black sabbath

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The Best of MusikLaden Live at the Beat Club

BLACK SABBATH – The Best of MusikLaden – Live at the Beat Club (1970 television performance)

When Black Sabbath released their Black Box in 2004 featuring all the original lineup’s studio albums in remastered form, they also included a bonus four-song DVD.  This disc was the oft-released television broadcast of a German show called Beat Club (later MusikLaden).  Sabbath made two appearances in 1970, and the Black Box was the most official release of them.  Before upgrading to the Black Box, I owned an earlier, unofficial DVD release.  I taped that DVD to cassette, and that’s what I’m listening to right now.

“Black Sabbath” is torrential, as intense as the young band was able.  Ozzy sounds as if possessed, truly terrified and warning us that something foreboding and terrible is coming.  “Paranoid” is strangely echoey and distant, but still as incendiary as 1970 Black Sabbath should be.  Interestingly, in this version it really does sound as if Ozzy is singing “end your life” instead of “enjoy life”.  A sparse “Iron Man” announces its arrival with evil Gibson guitar sonic bends.  This version of “Iron Man” is a little stiffer than others, but not for long.  Towards the end, Geezer Butler unleashes the hordes and the song stampedes to a close.

Finally and most notoriously is “Blue Suede Shoes”, a performance pretty much everybody has since disowned.  It’s not terrible, although it’s certainly uncharacteristic.  It’s as if Black Sabbath were suddenly encroaching upon ZZ Top’s territory.  Tony’s speedy solo is interesting if not typical, and the band really stepped it up.  I get why some would mock it; it’s kind of goofy and definitely not as impressive as the Sabbath originals.  But it’s…fun?  Is Sabbath allowed to be…fun?

3.5/5 stars

#821: The Lost Chapters – “Top Ten Bad Albums by Great Artists” (2004)

GETTING MORE TALE #821: The Lost Chapters
“Top Ten Bad Albums by Great Artists” (2004)

 

I found this previously unpublished entry in my old Record Store Journal. Not sure how I missed it during Record Store Tales! This came via a challenge from Dan Slessor of Kerrang! magazine. Have a read. A few of these albums would still make my lists today.


Date: 2004/10/03 

Dan asked me to throw together a top 100 crappy albums list, but I just couldn’t do it. Instead he asked for a top 10 bad albums by great artists. I threw one together in about 10 minutes. So while this is not my DEFINITIVE list, it is a fun read.

1. AC/DC – Blow Up Your Video
OK, this is understandable. Malcolm Young was so ill he didn’t do the tour for this record. Angus even suffered exhaustion on this tour. It was just a boring, bluesy, slow AC/DC record with only a couple notable singles. Slow AC/DC just doesn’t cut it, does it?  [Still disappointing, but not an all-time worst today.]

2. Motley Crue – New Tattoo
Even worse than Generation Swine, New Tattoo proved that it was Tommy Lee in fact who made the Motley Crue sound, NOT Vince Neil. Without Tommy, the band produced a piece of less-than-mediocre, soundalike crap. Randy Castillo (RIP) could not save this band, nor could Samantha Maloney. Weak songs, weak production, weak drum and guitar sounds.  [Would still make my list in 2020.]

 3. Black Sabbath – Forbidden
The final Sabbath studio album was recorded in a few weeks, and sounds like it was written in those weeks too. Ernie C (a guitar player from Body Count) produced it like a demo, and brought in Ice T to rap. I’m serious. [Would still make my list in 2020.]

4. KISS – Hot In The Shade
It was Gene & Paul aiming for the goal posts again, and featured a harder rock sound and three great singles. What it also featured were 12 bad songs, and demo-like production. No wonder! Most of the album WAS a demo. [Would still make my list in 2020.]

5. Jimmy Page – Outrider
WOW. Maybe it’s not so bad on the surface, but coming from the greatest rock songwriter ever, this is just sub, sub, SUB standard. Robert Plant lent a hand, for all the good it did.  [Been too long since I’ve listened.]

6. Vince Neil – Carved In Stone
“Rock n’ roll hip-hop record”. That’s all you need to know. [Not significant enough to make my list today.]

7. Guns N’ Roses – The Spaghetti Incident?
A covers album is a tricky deal to start with, and Guns at least picked 12 interesting covers. A 13th “hidden” Charles Manson tune marred the whole thing, as did the lacklustre performance and production. Really, only one song has any spark, and it’s actually a solo track by Duff! [A covers album would not make my list today.]

8. Deep Purple – Abandon
Maybe it’s unfair to include it in this list, but I was colossally disappointed when it came out. The previous record Purpendicular was so good, it felt like 1970 again. Abandon felt like a tired band who had given up trying to write good songs. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, but the results still left me underwhelmed. [Would not make the list today.  I’ve warmed to it since 2004.]

9. Geoff Tate – Geoff Tate
When a singer from a God-like band puts out a solo album, it had better shine. Geoff Tate of Queensryche instead chose to do a dancey, new-agey synth album which completely alienated his fans and may in fact prove to be the nail in his career coffin. [Still pretty awful but not really significant enough to make my list anymore.]

10. Halford – Resurrection
I’m gonna catch hell for this one. I stand by it, however. The lyrics are worse than juvenile (Priest’s are only mildly juvenile) and the songwriting and production are so generic. Thanks a lot, Bob Marlette! You proceeded to wreck so many albums…let’s not forget Alice Cooper’s Brutal Album Planet [Still cheesy but not bad.]


Wanna know this list in 2020?  That’s another story for another day!

#820: No More Tears (Coda – 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: No More Tears
(Coda – 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning)

Part One:  The Last Note of Freedom
Part Two:  1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning
Part Three:  1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (continued)

Here’s a bold statement:  I feel that personal rock history is a part of the greater body of work that is the history of the genre.  In other words, I think that stories of people like me, buying and listening to rock music, are important components of the greater gestalt.  When we publish our stories permanently, they are assimilated into the collective history.  Writers like Martin Popoff and Chuck Klosterman are often at their most entertaining when talking about their own tales of childhood musical discovery.

When a memory comes back it can be as vivid as the day it happened, and I try to capture that.  The 1991 trilogy (quadrilogy?) has taken a couple months to come together and who knows, there might be another instalment if more memories surface.  I won’t lie — it’s been an emotional process!  No more tears?  Maybe for now!

It’s important for me to recognise somebody who was there on the periphery of all these happenings in 1991.  Peter M. Cavan didn’t do things the way the rest of us did.  He began working immediately with the goal of becoming an electrical apprentice and eventually an electrician, which he did.  He didn’t disappear after highschool.  The first time he came to the cottage was in the summer of 1991 and that kicked off a serious friendship and many, many years of cottage trips.  Peter worked hard but Peter also played hard, not letting time go by without doing something.  Whether it be throwing a ball around, cooking a meal, driving into town to buy fireworks or frisbee at the beach, Peter kept moving.

And Peter’s favourite artist happened to be one of mine:  Ozzy Osbourne.

It’s safe to say that No More Tears was one of the biggest albums of 1991 for Pete.  When we hung out he always drove.  We played the shit out of No More Tears in that car.  We always skipped “Mama I’m Coming Home” — always.  I didn’t buy my own copy for months because we were listening to it so often.  When I did buy No More Tears, it was strange to listen to it without Peter!

Just as I happened to be really ramping up my interest in Black Sabbath, here comes Peter into my life who was also beginning to buy old Black Sabbath.  At school, Rob V was teaching me the ins and outs of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple’s discographies.  Meanwhile, Peter began travelling to the States a lot for work.  Rob V told me of a rare (here anyway) Sabbath track called “Evil Woman”.  Peter returned from the US with Black Sabbath’s The Early Years including that very track.  I told him he found something special.  Today, of course, you can painlessly get all that Sabbath stuff on readily available deluxe editions.  You couldn’t back then, if you even knew they existed.

While it is true that life after highschool was lonelier than before, I did have Peter.  He was the one guy who never went away.  Peter and I went on many adventures in the early 1990s, some of which featured Ozzy or Black Sabbath in the tape deck.  Peter is a part of my personal rock history and therefore part of the greater whole.  Somewhere out there is a family who wonders to this day why Ozzy Osbourne was yelling “YOU BASTARDS!” at them while Peter and I passed them in our car.  It’s because we synched it up that way thinking it would be funny.  And it kinda was.  We were adults, sort of.  He was learning to be an electrician and I was becoming acquainted with the history of 18th century Russia.  But we still laughed at fart jokes and blasted the Ozzy because why not?  Why do you have to leave that behind?

You don’t.  Celebrate your personal rock history and the rich tapestry of memories that comes with it.

#813: Ringers

GETTING MORE TALE #813: Ringers

There’s a sports phrase in the parlance of the profession:  a “ringer”.  It means boosting your team with a player who who’s above your league, usually with accusations of dishonesty or bad sportsmanship.  If you had a beer league hockey team, and your friend’s son happens to be Connor McDavid, and he substitutes for your usual center Big Jim McBob, then you have a ringer.

I was watching some live music on YouTube and wondered if there is a rock band equivalent.

Though it’s not considered cheating, did Queensryche pull a ringer when they got Todd La Torre to sing?  Todd is a fine vocalist who enables Queensryche to perform the old material properly; stuff with notes so high that only a young singer can really pull it off.  Journey did something similar with Arnel Pineda.  They wanted to play the original songs in the original keys, not tune them down for an older singer.

Original Queensryche singer Geoff Tate’s voice has changed over the decades.  That’s nature.  He can be hit or miss when singing the high stuff, so he tends not to anymore.  He’s able to steer around difficult notes and still play the song.  La Lorre has no issues with them however, adding some of his own grit to the screams.  Todd La Torre is 45 years old.  Geoff Tate is closer to his old bandmates at age 61.  If Queensryche were to look for another singer in his 60s, they wouldn’t be able to find one able to scream the opening to “Queen of the Reich”.

Go back in time further, to the early 1990s.  One band that absolutely hired a ringer was Poison when they acquired Richie Kotzen to replace C.C. Deville.

Without being too unkind, C.C. and Richie are not playing the same sport when it comes to guitar.  C.C. is a WWF wrestler, hammering you over the head with loud sloppy moves and tricks.  Richie is like a light boxer with heart, a fast contender with a feel for it.

When Poison picked up Kotzen, they plucked someone from the upper echelons to replace somebody who was basically still in the garage.  While it failed to win fans in the “get serious 90s”, it did give them an album that they never would have been able to create otherwise.  Eventually they were forced to bring C.C. back, but they can never perform material from the Kotzen album.  They’d sound ridiculous.

It could be argued that Kiss hired ringers with almost every replacement member in their band, from Eric Carr to Vinnie Vincent to Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick.  All of these guys are, on a technical level at least, lightyears better players than the original members.  But on the other hand, none of those replacements could capture the sheer vibe of the original band either.

Think about it.  When a veteran band loses an original member, do they ever replace them with a peer?  Very rarely.  Deep Purple replaced Jon Lord (age 61 at retirement) with Don Airey (54 at hiring).  But Black Sabbath replaced Bill Ward (age 71 today) with Tommy Clufetos (40 today).  No matter what Bill claims, Clufetos is simply in better physical condition.  He’s a ringer.

What is your take on this subject?  Are these guys ringers, or just regular hired guns?  Is there really a difference?

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – The Ozzman Cometh (1997 Japanese import)

OZZY OSBOURNE – The Ozzman Cometh (1997 Sony Japan 2 CD set)

By 1997, Ozzy had reclaimed his crown as the prince of darkness.  The successful Ozzfest, including a partial Black Sabbath reunion (Mike Bordin instead of Bill Ward) had introduced Ozzy to a wave of nu-metal youngesters.  Why not cap the year off with a greatest hits album?  It wasn’t Ozzy’s first (1989’s Best of Ozz preceding it) but it was his first for most of the world.  Incredibly, given the Ozzy camp’s ability to muck up important releases from time to time, it was a particularly good package.

The Ozzman Cometh has had a number of issues over the years, but we won’t get into the ones that came after Sharon meddled around with re-recorded tracks.  Initially there was a limited edition 2 CD set and a standard single disc.  The lucky fans in Japan got an expanded 2 CD set with two bonus tracks.  That’s the one you see pictured here.  It comes in a non-standard extra thick jewel case due to the extra Japanese booklet inside.

The big deal of this new compilation was the inclusion of recently discovered early Black Sabbath tapes — “Ozzy’s 1970 basement tapes”.  Wikipedia tells us that these are actually BBC recordings:  “The John Peel Sessions” of 26 April 1970.  These have yet to be included on any Sabbath deluxe, so you have to be sure to get The Ozzman Cometh to complete your Sabbath collections.  “Black Sabbath” and “War Pigs” commence the set right out of the gate.  These tapes are raw but clean, and Geezer Butler has remarkable presence.  It’s a very sharp picture of what young Black Sabbath sounded like.  The lyrics are still a work in progress for those who love such differences, but Ozzy sounds even more like a man possessed.  “War Pigs” is still in its “Walpurgis” form, the “Satanic” version, and this is the clearest you will likely hear it.

Onto the hits:  Ozzy’s grudge against The Ultimate Sin was apparently already in play.  On the US CD, only one track from the Jake E. Lee era was included and it’s “Bark at the Moon”.  In Japan, “Shot in the Dark” is substituted in replacing Zakk Wylde’s “Miracle Man”, bringing the Lee content to two.  However the Randy Rhoads era is the star of the disc, with his version of “Paranoid” lifted from the Tribute album.  Included are, for the most part, the expected usual Rhoads songs:  “Crazy Train”, “Goodbye to Romance”, and “Mr. Crowley”, but no “I Don’t Know”.  Instead it’s the more interesting “Over the Mountain”.

As for Zakk Wylde’s legacy, it’s hobbled by the missing “Miracle Man”, since “Crazy Babies” doesn’t adequately capture his madness.  “No More Tears” is present as a single edit, and “Mama, I’m Coming Home” is necessary for any hits CD catering to people who just want some Ozzy songs they like.  It’s unfortunate that “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from Live & Loud takes up space.  The Zakk era ends with two good songs:  “I Just Want You”, the excellent dark ballad from Ozzmosis, and “new” song “Back on Earth”.  You had to have a new song, and according to the liner notes this was an unreleased one from the Ozzmosis era featuring Geezer Butler on bass.  Fortunately it doesn’t sound like an inferior song, just one too many ballads for the album.  (It’s written by Taylor Rhodes and Richie Supa.)

The second CD contains more treasure.  “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” are bonus Sabbath songs from the same Peel session.  Like the first two, they are crisp and probably essential to any serious fan of the original lineup.

Japan got two extra songs from movie soundtracks, enabling you to get them on an Ozzy CD.  The first is the excellent “Walk on Water”, Ozzy’s only studio recording with Zakk Wylde’s replacement Joe Holmes.  If you wanted to know what an Ozzy album with Holmes would have sounded like, here’s a good indication.  It would have been not too dissimilar from Ozzmosis but with some really different guitar playing.  Sure sounds like Mike Bordin on drums!  The other soundtrack song is “Pictures of Matchstick Men” featuring Type O Negative as the backing band.  It’s pretty forgettable.

The Ozzy interview from 1988 is 17 minutes of nothing special.  Here’s an interesting fact for you.  When stores were solicited for this album in 1997, I can distinctly remember the papers saying the interview would be a new one conducted by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I no longer have that piece of paper, and memory is what it is these days, but that’s what it said.  For whatever reason the 1988 one was used instead.  Go ahead and let me know how often you play it.  You can tell it was taped in the UK, at a rehearsal or soundcheck, because you can hear Zakk wailing away in the background.

The Japanese CD also comes with a neat sticker sheet with all of Ozzy’s album artwork on it.  I think the US CD has some screen savers.  I’d rather have the stickers.

Ozzy and company did the greatest hits thing right and have never actually done it this well since.  May as well track down a 2 CD Ozzman Cometh and get those Black Sabbath tracks you’re missing.

4.5/5 stars

VHS Archives #82: Tony Iommi & Cozy Powell talk Headless Cross on the Power Hour (1989)

Michael Williams asks some tough questions of Tony Iommi including “Why carry on as Black Sabbath?”  You have to remember that in 1989, Black Sabbath was considered irrelevant.  Ozzy was all the rage, leaving Sabbath in the dust far behind.

Other topics discussed:

  • The Live Aid reunion with Ozzy
  • Satanism in Sabbath music or lack thereof
  • “Heavy metal”
  • Rap artists (Sir Mix-A-Lot) sampling and covering Black Sabbath
  • Tony’s favourite version of Black Sabbath

What do you think of Tony and Cozy’s answers?

Then, stay tuned for another separate bonus interview taken from a CNN report!

 

#803: The Grocery Gang

A sequel to Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

GETTING MORE TALE #803: The Grocery Gang

I started working at the grocery store in fall 1989.  While it was nice finally having a real job, it was immediately disruptive to my life.  I worked every Thursday, which meant that I was missing at least one Pepsi Power Hour every week.  If I pulled a Tuesday shift too, no Power Hours at all!  I had barely missed an episode in four years.  Now I was missing more than half of them.

That was a monumental shift.  I prided myself in keeping my fingers on the pulse of hard rock and heavy metal.  Keeping up with school work wasn’t hard.  Keeping up with music was!  I felt so out of touch with whatever the latest singles and new releases were.  The Power Hour was my main metal lifeline!

When a door closes, another opens.

I might have been missing the Power Hours* but like a see-saw, music swung back into balance.  Every work place introduces you to new people and new music.  The grocery store was like that as well, but those guys liked heavier music than I had been listening to at home.  Specifically I remember Metallica, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.  Those guys were not interested in Bon Jovi or Motley Crue, two groups I was really hot for in 1989.

There were three places I could be assigned to work at the grocery store:  Packing, parcel pickup, or cart collection.  That was the order of prestige involved.  Cart collection was considered the best assignment because you’d be out in the parking lot with a buddy collecting carts with no supervision.  It was a big parking lot so you could get lost and buy a soda at the convenience store for a minute or two on a regular day.  Parcel pickup was also cool because they had a tape deck down there you could listen to.  It was on that tape deck I heard a lot of my early Sabbath, Zeppelin and Metallica.  I wasn’t sure about Zeppelin yet.  They were telling me about this song “Moby Dick” that was a 10 minute long drum solo.**  And those guys didn’t care about Peter Criss’ drum work on “100,000” years.

I started absorbing the music.  There was one guy a few years older than me, Scott Gunning.  I went to school with his brother Todd.  I credit Scott for getting me into early Sabbath.  All I had was Born Again and Paranoid.  I’d never heard “Sweet Leaf”, “Black Sabbath”, “The Wizard”, “Supernaut”, “Changes” or anything else.  I decided to buy We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll and it quickly because a favourite.   Bob Schipper also worked at the grocery store, in the bakery.  He was already over early Sabbath and seemed bemused that I had bought it.  He much preferred solo Ozzy.  But I was really into the Sabbath, much more than I expected.  “Sweet Leaf” took over during the spring of 1990.

As discussed in Getting More Tale #709: The Stuff, I had no idea what “Sweet Leaf” was actually about.  I also don’t know if Scott Gunning though I’d gone drug mad, so much did I love “Sweet Leaf”.  But there I was in the parking lot, collecting carts, and singing “I love you, sweet leaf”.

Packing groceries indoors was the usual job, however.  It was a rare treat to be on carts.  Indoors, all the packers raced to pack for the young cute cashiers.  There were only a couple of them.  Kathleen Fitzpatrick, with her jet black hair, was the newest and most popular.  She was really nice.  She’d drive me home in the winter so I didn’t have to walk.  But other guys with more seniority would make me go pack somewhere else with the older ladies.

In fact, one guy had only about six months seniority on me, but he sure used it.  He kicked me off Kathleen’s lane more than once!  The funny thing about this guy is that his older brother would later be the owner at the Record Store.  I would regale the Big Boss Man of the times his brother kicked me off any cute girl’s lane.

Since the grocery store was located in the local mall (the same one the Record Store would later occupy) I could go music shopping at the Zellers before my shift.  It was there I bought the compilation Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell, loaded to the gills with metal rarities like Ozzy doing “Purple Haze”, the only studio recording of that lineup with Geezer Butler on bass.  I still have that.  I also still have my copy of Back for the Attack by Dokken, that I paid a co-worker $10 for, because he was tired of it.

I left that job in the summer of 1990 with lots of cash and new music in my back pocket.  I was off to new adventures including a week in Alberta that also featured a ton of new music.  The grocery store was good to me but I never went back.  I wanted to focus on getting into the school I liked most (which I did) but I also got my Pepsi Power Hour back for another year.  (It was replaced by the inferior Power 30 in ’91.)   Still I met some great friends there like Scott, and, oh I almost forgot, bought my first Flying V guitar from a guy that worked in the bakery too!  I can’t deny that the grocery store had an unexpected but indelible effect on my musical history.

 

* No, I didn’t set my VCR to record the shows.  When I usually taped the Power Hour, I sat there with my finger on the record button, ready to grab every video I wanted.  I didn’t record entire shows.  I didn’t have a way of transferring one tape to another.  I preferred missing the show entirely, to recording it and not being able to keep the videos I wanted for my collection.  I’ve always been picky that way.  The result is the VHS Archives that you enjoyed in 2019.  

** Live version.

 

#790: Helluva Halloween

GETTING MORE TALE #790: Helluva Halloween

Everybody eventually hits that age, when they are “too old” to go trick-or-treating for candy.  Highschool seemed like a good age to draw the line. Time to start handing out the candy instead of collecting it.  We all have to grow up eventually.

Do we?

Naw, screw that!

In the 10th grade, a new Halloween tradition was inaugurated.  As told in Getting More Tale #548:

We started preparing for Halloween in late August.  We began by making heads out of papier-mâché. Ours were crude, but when dressed up with sunglasses, hats or wigs, did the trick. Then we would begin working on an audio tape. This was a 60-minute long compilation of scary bits from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden albums. We hid some speakers outside and would play the tape on a loop for background scary sounds.   Kids loved it.  Really small ones were scared, so we had to stop the tape and turn on the lights for them, but 95% thought it was awesome (including parents).  We’d see kids across the street, and they’d make a beeline for our house as soon as they saw it.  My favourite costume was the one I made in grade 10:  Alice Cooper.

Oh, that Alice Cooper costume!  I painted flames on a jean jacket so it would look something like Alice’s.  I wore his makeup.  I had fake tattoos (not knowing that Alice didn’t have any).  I had a pair of handcuffs on my belt.  Best of all though, was the sword I wore on my hip.  It was actually a fireplace poker, but you couldn’t tell in the dark.

Making the annual audio tape was a long, arduous process.  We’d fast-forward through our tape collections to record tiny bits of songs, and loop them.  The ending to “Children of the Grave” and the intro to “Powerslave” were perfect.  Occasionally we’d throw in the middle of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with the narration and creepy violin.  Black Sabbath’s “The Dark” was almost custom made for our needs.  As time went on and our collections grew, we had more music to choose from.  Any time one of us would buy an album with music perfect for Halloween, one of us would excitedly phone the other.  In later years I was fond of the middle section from “Nightcrawler” by Judas Priest.  But it was tedious work.  You couldn’t just play the same sections over and over again, you had to space them out so kids wouldn’t get the same bits repeated while you stood there handing out candy.  We spent hours upon hours making this tape that would only be used for one night.  Blank tapes were a commodity.  We were always using them up, and looking for something to erase.  Halloween tapes were first to go.  Besides, we wanted to do it again the following year, but better!

Our scary tapes would be augmented by flashing lights courtesy of…a flashlight.  Eventually, Bob figured out how to hook up a microphone to our primitive audio setup.  We could then speak directly to the kids!

“You…across the street…come here for a treat!  Muahahahah!”

Mom & dad didn’t approve.  To them we just made a big mess and a lot of noise.  Indeed, I can remember trying to wash off that Alice Cooper makeup at the end of the night.  I left a black ring around the tub.  But my dad hated handing out candy, so I hope he appreciated that he was relieved of that duty.  Considering how long we prepared, it was actually a long ongoing mess.  Ever made papier-mâché?  No neat and tidy way to do it.  Those heads were the most work, and we left a trail of destruction in the basement, forming and painting them.  But once they were out on the front porch (either decapitated or as part of a fully clothed “body”) they sure were effective.

Bob eventually went to college, and the traditional Halloween House was discontinued.  I did it a few times without him but all the fun was gone.  The idea was briefly resurrected in the late 1990s, at T-Rev’s place. As told in Record Store Tales Part 148:

T-Rev had this cool “alien head” — he got it back in ’97 or ’98 from a convenience store.  It had alien head suckers inside.  He asked the guy at the store, “how much for the alien head?”  The guy answered, “If you buy all the suckers in it, you can have it.”  So he did.  (The candy was awful by the way.  I did my share, trying to help him consume it all.)  But he got this alien head out of it, and with it, made a cool alien costume.   And for the Halloween party that year, I wore the costume.

I would sit in a chair on T-Rev’s front porch, still as could be.  When a child would approach the door, I would suddenly move and say “Na-nu, na-nu”!  The reactions were priceless.  Some were scared, so I had to unmask and show I was just a regular guy.

“Give some candy to the Jedi over here!” I said, gesturing to the kid dressed as Darth Maul.

“I’m no Jedi!” he protested.  I should have got my terminology right.  I apologized to the Sith lord.

Even the Sith story is from 20 years ago.  Not having kids, today Halloween has fizzled out.  There are no trick-or-treaters in our building.  Most people today doing a “haunted house” experience at home buy expensive decorations at chain stores.  They get featured the in newspaper for having done an awesome job.  That’s terrific.  But we did everything ourselves.  Everything.  Nothing was “store bought”.  We improvised everything with what we had, spending weeks putting it all together.  Too bad the newspapers don’t cover kids who do everything themselves!  We would have been featured every year.

Have a happy Halloween and don’t forget to brush those teeth!

 

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

 

REVIEW: Kick Axe as “Spectre General” – The Transformers soundtrack (1986) – Kick Axe series Part Four

KICK AXE as SPECTRE GENERAL – “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”
from Transformers: The Movie original motion picture soundtrack (1986 BMG)

Although the recordings were not released until 1986, it makes sense to talk about “Hunger” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” now, in terms of storytelling.  After the Vices album was completed in 1984, Kick Axe were tasked to contribute to another project.  And it wasn’t a movie soundtrack.

Producer Spencer Proffer was scheduled to go into the studio with Black Sabbath — a Black Sabbath still fronted by Ian Gillan, though not for long.  Proffer felt that Sabbath needed fresh ideas and recruited Kick Axe to write some.  Though details are murky, we do know that Gillan left Black Sabbath abruptly to record Perfect Strangers with Deep Purple.  Kick Axe frontman George Criston was one of the singers that Tony Iommi was interested in as his replacement.  Whatever happened, no recordings of Sabbath with Criston have surfaced, but we do have the songs Kick Axe wrote for the sessions.

In a strange coincidence, they all first came out on November 9 1985, on two separate albums.  W.A.S.P.’s The Last Command (produced by Proffer) featured the Quiet Riot-like “Running Wild in the Streets”, though without proper writing credit.  Another album produced by Proffer was released the same day:  Ready to Strike by King Kobra.  “Piece of the Rock” and hit single “Hunger” were written by Kick Axe for the Sabbath project.

Ultimately, “Hunger” by Kick Axe did finally come out in the summer of 1986.  Too late, perhaps, considering people assumed it was a generic cover of a King Kobra song.  Especially since no one had ever heard of…Spectre General?

Who the hell is Spectre General?!

For reasons unknown but said to be contractual, Kick Axe couldn’t release their own song under their own name, so Proffer invented Spectre General, and that’s how they’re credited in Transformers: The Movie.  The band didn’t even know about it.  They had two songs on the original 10 track album:  “Hunger”, and a new song called “Nothing’s Gonna Stand In Our Way”, written for their next record Welcome to the Club.

Perhaps it’s the familiarity of the King Kobra recording, but this version of “Hunger” does stand in its shadow.  Both Mark (Marcie) Free and George Criston are stellar vocalists, and the Free version just had more…weight.  Kick Axe’s original is heavier and chunkier, so perhaps in that way it’s actually superior.  “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” is an upbeat number, hook-laden, with the trademark Kick Axe “chug” and backing vocals.  It’s pretty essential to have both these tracks to augment a Kick Axe collection.

Besides not getting their real name in the album, other contributions by Weird Al Yankovic and Stan Bush were featured more prominently in the movie than the two “Spectre General” songs.  The band Lion got to do the movie theme song.  Those were some memorable movie moments to any kid in the theater, particularly the Stan Bush selections.

It’s pretty amazing that Kick Axe came up with “Hunger” but were never really recognized for it.  It’s a great song and their original version of it is the proof.  Also strong, “Nothing’s Gonna Stand in Our Way” would have made a fine addition to the next album.  Clearly, the Canadian quintet had big league talent the whole time.

4.5/5 stars