on side one).  “Punky’s Whips” is a completely different deal.  Apparently, Terry Bozzio had a bit of a man-crush, or at least a fascination with Punky Meadows from the band Angel.  This satire poked a bit of fun at the expense of Punky, but who can blame them?  Who could blame anyone?  “Punky’s lips, Punky’s lips, his hair’s so shiny, I love his hips!”  I mean, how can you not make fun of this guy?  Even though the lyrics are distractingly hilarious, the music goes into epic soundtrack mode by the time Bozzio’s shouting “Jack it Punky, jack it faster!”  Frank ends the song with one of his signature guitar jams, a sound that this world truly does miss.

Of note: this album was originally released on 12″ picture disc.  The Ryko CD cover replicates this effect.  I like that.

5/5 stars