Billy Idol

REVIEW: Iommi – Iommi (2000)

“Like many projects featuring multiple singers, the album called Iommi is a mixed bag but with more gems than turds.”

 

IOMMI – Iommi (2000 Virgin)

Iommi is the first released solo album by Tony Iommi, but actually the third recorded.  The first was 1986’s Seventh Star, released as “Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi”, with Glenn Hughes on vocals.  10 years later, Tony recorded another album with Hughes often referred to as “Eighth Star“, which was released in 2004 (after the drums by Dave Holland were re-recorded by Jimmy Copley) as The 1996 DEP Sessions.  Then finally in 2000, Tony took a page from the successful Santana formula book and did an album with various lead singers called Iommi.

Like many projects featuring multiple singers and assorted musicians, the album called Iommi is a mixed bag, but with more gems than turds.  The guitarist picked an interesting assortment of vocalists, mostly artists big in the 90s.  It’s telling that Tony’s good buddy Glenn Hughes isn’t one of them (though Hughes returned on 2006’s Fused).  Clearly commercial interests were most important when it came to selecting the singers and songs.

The inimitable Henry Rollins gets the enviable opening slot with “Laughing Man (In the Devil Mask)”.  Rollins sounds best with a heavy riff behind him, and this one is pure grunge.  Producer-de-jour Bob Marlette co-wrote almost every song, and there’s little doubt that this is how Iommi acquired its “modern” edge.  Rollins creates a swirl chaotic rock around him, but the riff alone would have sunk without Hank.  Iommi seldom writes such atonal, monotonous guitar parts as “Laughing Man (In the Devil Mask)”.

Skin (Skunk Anansie) is surely one hell of an underrated singer, and her track “Meat” howls.  Iommi’s solos and riffs sound much more like what comes naturally from him.  Then, it’s the unfortunate sound of 90s drum loops and samples.  It’s Dave Grohl’s tune “Goodbye Lament”.  Because as soon as one thinks of Iommi or Grohl, we think of drum loops, am I right?  Fortunately Grohl has ex-Sabbath bassist Lawrence Cottle and Queen maestro Brian May on his track.  He plays the drums when they finally do kick in.  Three of those four guys played on Headless Cross!  The drum loops suck and date the song to a certain period in time, but fortunately Grohl knows how to write good melodies so it’s not a total bust.

Phil Anselmo (Pantera) takes the very Sabbathy “Time is Mine”.  That riff sounds like it may have been later used on an actual Black Sabbath record.  The track simmers with fury, then Phil lets it rip loose.  The only way to make Sabbath heavier than Sabbath is to include a singer like Anselmo.  Drumming is Seattle legend Matt Cameron.

The expressive Serj Tankian (System of a Down) lets his pipes have their way with “Patterns”, amidst more of those annoying samples.  It absolutely sounds more System than Sabbath, which is fine since both are heavier than fuck.

The one guy that pulls off a truly Black Sabbath-sounding song is the guy you’d least expect:  Billy Corgan.  Yet his “Black Oblivion” comes closest to the spirit of classic Black Sabbath, in terms of length and epic riffage.  Billy plays bass and guitar on the track as well — what a phenomenal bassist!  (The drummer, Kenny Aronoff, knew Corgan from the 1998 Smashing Pumpkins tour on which he played, and then Aronoff went on to play on two more Iommi solo discs.)

The Cult’s Ian Astbury makes Iommi sound like — who else? — The Cult!  Brian May returns for some guitar (with Cottle and Cameron on bass and drums).  The Cult rarely employ such monolithic riffs, but the chorus is pure Cult.

“Flame On!  I used to bleed like a suicide mother,
Flame On!  And now I breath in this dirty black summer,
Flame On!  I bought the truth in the mouth of my brother,
Flame On!  I used to bleed like a suicide motherfucker.”

Shame about the damn loops, like something discarded from Chinese Democracy.  They also infect “Just Say No to Love” featuring the late Peter Steele of Type O Negative.  Like Astbury, he makes Iommi sound like his band, which already sounded a bit like a Black Sabbath parody.

The biggest disappointment on the album is second to last.  “Who’s Fooling Who” is a virtual Black Sabbath reunion, with Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward returning to the fold.  On bass is Lawrence Cottle, making it 100% Sabbath alumni, 3/4 original.  And it’s easily the most boring song on the album.  The best thing about it is Bill Ward, the first drummer who didn’t sound like a session guy.  A muffled Ozzy phones in his part, but Bill puts some effort into composing the percussion.  The best part is the instrumental burnout.

And then, a surprising finish:  Billy Idol, with a monstrous “Into the Night”.  Idol should consider doing heavy riffy metal like this more often — he’s good at it.  Though he effectively snarls his way through the slow riff, his punky side comes out when things get fast.  The contrast between riffs and tempos is half the fun.

With Iommi freshly consumed and digested anew, it’s obvious that good portion of what you heard was purposefully geared towards the nu-metal Ozzfest crowd.  The selection of musicians was clearly slanted post-80s, but it’s the loops and samples that really blow.  The blame must be laid on producer Bob Marlette, especially considering some of the loops sounded exactly like another band he produced:  Rob Halford’s Two.  The whole thing sounds like a “product”, though at least with some pretty incredible riffs behind it.

3/5 stars

 

#644: On the Road with Peter and Ozzy

GETTING MORE TALE #644: On the Road with Peter and Ozzy

Peter started coming up to the cottage with us in the summer of 1991, after we both finished highschool. Peter didn’t pack light. On any given trip, Peter would pack the following items:

  • Baseball gloves & ball
  • A football
  • Nintendo games
  • At least a dozen movies
  • Food, food and more food
  • Several tapes for the car

Peter’s favourite artist for cottage road trips was Ozzy Osbourne. During the summer of 1992, No More Tears was in the deck. Peter skipped the ballads. No “Mama I’m Coming Home” for him! We also enjoyed Billy Idol. Peter made a special mission to pick up Whiplash Smile before a road trip.  I can recall going to Fairview Mall, and opening the tape in the car.  We were also into a band called Transvision Vamp who had a couple great car tunes – “Baby I Don’t Care” was one.

When he had a car CD changer, we played a fun guessing game. We’d throw in Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Weird Al Yankovic’s Off the Deep End. Peter hit shuffle. When we heard the classic chords to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/”Smells Like Nirvana”, we had to guess who it actually was before the vocals began. It took a while to hear the difference.  Eventually I could tell.  Weird Al tends to do spot-on covers, instrumentally speaking.

Ozzy was good for passing other cars. Nothing like passing people going 150 kph on the highway, with Ozzy cackling “Crazy Train” out the windows. Black Sabbath was also handy. While visiting Frankenmuth Michigan, Peter scored a three CD Sabbath box set called The Ozzy Osbourne Years.  It had virtually every song from the first six Sabbath albums, only missing instrumentals.  I can distinctly remember passing cars to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. Peter tried to synch up passing the cars to Ozzy shouting “You bastards!”

When we weren’t rocking, we were laughing. Peter had an extensive collection of comedy tapes and CDs. Andrew Dice Clay was a favourite. We liked his “Christmas song”:

“Suck his dick, til the veins are blue…
Suck his dick, til you take his goo…
Merry, merry Christmas….”

Dana Carvey also had a hilarious rock opera spoof song about choppin’ broccoli.

But the food! My God. Peter did not skimp on the food. He liked to treat the whole family to a chicken stir fry. He brought all the food and equipment. Once he even made his own chicken balls from scratch, with his mom’s special recipe. Noodles, bean sprouts, chopped veggies, and all the fixings: nothing was missing. Sometimes he’d bring a dessert, and always a bottle of wine.  Choppin’ broccoli indeed.

We were never hungry nor bored. When available, we would run into town to buy fireworks. When we ran out, if Peter hadn’t got his fill, we’d go back in town to buy more. My mother used to joke that there was no downtime with Peter. When done one activity, he’d move right on into the next one. And if we had a building project on the go, he’d be there with his tools, in the fray helping out.

Car trips with Peter were unforgettable. Try passing a car while Ozzy shouts “You bastards!” out the window and you’ll have an idea what it was like to hang out with us.

 

 

Part 180: Google

RECORD STORE TALES Part 180:  Google

We first got email and internet at the record store in the late 90’s.  One of the big fears back then was the dreaded computer virus, but of course we also had to deal with internet abuse.  I remember coming in to work one day to find our computer’s MSN Messenger still active from the night shift; Spoogecakes left herself logged in.  Myself, I was never that fussed about MSN, I was more an email guy.  I got busted emailing a few times, I had verbal warnings, but I never did anything like leaving myself logged into MSN!

The powers that be were concerned about time wasted on the internet, and the viruses. This put into effect a strict internet policy.  Part of that was blocking nearly every useful site on the internet.  There were only a handful of sites available to us.  There was a secret password override, which made the rounds once leaked.  The guy who figured out the password decided to share it on his very last shift.  His name shall go down in hallowed halls, somewhere, someday.

Some of the sites that we were allowed to access included Canoe, so we could print out the charts, and Allmusic so we could do album lookups.  Allmusic was next to useless, being so slow and inaccurate.   I preferred Google.  The beauty of Google was that you didn’t have to use it to actually go to another (potentially shady) site, you could use it just to answer a simple question.  For example:

CARLY RAE JEPSEN

So there’s your answer, without even having to click on one of those shady lyric sites.

Now, I showed my bosses how to use Google to answer the toughest customer questions.  Often, a customer would come in and say, “I’m looking for a song, but I only know a few words.  Can you help?”  This was long before you could hold up your iPhone and use an app to do it for you.  You had to ask the folks on the radio, or at the record store.

Google was the easiest most accurate way to answer these questions.  So, here’s a question you might get:  “I’m looking for a song by somebody that goes, ‘in the midnight hour, I want more more more'”.

Plug it into Google like so, and you get your answer.

REBEL YELL

Again, you don’t even have to click on the shady lyric sites.  Then once you know the artist (Billy Idol) you could just run over to the shelves and see if you had that song.  If you didn’t, Allmusic could tell you which album you want, now that you knew the name of the song and artist.

I showed them this trick, but they would not budge on the block policy.  They insisted that Google be blocked.  They thought you could use Google to visit a blocked site.  Just clicking the link, they thought, would bypass the block.  They thought the block only applied to the address bar.

I explained this but the answer remained “No.”  Google was to remain blocked, purely because they didn’t understand how Internet Explorer worked.  Essentially, we were blocked from a simple tool to answer common questions.  At least many of us secretly had the override password, but before that leaked, we couldn’t access a search site like Google.  I had a customer say to me, “Can’t you check the internet?  The guy at HMV can.”  And no, technically I couldn’t.  Allmusic didn’t have a feature to look up song lyrics, and its search engine was pretty shitty as it was.

With today’s technology you can do this easily with a cell phone, that was unimaginable to us 10 years ago.  Regardless of the policy, I used the password to use Google and answer questions.  And I checked my email, too!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

Part 181:  Jim Carrey’s clone