bon scott

REVIEW: AC/DC – Can I Sit Next to You Girl (1974 radio broadcast)

AC/DC – Can I Sit Next to You Girl (1974 radio broadcast on Laser Media)

Very few things in this world kick as much ass as vintage live AC/DC.  If you need a taste, or everything you can get your hands on, then Can I Sit Next to You Girl will help.  The sound quality is alright, feedback notwithstanding.  The five included tracks are solid classics.

“She’s Got Balls” takes too long to get going (two whole minutes) and suffers a bit from feedback throughout.  Once you tune out the noise, you can appreciate one of the greatest rock frontmen of all time in Bon Scott.  “Soul Stripper” is slinky good, with Bon at his sassy best and Angus ripping it up delightfully.  On with the show:  a very raw “Show Business”.  Angus Young has solos after every verse, the energy palpable.  Moving on, next it’s “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” (the band’s first single with Dave Evans on vocals).  Bon snarls and Angus shrieks.

Perhaps best of all is the extended jam of “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  When AC/DC play for 10 minutes straight, it’s not like other bands.  It’s the relentless AC/DC groove machine, with Angus doing his thing as no other guitarist can.

Pick it up (cheap) and rock on, baby.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (bootleg)

Scan_20150818AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (Flight records bootleg CD, year unknown)

Rare…Rarer…Rarities, huh?  Indeed, this is a bootleg CD that includes rarities that most fans don’t have on an official release.  The pretty comprehensive Backtracks box set, which came out later, covers most of these songs…but not all.

Most of these tracks are either single B-sides or songs that were exclusively released on the Australian versions of albums.  Until Backtracks came out, those songs were very hard to find in North America.  The only one I had was “Rock in Peace”, from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.  I couldn’t believe my luck in scoring the Australian CD of that album.

There are, however, two songs that none of us are likely to ever own an original physical copy of.  These two tracks alone make the bootleg CD purchase worth considering, since they are AC/DC’s first single from 1974, featuring original singer Dave Evans.  Most fans have never heard anything with Dave Evans singing.  These are ripped from an original 7″ single.

“Can I Sit Next to You Girl” is a song every AC/DC fan knows, because this golden oldie was re-recorded on T.N.T. (1975).  Bon Scott’s cheeky delivery made all the difference in the world.  Dave Evans is just some guy, asking to sit next to you.  Bon was Bon fucking Scott asking to sit next to you…who do you think gets the girl?  This early single was issued in the summer of ’74, and it has a completely different, much more laid back intro.  It’s not nearly as heavy as it would later become.  Evans does have a fine vibrato, I must say!

Every single has a B-side, and “Rockin’ in the Parlour” was AC/DC’s first.  It’s much more “rock and roll” than you expect from AC/DC, but it’s catchy and melodic.  Angus and Malcolm have yet to fully develop their styles, but you can certainly tell its them.  You can hear for yourself, that Dave Evans was not the lyricist that Bon Scott was.  “She said, ‘I got some booze, around at my place, so come along and have some fun!'”  Sorry Dave, but that just won’t cut it when the band is AC fucking DC.

The rest of these songs are all in print today, so they can be acquired on official AC/DC releases.  “Love Song” (High Voltage) shocked me on the first number of listens.  Is this AC/DC’s one and only ballad?  I guess so!  “Oh Jean, Oh Jean!” sings Bon, seemingly heart broken.  Once you get used to it, and accept the fact that there are no other AC/DC songs that sound anything like it, you might enjoy it.  I know that I do, from time to time.

I’m not sure what makes “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” qualify as rarities.  As far as I can tell these are the album versions.  Next!  “Stick Around” (High Voltage) is a cool tune, a laid-back AC/DC rocker with lots of space between the instruments.  You can hear the air sizzle!  The riff is about as simple as it gets: two chords.  But they are the right chords!  “High Voltage” is slightly longer than the album version, and this is also on Backtracks.

“School Days” is a Chuck Berry cover, one of very few covers AC/DC recorded.  Chuck Berry is the prototype of AC/DC anyway, so this version fits like a glove.  Hail hail rock and roll, indeed!  This was originally on T.N.T., but you can get it on the Bonfire box set too.  The aforementioned “Rock in Peace” is a shorty, heavy with that AC/DC stomp and the same damn riff they’ve been playing for 40 years.

AC/DC have always had tongue firmly in cheek, but “Crabsody in Blue” is probably the jokiest song they ever recorded.  A slow blues similar to “Ride On” deserves to have some down-and-out lyrics. Bon takes that to a descriptive extreme!

“Oh, and when they start to bite,
Then it’s time you saw the light,
For an appointment.
Before you start to scream,
That’s when you apply the cream,
Blues ointment.”

Only Bon Scott can really write a lyric about venereal disease. Nobody else seems quite as qualified.

“Carry Me Home” was the heavy and instantly likeable B-side to “Dog Eat Dog” (1977).  Using his speaking voice to full effect, Bon proves to me why he is one of rock’s all time greatest frontman.  His animated vocal performance here is something that very few singers can pull off.  (Ian Gillan is one such singer — think “No Laughing in Heaven”.)  Then, “Down on the Borderline” is Brian Johnson’s only showing on this CD.   This was the B-side from “Moneytalks” (The Razors Edge), but it sounds little like that album.  Sonically and vocally, it resembles Blow Up Your Video, right down to the muddy finish.  I have no doubt it was recorded for that album.

“Fling Thing” is AC/DC’s take on “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, which they cheekily credited to Young/Young! It sounds like quite a party was going on during the recording, which falls apart after a mere two minutes! This was originally the B-side to “Jailbreak”. The final song is “Cold Hearted Man”, which was recently dusted off for the Iron Man 2 soundtrack album.  It was on Powerage (1978) first, and a dark prowler it is.

A lot of people like to joke that all of AC/DC’s songs sound the exactly the same.  This CD of also-ran’s has proven otherwise, and “Cold Hearted Man” is a perfect closer for a solid collection of rock.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: AC/DC – Iron Man 2 (2010 deluxe CD/DVD)

AC/DC – Iron Man 2 (2010 Columbia deluxe CD/DVD set)

For the second time, AC/DC have supplied the soundtrack to a movie (see: Who Made Who, the soundtrack to Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive). This release basically amounts to a cool “best of” CD. While Who Made Who had some new material, Iron Man 2 is the straight oldies, with a few unexpected surprises thrown in. Since AC/DC have never released a proper “best of” CD, this is about as close as you’re likely to get. And it’s just fine.

I’m guessing Jon Favreau had a lot to do with the picking and choosing and sequencing of songs, and he’s obviously an AC/DC fan. I mean, “Evil Walks”? There is even a song (“Cold Hearted Man”) from the Backtracks box set and one from the more recent AC/DC opus, Black Ice. As such, Iron Man 2 is a pretty damn good single disc overview of the whole AC/DC shebang. It flows well, it has an excellent mix of Bon and Brian, and the sound is as good as any of the AC/DC remasters available. Lyrically, it even (very) loosely relates to Iron Man 2 (“Shoot to Thrill”, “War Machine”, “Evil Walks”, “Back In Black”; use your imagination). In short, it rocks. Buy this with Who Made Who, and you will essentially have all the AC/DC that a newbie needs to get kickstarted, with a fair chunk of deep cuts as well.

The deluxe edition packaging is awesome to behold, with (very fragile) shiny cover art, a generous booklet (loads of Iron Man and band photos in here) and a DVD. The DVD is nothing to write home about: the new video of “Shoot To Thrill” and a making-of featurette being the main draw. The live stuff is great, but a fair bit has been previously released on official AC/DC DVDs before (including the aforementioned Backtracks box set). Still, I have no complaints.  It’s just a bonus DVD from a soundtrack representing a Hollywood action movie; it’s not meant to cater specifically to me.  It’s good viewing and you may as well consider it a freebie at this price.

Die hard fans who already own the whole AC/DC back catalogue won’t need this, but I bought it anyway. As a car disc it’s fun due to the inclusion of obscure tracks. But it works. The album flows and rocks, and those obscure tracks deserve a second look-see. I’d forgotten how cool the song “The Razors Edge” is, and it totally fits the Iron Man vibe.

If you need some more AC/DC in your life, some more iron in your blood, go for it. You won’t be let down. Personal highlights for me include:

  • “The Razors Edge”
  • “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”
  • “Cold Hearted Man”
  • “Rock n’ Roll Damnation”

But the whole thing is great, not a weak track in the bunch!

4/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984)

Welcome back to the Week of EPs! Each day this week, I’ll be checking out a variety of EP releases, both famed and obscure.

MONDAY: Aerosmith – The Other Side (1990)
TUESDAY: Wolfsbane – All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place! (1990)

AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak (1984 Epic)

As most AC/DC fans are aware, their Australian and American discographies differed greatly in tracklists and cover art.  Australia also got one more record (T.N.T.) than we did.   This amounted to a number of Bon Scott tracks that were left off the original American releases.  It made sense to eventually release them, so in 1984, five tracks were released on the tenth anniversary EP, ’74 Jailbreak.  Of note, none of these songs are actually from 1974.

The track “Jailbreak” itself didn’t become a hit until this compilation was released.  It was originally on 1976’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap in Australia.  It definitely sounds from that era, and it’s long been one of my favourites.  I found that little riff irresistible, then and now.  I love Bon Scott’s storytelling lyrics, still cool today.  “Big man lying on the ground, with a hole in his body where his life had been.” And c’mon, you have to love the music video, or you have no sense of fun in your rock!

The next four tracks were all from High Voltage, another favourite album of mine. “You Ain’t Got a Hold on Me” is one of those slinky Bon Scott rockers. I like the spare riff and Angus’ bluesy playing. Uptempo “Show Business” is a wry dig on the business side of rock and roll. “You’re smoking butts, they smoke cigars.” Angus’ playing here is especially tasty as he takes his Gibson SG for a ride. Then “Soul Stripper” takes it to a dirty place. AC/DC return to that slinky territory they used to do so well with Bon. “Soul Stripper” is a highlight among highlights, with those quieter bass-driven verses. “Pulled out a knife and flashed it before me, stuck it in and turned it around.”

A cover of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” closes the EP on a frenetic extended jam. Bon shrieks as if in agony. The band blast away as only one of the greatest pure rock and roll bands can. This is rock and roll 101, your teachers are in class, so pay attention to Mr. Young and Mr. Young!

None of the songs on ’74 Jailbreak are outtake quality. I never fully understood who decided what songs were to be left off American releases and why. Some of these songs were singles in Australia! As mentioned, these are only some of the songs unreleased on American albums. There were more and they too were pretty damn good. They are “Stick Around” and “Love Song” from High Voltage, “R.I.P. (Rock in Peace)” from Dirty Deeds, “Crabsody in Blue” from Let There Be Rock, and “Cold Hearted Man” from Powerage. All these songs can be had on the Backtracks box set today.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Back In Black (2004 DualDisc edition)

AC/DC – Back In Black (originally 1980, 2004 Epic DualDisc)

How many times have I bought Back in Black?  How many times have you bought it?  I know that I purchased it on CD first in 1990, and then four more times since.  I currently own two copies:  this DualDisc, and the one that came in the Bonfire box set.  I don’t think I have it on vinyl, but I could be wrong.  The DualDisc has a DVD side with some neat stuff including a documentary.

“The Story of Back In Black” begins in 1979, with Highway to Hell,  fame and glory.  New interviews with all five AC/DC members (Angus & Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd and Brian Johnson) provides a little bit of insight.  We all know the story: February 19 1980, the death of Bon Scott, and the brave decision to carry on have become rock legend.  But according to Angus, it was Malcolm who kept the band playing, if only to distract them from the pain of their loss.  The band continued to jam and write without a singer, but producer Mutt Lange knew of one from a band called Geordie.  Brian recalls a hilarious story of being invited to audition for the band.  He went down to London and played “Whole Lotta Rosie” with AC/DC for the first time.  They then went to the Bahamas with Mutt to record.

ACDC BIB DUAL_0005The band tells the stories behind several songs:  “Hells Bells”, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back in Black”, and “Shoot to Thrill”, while Angus and Malcolm demonstrate the riffs up close.  Brian reveals “Back in Black” was a challenge, since it was intended as a tribute in song to Bon.  No small feat to get the mood right.  The 30 minute mini-doc ends with Back in Black selling 10 million copies.  I guess they got it right!

You know the songs.  You’ve heard ’em the radio, seen ’em on the video, hummed them in your sleep.  “Hells Bells” is one of those archetypal AC/DC songs.  When one pictures the “ominous AC/DC headbanger” song, “Hells Bells” should certainly come to mind.  Then you can get your stompin’ shoes on for “Shoot to Thrill”.  I do miss Bon Scott’s sly playfulness, but there’s nothing wrong with Brian Johnson’s full-speed-ahead screech either.  “What Do You Do For Money Honey” is as catchy today as it was then, and has the benefit of being one of the songs that doesn’t get played every single day on the radio.  I’m not as burned out on it.  Same with “Givin the Dog a Bone”, but on that song all I can do is wonder what Bon would have done with that groove.

One truly outstanding track is the last song on side one, “Let Me Put My Love Into You”.  Yes, that title is hardly clever.  But the song kicks ass all over the place.  It’s one of those late night prowls that AC/DC do so well, and it perfectly closes the first side.

ACDC BIB DUAL_0004

The title track opens the second side with a bang.  Then “You Shook Me All Night Long”, a classic that also needs no introduction.  If you don’t know this song then you probably don’t listen to rock music.  I can’t add anything to the discussion there.

“Have A Drink On Me” and “Shake A Leg” are both fine AC/DC songs.  Nothing wrong with ’em, nothing exceptional about them.  Thankfully they saved one of the best songs for last:  “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.  This has been my favourite track since first getting the album 24 years ago.  It’s an anthem, the kind of thing we can all agree on.  Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution, baby.  I’ll drink to that.

I don’t think Back In Black is the best AC/DC album, but it might be the best Brian Johnson album.  It’s certainly the most important AC/DC album historically, and it’s a must for any serious rock fan to own.  Choose your format according to your own wishes, but this DualDisc edition satisfies me fine.

4/5 stars

For those times when you can’t use the internet to tell you what songs are on what albums.

Part 271: The Stamp

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 271:  The Stamp

The year:  1997.

We had just started repairing scratched CDs via a GTA-based third party contractor.  They were able to remove a miniscule layer of plastic from the playing surface, rendering a smooth surface that would not deflect your CD player’s laser.  The result was a playable, sellable CD, with a clouded appearance on the CD itself.  The cloudy look was usually very minor, although it was sometimes enough to turn a customer off of buying the CD.

After repairing the scratched discs, they would be put in brand new CD cases and then on the shelves to sell.  But we also had to mark each disc as “repaired” somehow, so that if any were returned as defective, we would know they had been fixed.  We could then get the fee for fixing the disc credited back to us, or the contractor could try to fix it again and buff it deeper.  Either way, we needed to mark them, somehow.

The best way to fix a surface scratched CD

We agreed that the least problematic way was to stamp the inner (usually blank and hidden) sleeve of the CD, the part underneath the plastic tray.  We stamped it with our store logo.  For most discs at the time, nobody would ever notice the stamp unless they pulled the case apart.  The only problems were with discs that had inner picture sleeves under clear trays.  We were forced to put the stamp directly on the artwork in those cases, a process that killed me every time.  I hated defacing a CD.  It’s not something I would ever do to my own property.

IMG_00001317Around this time, AC/DC just released the luxurious Bonfire box set, a monolith of rock containing many separate additional treats:  A pick, a bottle opener/keychain, a sticker, and a temporary tattoo.  This was high on my priority list, so I put my name in our store’s computer reservation system for the first used copy that showed up.

It was only a few weeks before a used copy did show up.  One of the higher-ups decided to work in my store that day.  A man came to the counter with some CDs to sell, and the Bonfire box set.  It was mint, complete, everything intact.  However the higher-up didn’t consider the set as “mint” as I did; she determined that one of the CDs from the Let There Be Rock set was scratched.  It had a tiny nearly invisible mark on it not even the size of a hair, but not a scratch.  She dutifully stamped the inner tray and put the CD in the pile to be sent out and fixed.

I was disappointed that the tray had been defaced, but there was no way I was letting that disc get sent out and fixed.  It would look worse, with the cloudy finish.  I preferred the un-fixed finish with that tiny hairline mark that I could barely see.  I can see the scratch even less today with my aged eyesight!

I bought the set but that stamp is still there.  I covered it up with a white sticker, and was grateful that the box set didn’t have clear CD trays with artwork underneath.

That stamp still bugs me.  I still see it there, and it still bugs me!  How do you feel about things like this?  Defects in the physical musical product that you love?  I know I can’t be alone.

Postscript:  Years later some damn rat kid stole the stamper.  On my watch!!

REVIEW: AC/DC – Bonfire (5 CD box set with extras)

AC/DC – Bonfire (1997 EastWest)

Bonfire is less of an AC/DC box set, but more of a tribute to Bon Scott.  LeBrain readers know that Bon was the late great second AC/DC lead singer.  (They did one single, “Can I Get Close to You” / “Rocking in the Parlor” with original singer Dave Evans.)   In every other meaningful way, Bon Scott is the first and best lead singer. That’s not a slight against Brian Johnson because he’s proven himself and then some.  I don’t always listen to AC/DC, but when I do, I prefer Bon Scott.

Featuring four special albums spread over five CDs, Bonfire is largely live. Early versions of this box, which I am lucky enough to own, were loaded to the gills with extras. More on that later, but I highly recommend the original box set rather than the reissue that comes in a digipack book.  Still, the music is what most people will buy this for, and most of it is previously unreleased.

BONFIRE_0006Part 1 – Live at Atlantic Studios. This was an old live set once released as a promotional LP to radio stations. As much as possible was remastered from the original tapes, which were partially erased. The rest of the music was taken from an actual LP and spliced. Sounds as great as can be expected, and I love the sound of AC/DC playing away in a small venue. This disc is more proof that AC/DC could gel like no other.  This is really an outstanding disc.

BONFIRE_0008Part 2 – Let There Be Rock: The Movie. Spread out over 2 CDs, this is the complete concert. It is heavy, it is fast, and it is awesome. To hear the old band jam away on a 10 minute + version of “Rocker” is simply amazing.  It’s this kind of thing we’ll never hear again.  It’s a good thing they recorded it, and the audio on these discs is perfect.  The concert was recorded in France mere months before Bon’s death.  I would consider this set to be the definitive live AC/DC album.

BONFIRE_0010Part 3 – Volts. This was the disc I was most interested in, and it’s a little strange. It’s partly rare and demo material, with a couple album hits (“Ride On” and “It’s A Long Way”) sprinkled in. Obviously AC/DC cleared out their vaults of rare stuff with the Backtracks box last year, but this is a fun taster. I’m not sure how they arrived at this track listing, considering how much material they had to pick from, and the disc’s running time is fairly short. The end of the disc has hidden stuff, interviews with Bon himself.

As for the rarities, five are early AC/DC demos, some with alternate titles and lyrics.  Two are more tracks are live rarities. Among the demos, there are some songs here that I like better than the released versions — “Back Seat Confidential” is superior to “Beating Around ths Bush” to my ears.

BONFIRE_0012Part 4 – Back In Black. Including this disc on Bonfire, I have bought Back In Black on CD five times. (Original CD issue, first remaster, Bonfire, second remaster, dual disc.) I’m sure if you’re reading this, you own Back In Black too.  I believe this to be the same music tracks as the first Back In Black CD remaster. It comes in a little digipack, which is unique to this set, although similar to later releases. I’m not going to review Back In Black here. It’s a great album, albeit I’m bored to death with hearing most of these songs over and over today. I don’t think it’s as good as the early Bon stuff, but it was a remarkable comeback. It was included here as a tribute to Bon, as a final coda for this box set. I guess.  But seriously, what AC/DC fan was buying Bonfire that didn’t already have Back in Black?  This is completely redundant.  I think the set would have been better off if they didn’t include it.  Cheaper at least.

And, the box.  The first release of Bonfire was loaded with great fun extras. There’s a long and informative book full of photos. There’s a poster. A bottle opener/keychain thingy.  On used copies, this is almost always missing.  Most people kept the good stuff, and sold the box set assuming the kid at the CD store wouldn’t notice.  There was also a sticker, a rub-on tattoo, and a guitar pick. Be careful when buying this used and make sure all this stuff is present, particularly the ever-popular pick. If it’s not, ask the clerk for a discount.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: AC/DC – Live at River Plate (2012 German edition with bonus tracks)

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AC/DC – Live at River Plate (2012 Sony Music Germany edition with three bonus tracks)

ACDC DOMESTIC STICKERTime moves agonizingly slow in AC/DC Land.  Witness the nine years between Stiff Upper Lip and the band’s latest studio album Black Ice.  Even more astonishing is the fact that Live at River Plate is AC/DC’s first live album in 20 years!  Granted, only three studio albums came between AC/DC Live and this record.  Still, most bands of AC/DC’s ilk tend to release live albums as if it’s an annual occasion.

I’ll give AC/DC credit for something:  value.  Of Live at River Plate‘s 22 tracks, only 12 were on the last live album.  Live at River Plate is a lot more Bon-heavy.  It also draws several tracks from Black Ice itself, which is nice, but you get the feeling that these were the “let’s go take a piss” songs in concert.

“We don’t speak very good Spanish,” says Brian, “but we speak Rock and Roll pretty good!  Let’s go!”  Then the band tear into the golden oldie, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, which last time, was relegated to B-side status, on the 1992 live “Highway to Hell” single.  Brian Johnson’s voice is noticeably more whispery.  This is inevitable, singing this kind of music.  Considering this, it’s astonishing to hear Brian as ferocious as ever on “Let There Be Rock”.  How the man still has a voice after all these years is a mystery to science.

Hit after hit with new tracks mixed in, AC/DC roll ’em out:  “Black in Black”, “Dirty Deeds”, “Thunderstruck”, “Hells Bells”, “The Jack” along with newbies like “Black Ice”.  Meanwhile, Angus struts out his unmistakable guitar glee in extended solos and trade-offs with Brian.  The most exciting thing about AC/DC on stage remains Angus Young.  Even without the visuals of the shorts and the stomping, Angus continues to entrance, just doing what he does and making it all sound easy.

Disc 2 is just as heavy on the hits:  “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Rosie”, “T.N.T.”, “Highway”, “For Those About to Rock”.     “War Machine” from Black Ice gives the audience a chance to get a beer, even though it’s as menacingly good as classics like “The Razors Edge”.

One thing that hasn’t been highly publicized is that the German edition of this album includes three bonus tracks.  These bonus tracks are real treats, of the underplayed AC/DC variety!  All three are taken from the Live at Circus Krone DVD, which was only available with the massive AC/DC Backtracks box set.  Sweet.

COLOURSEverybody loves “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, and it’s still as entertaining as ever, if a little less energetic.  “If You Want Blood” is another favourite, from the Bon era.  Bon used to sing this one at maximum lung power, but Bon was a 33 year old man.  Brian was 55 when he sang this.  I’m glad for its inclusion, as it’s still a high voltage head banger.  But the real treat is “What’s Next to the Moon”, an oldie from Powerage that isn’t on any AC/DC live album except this German edition.  And it prowls like a wolf, with teeth.

Live at River Plate was released in three colours (red, yellow, blue) in North America, but I don’t know about this German edition.  The only pictures I’ve seen of it were red, like mine.

The single from this album was the Record Store Day 2011 exclusive “Shoot to Thrill” / “War Machine”.  I don’t have anything in particular to say about the single, except it sure took them long enough to put out a full live album!

4/5 stars

Part 167: VIDEO – Top Five Discs that Got Us in Shit at the Record Store

RECORD STORE TALES Part 167:

Top Five Discs that Got Us in Shit at the Record Store

featuring Uncle Meat

GUEST REVIEW: Steel Panther – Balls Out & Feel the Steel

LeBrain will always be straight with you when he doesn’t know something.  I have had a few requests for a write up on Steel Panther.  The problem is, I’ve never actually listened to Steel Panther.  Maybe I should change that.

So I asked the infamous T-Rev, aka Trevor from the Record Store Tales to see if he could do a review. He could, and he did. Enjoy.

STEEL PANTHER:  Feel the Steel (2009) & Balls Out (2011)

  

Steel Panther: Your New Favourite Band, by T-Rev

Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx, and Stix Zadinia are Steel Panther. The X-rated, Spinal Tap-esque modern day Hair band.  Intent on bringing back Heavy Metal , with a sound that will impress any fan of the “hair” genre.   Formed with ex-members of various metal bands in the 1990’s ( Rob Halford’s Fight, Paul Gilbert’s Racer X, and L.A. Guns!) originally as Metal Skool (yes…Metal’s Cool) in the early 2000’s, and a brief stint as Danger Kitty (getting some recognition on MTV and the Drew Carey Show).   Feel the Steel, the first album as Steel Panther, stands out because of its period-correct guitar assaults, its bandana wearing 4-armed drummer and the spandex covered, lipstick sporting, teased hair bass player, (reminding me of Warrant circa Cherry Pie mixed with some early Motley Crue attitude!) and of course, its lyrics!

Feel the Steel has it all, killer riffs  (often mimicking classic tunes of the past like “Fuck All Night, Party All Day’s” intentional resemblance to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer”)  Hilariously refreshing lyrics (like the first time you ever heard “Fuck Her Gently” by the D) throw in some top notch guest star clout (Justin Hawkins duets with Michael Starr) and top it off with manufactured “rock star” personas (a la Spinal Tap), and you’ve got all the best parts of what a hair metal band should be…SEX & DRUGS & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!  Crazy stories of sex with asian hookers, sex with fat girls, sex with neighbours, and copious amounts of “blow”, all done in a way you’d never expect…even though it feels strangely familiar.   Sounding like it came from 1989, but containing enough modern relevance to remind you it’s current.   After about the first verse, I knew I was a fan for good.  “Eminem can suck it, so can Dr. Dre, or they can suck each other…just because they’re gay” screams Starr on “Death To All But Metal”.  “Two in the pink, one in the stink”describes the “Shocker” to newcomers.  And “You’re the only girl that I like to screw…when I’m not on the road,” Michael reassures his girl on “Community Property”

Balls Out, their sophomore effort, continues where F.T.S. left off.  A lot of the same sexual scenarios, but the music seems to have picked up another gear, with more focus on riffage (bigger, faster, louder).   The lyrics, however, are lacking the furious onslaught they had on F.T.S.   Perhaps because the initial shock is over, now I expect it!  There is more celebrity name-dropping than before…mentioning that Charlie Sheen “is winning in the bedroom upstairs”, and that Tiger Woods thinks “3 holes are better than a hole in one”.    A good album upon first listen…just didn’t have the impact that Feel the Steel did on me.  Having said that, this album grows on you…big time!  Like any good album…it takes a while for their sauce to mix with yours!

I should also discuss Starr’s instrument…this guys voice is classic, vintage, powerful, cheesy, awesome, hilarious, and adaptive!  Vocal range that would bring a tear to Dio’s eye, heartfelt (x-rated), ballads on par with anything Bon Jovi or Poison ever did, rockers that could have appeared on stage with the great Bon Scott!   I don’t mean to come across as though I consider this band “flawless”, but, these guys are PRO’s!   Certainly impressive musically…sometimes though, they sway over the cheese line a bit, and even take the lyrics too far, but all in all, I do love these albums.  Afterall, isn’t it the cheese that we now love about 80’s metal? 

You really get the feeling that these guys are true fans of metal, not just cashing in on the novelty of wearing spandex and makeup.  Much like the ribbing the Darkness took during their invasion, some people misunderstood the flattery for ridicule.  True fans see past the hair and hear the talent in the music…every time I listen to them, they get better!  Like a drug that you can’t get enough of…you want to hear it again and again.   In a world where Justin Beiber and Nickelback win music awards, this is a welcome addiction.   A perfect mix of metal and comedy!  Destined to become a staple at everyone’s annual “sausagefest”

Feel the Steel    5/5

Balls Out              4/5