bonfire

REVIEW: Wes Craven’s Shocker – The Music (1989)

 

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK

Scan_20160607Wes Craven’s SHOCKER – No More Mr. Nice Guy – The Music (1989 SBK)

1989’s slasher film Shocker was Wes Craven’s attempt to introduce a new character to the pantheon of horror.  Unfortunately, Horace Pinker and the movie he rode in on were quickly forgotten.  Also forgotten was the heavy metal soundtrack, so let’s have a gander and see what you may have missed.

Ever heard of The Dudes of Wrath?  This temporary “supergroup” consisted of various members from track to track, but the best song they did was “Shocker” itself.  With lead vocals by Paul Stanley and Desmond Child, it’s a must-have for Kiss maniacs.  If that’s not enough, Vivian Campbell, Tommy Lee and Rudy Sarzo also play on it.  It’s like a collision of some of those bands — Kiss, Dio, Motley.  The anthemic outro will slay you.

Desmond’s writing is all over this album, and he co-wrote a track with Alice Cooper that ended up being recorded by Iggy Pop called “Love Transfusion”.  Sub out the saxophone for guitars and you could easily imagine this being a Trash B-side.   In fact I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the backing track is from the Cooper sessions, because this sounds exactly like an Alice Cooper song with Iggy Pop overdubbed.  All the musicians are guys from the Trash album.  Do the math.

It’s hard to imagine a weirder team up than Desmond Child and Megadeth.  Dave Mustaine was deep into the powders at the time, and he recorded “No More Mr. Nice Guy” with a three piece Megadeth.  The late Nick Menza had joined the band already, but Marty Friedman was yet to be hired.   Most Megadeth fans are familiar with this track, since it was re-released on their Hidden Treasures EP.  Certainly not the band’s finest moment.

Paul Stanley reappears in a writing capacity on “Sword and Stone”, performed by Bonfire.   Paul wrote it for Kiss’ Crazy Nights LP with Desmond Child and Bruce Kulick.  If it had been on Crazy Nights, it might well have been the best tune on there.  Paul’s demo has yet to be released in an official capacity, but it’s been heavily bootlegged.  Bonfire’s version is fantastic, but it only makes me hungry for a fully recorded and mixed Kiss version.  One day….

Another version of The Dudes of Wrath appear on side two, this time with Alice Cooper on vocals.  “Shockdance” sounds like little more than a slowed down variation of the “Shocker” riff, with Alice and actor Mitch Pileggi rapping over it. Just terrible stuff, actually. Thankfully Desmond redeemed it a little bit with the song he wrong with Dangerous Toys, “Demon Bell”. Like Guns N’ Roses galvanized and electroplated, “Demon Bell” slays.

Voodoo X were the band of Jean Beauvoir, who Kiss fans know from his many co-writes and guest appearances on their records. He only made one record as Voodoo X, and his song “The Awakening” is damn fine indeed. At first you’re thinking, “Oh it’s just another crap ballad”. Then a riff kicks in, and it blasts right off. It’s a bit like 80’s Kiss meets Top Gun. The last band up is Dead On, pretty pedestrian thrash metal, and one of the few songs without any involvement of Desmond Child. The angry elf vocals are hilarious, but the song is almost a parody of bad metal. The album ends with a reprise of the title track “Shocker” from the first side. Basically what this means is that you get to hear Paul Stanley singing for another two or three minutes, when he was really able to hit some seriously high notes. Cool!

The worst track is probably the ballad “Timeless Love” by Sandi Saraya.  Guess who wrote this putrid sappy swath of heartbreak?  Desmond Fucking Child!

Shocker isn’t the greatest soundtrack, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the movie that spawned it!

2.5/5 stars

The helpful back cover doesn't even tell you who's on it.

The helpful back cover doesn’t even tell you who’s on it.

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: KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

Part 25 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster

KISS – Crazy Nights (1987)

Gene Simmons, still off in la-la land ($immons Records, managing Liza Minelli), was about as far removed from the demon as you could get.  Looking quite womanly, and no longer singing in his “monster voice”, Gene had lost it by 1987.  Paul Stanley was writing songs on keyboards (not a good sign) although Bruce and Eric both made strong songwriting contributions.  The result is Crazy Nights, a record that Bon Jovi could have made, but Kiss?  It didn’t sound like Kiss to me.

Still, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Crazy Nights because it came out when I was in highschool, and I played it nonstop then, even though I questioned Kiss’ direction. (Over)produced by Ron Nevison, Kiss were trying way too hard for radio and video hits. The rock was all but gone. At the same time, the songs are actually pretty well written for the most part. Better, on average, than some songs on Animalize. It’s the gloss and production that sinks Crazy Nights.

Originally titled Who Dares Wins, the album does indeed feature too many keyboards.  I remember being so disheartened by the video for “Reason to Live”, and seeing Bruce Kulick playing keys instead of guitar. Stanley himself didn’t play guitar in the videos either — he wore one, and danced around with it. This didn’t seem like rock and roll anymore.

Here’s my song breakdown.  I just wish there was more oomph to them.

Good to great songs:

“Hell Or High Water”
“Good Girl Gone Bad”
“Turn On The Night”
“No, No, No”

OK songs:

“Crazy, Crazy Nights”
“Reason To Live”
“I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You”
“My Way”

Bad songs:

“When Your Walls Come Down”
“Thief In The Night” (a song written earlier and recorded by Wendy O. Williams first)

So, not bad. Not enough Gene though. That was a problem on a lot of albums from Dynasty to Crazy Nights, there just wasn’t enough Gene. He had become a sideman, not a frontman. Gene’s singing here is smooth, no rasp and no guts.  Paul’s singing is very high and something shrill. It was the 1980’s.

Only one song (“Crazy Crazy Nights”) has been played live since this tour.

Pick it up if you love 80’s rock. Avoid if you don’t.

2/5 stars

There are also several outtakes from this album that were later released:  “Time Traveler” is a Paul Stanley keyboard song that found its way onto The Box Set.  “Boomerang”, a speedy thrash-like number, was re-recorded for the next studio album, Hot In The Shade. “Dial L For Love”, an Eric Carr demo, was released on his posthumous Unfinished Business CD.  Finally, one of the better Paul Stanley songs called “Sword and Stone”, was recorded by Bonfire and released on the soundtrack to the movie Shocker.

I have a couple bootlegs from this tour, seen below.  (Yes, they put Vinnie on the cover of one by mistake!)