#blamekellygray

REVIEW: Dokken – Shadowlife (1997 Japanese import)

Yesterday we talked about an album that Kelly Gray (Tateryche) wrecked produced.  Today, we’re looking at another.  Batten down the hatches.

SHADOW TURD_0001

DOKKEN – Shadowlife (1997 Victor Japanese import)

I got this Japanese import CD from one of our franchisees.  Even though we technically were not “allowed” to buy CDs from one of our franchises, we all did it, even the head office people who enforced the rules.  In this case the franchisee himself was glad to have a guaranteed sale, rather than sit on an expensive Dokken flop for several months in inventory.  It even came with the original obi strip, stickers, and everything else was mint.  The scarcity of the complete package was reason alone to buy it.

The infamous Shadowlife will probably go down in history as the worst Dokken album. It’s certainly the most dysfunctional (even though that was the title of the previous, much better album). The dysfunction largely came down guitarist George Lynch, who according to sources at the time, purposely sabotaged the album.  He did this to put an end to Dokken, go the claims. Don himself was very unhappy with it, as quotes from the era will reveal (look them up). He also referred to a lead vocal shot (“Here I Stand”) by bassist Jeff Pilson as too “bar band-y”, meaning the lead singer of a pro band is the lead singer, and the bassist is the bassist. Clearly, ego was an issue as well.

Kelly Gray

Kelly Gray

Not to escape without blame is producer Kelly Gray, who had just ruined the career of Sven Gali a couple years prior.  Gray produces, engineers, mixes, and even co-wrote a couple tracks.  According to Don, Mr. Gray would not let the band sing their trademark harmonies, opting for grittier more modern sounds.  Gray’s trademark distortion on the lead vocals is omnipresent.

There are very few standout tracks here, although many have good parts and interesting bits. It is difficult to remember any songs distinctly even after a few listens. The grungy “Puppet On A String” is OK, due to a blazing George Lynch guitar solo (although buried in the mix).  It has a heavy groove, but the distorted lead vocal wrecks it for me.  “Cracks in the Ground” is better, containing a shadow of the Dokken harmonies, but mired in boring melodies and production.  “I Feel” sounds like Dokken, at least.  Not really great Dokken, but Dokken nevertheless.

The Japanese, always so lucky, got two bonus tracks:  “How Many Lives” and “Deep Waters”.  Neither stand out any more than the album tracks.  Not really a bonus this time, sorry Japan.  If anything, these songs detract from the album, by making it a longer, more agonizing experience.

In general the album is too slow, too tunelessly dull, too dreary.  It’s disjointed and it’s uninspired.  Too rainy, like a dark Seattle mist.  Mick Brown does rock, at least.  There are a few heavy songs, such as “Hello”, but I think my favourite song would be the moody acoustic ballad “Convenience Store Messiah”.  It’s the only song that sounds like a fully composed, complete arrangement.

Avoid.

1/5 stars

Afterword:  I played around the idea of just writing a two word review a-la Spinal Tap (“Shit Sandwich”).  I was going to call it “Shadow Turd”.  In the end, my OCD level attention to detail refused to allow it, and the wordy essay on the art of turd-making you just read was posted instead.  I’m sorry.  (Blame Kelly Gray for that, too.)

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Part 237 / REVIEW: Sven Gali – Inwire (1995)

Second of a two-part series, by request of reader Deke! This part grew so large that I ended up splitting it up between a review and a Record Store Tale. If you missed part one, Sven Gali (1993), click here.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 237:  Sven Gali – Inwire (and Peter the Rocker)

When Sven Gali released their anticipated second album Inwire, Peter the Rocker was not impressed.  Not in the least.  A few weeks after it came out, Peter stopped by the record store.  He picked up one of the M.E.A.T Magazines sitting on our front counter and opened it to a page.  He pointed.

“Have you heard this Sven Gali?” he asked me in a semi-shouted voice.

SVEN_0005“No I haven’t, I responded, “I’m waiting for a used copy.  I do have a four song sampler and it’s pretty good.”

“It blows,” he fired back, eyes wide.  “Sucks.  Shit.  Garbage.  Piece of fucking shit.”  He paused to take a breath.  “They fucking sold out man!  You know what they did?  It’s grunge.  It’s pure shit.”  He raised his hands on either side, as if to emphasize the weight of the turd that Sven Gali had laid.

“Seriously?” I queried.  “The songs I heard were OK…”

“Listen to me man.  It’s fucking shit.  Garbage.”

Alright then!

Peter the Rocker came in periodically over the months.  Sven Gali didn’t come up very often, but having heard it since that conversation, I was inclined to agree with Peter.  Maybe not to the same extremes, but we saw eye to eye, more or less .

A year or two after the initial conversation, Peter came in to the store once again to discuss Sven Gali.

“Guess who I fucking saw this weekend.”

Not having a clue, I shrugged my shoulders.  “I give up.  Who?”

“The fucking bassist from Sven Gali man!  Shawn.  I told him that second album fucking sucked man.”

I had to laugh at that.  “You did?  What did he say?”

“He fucking agreed with me man!  He said they sold out on that album.  He said they fucking sold out and went grunge!”

Take that as you will.  It’s an old story heard second hand from Peter the Rocker.  I wouldn’t use it as a Wikipedia source, but it does shed some light on the album we’re about to discuss.

SVEN_0006

SVEN GALI – Inwire (1995 BMG)

Kelly Gray (Tateryche) really helped fuck up this album.  Sven Gali went to Seattle, and hired Mr. Gray, who had recently co-produced the 4x Platinum debut album by Candlebox.  It’s rarely a good idea for hard rock bands to go grunge, but it’s doubly bad when they work with Kelly Gray. [More on this tomorrow.]

Gray encouraged the band to experiment.  I guess part of this experimentation was hiring one of his Seattle buddies on drums.  Mike Ferguson was in a band was Dog Daze with Mr. Gray.  Additionally, the songwriting on Inwire is credited to Sven Gali and Yard Dog.  Who the fuck is Yard Dog?  I suspect Gray’s got a writing credit on every song.  His buddies from Candlebox show up on guest vocals, and even Christopher Thorn from Blind Melon plays mandolin (one of the best moments on the album during “Tired of Listening”).

SVEN_0012In a M.E.A.T Magazine write-up, writer Carl Begai said that the album Inwire would “leave people awestruck and impressed”.  Awestruck, yes, but not very impressed.  I got this CD for free, which is the only reason I have it.  It was simply too alternative for most fans, who ignored it in droves. It also had the unfortunate problem of being very weak on songs.  There are a handful of must-haves here, along with a whole bunch of don’t-needs.  When things click occasionally, it’s on songs like “Truth”, “What You Give”, and “Make Me”.

When things fall apart, it sounds like bad U2 demos, disjointed parts connected together, boring melodies and underwhelming guitars.  I hate the needlessly distorted vocals on Inwire.  They dominate the whole album.   “Helen” features two David Wanless lead vocals, one distorted and one more distorted, yelling at each other.  More singing, less yelling Dave! Kelly Gray, I’m looking at you.

No sir, I don’t like it.  Down from the 90’s shit cover art through the 90’s shit distorted vocals to the 90’s shit songs, I don’t like it.  Except for a few sparkling moments, Inwire smells like a turd.

2/5 stars

EPILOGUE:  The band never made a third album.  After breaking up, bassist Shawn TT Mahar joined Forgotten Rebels.  When guitarist Dee Cernille was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, the band organized two reunion concerts.  These concerts were attended by Mif from Slash Puppet, who was quoted as saying, “Went to the Sven Gali show at the Sound Academy the other night to watch Dee rock out. I gotta tell ya, if I didn’t know any better I wouldn’t know that there was anything wrong with the fucking guy. He was shredding all fucking night.”  Unfortunately Cernille died on February 25, 2012.

REVIEW: Geoff Tate’s Queensryche – “Cold” (2013 single)

Geoff Tate’s QUEENSRYCHE – “Cold” (2013 single)

Oh, how I wanted to hate this.

I don’t hate it.  It has a catchy riff, a good vocal from Geoff Tate, a shredding guitar solo, and it’s not about spitting on people or knives. It sounds modern while still featuring a guitar riff or two.  I don’t hate it like I hated, say, Tribe.  I’m disappointed that it’s a little faceless and generic sounding.

The problem is that it doesn’t sound like Queensryche.  It sounds like a Geoff Tate solo track.  Probably the best Geoff Tate solo track that there’s been so far.  But just a Geoff Tate solo track.

The blockheaded drums do not sound like the textured complexity of Queensryche.  (Sounds like Simon Wright though.)

The piano is distracting, I kept thinking a phone was ringing somewhere in my house.  It sounds like, “Hey, we have a keyboard player in our band.”

I love the guitar solo.  It’s so tasty and good.  Who is this?  Kelly?  Robert?  Neither?  What will this sound like when performed live without guest stars?

I don’t know if the mix is worth the brew-ha-ha that’s being made of it.  It’s not to my taste personally but it sounds like they had a vision of a heavier than fuck sound and just kind of overdid it.

This track confirms that Tate is still capable of writing good music.  It does not confirm that Tate still is capable of writing good Queensryche music.  This is his Chinese Democracy.  It has a vibe of, “Let’s saturate the song with everything from the biggest sounding drums to the fastest solo to a guy playing piano.”  Let’s try anything.

Where the real Queensryche’s song, “Redemption”, sounded unmistakably like Queensryche, Tate’s reeks of contrivances.    In the Battle of the Ryches, Round One, the original band comes out on top.  Tateryche will have their supporters, but it is clear now that Queensryche is a band sound, not merely a singer.

2.5/5 stars

More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV

TATERYCHE