bootlegs

#629 / REVIEW: Oasis – The Red and The Blue

GETTING MORE TALE #629:  The Red and The Blue

It was the second of April, 1973. EMI released two Beatles compilations simultaneously, the “greatest hits” to end all greatest hits. They were double albums, split up by era. Hence the titles 1962-1966, and 1967-1970.  Nobody refers to them as such.  Due to their packaging, fans simply call them the Red and the Blue albums.

This story is not about those albums.

Of course, some cheeky bootlegger used a similar gimmick when compiling up all of Oasis’ B-sides and non-album tracks back in the late 1990s.  The earliest rarities were lumped together on The Red Album 93-94.  Everything beyond was on The Blue Album 94-96.  The CDs had matching artwork and back covers that boasted “A complete and global anthology of non-album tracks”.  And for the period, that seems to be generally true!

When I first got into Oasis, they already had plenty of singles and B-sides out there.  Collecting them all was an intimidating prospect.  Oasis singles were always chock loaded with quality unreleased songs.  Unlike most artists, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher insisted that their B-sides were as good as album tracks.  And they were — often better.   My Record Store cohort T-Rev had a complete collection of singles, but was still missing a few other rare songs.  While at a record show, we found the Oasis Red and Blue CDs.  At $30 a pop they were still cheaper than trying to collect all the Oasis singles, with the added bonus of the songs T-Rev was missing!  They were recorded for him immediately of course.

T-Rev preferred the Creation Records singles, which were the UK printings.  My bootlegs were interesting to him, but not something he would spend money on.  When I moved into his apartment for a few months in ’98, he could listen to my bootlegs whenever he wanted to anyway.  He knew I was fussy about the handling of my music, and he was as well, so we could easily trust each other with our collections.  It was a very easy situation because we both had total respect for each other’s music.

The two songs he didn’t have (yet) were only available in two official capacities.  “Sad Song” was exclusive to the vinyl and Japanese versions of Definitely Maybe.  Similarly, “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday” was exclusive to the same formats of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory.  Neither of us had heard these songs before.  What a joy to find that they were as extraordinary as the rest of Oasis’ B-sides.

Several other rarities couldn’t  have been found just by collecting the regular Oasis CD singles.  A demo of “Cigarettes and Alcohol” came from somewhere else, likely a compilation.  The second version of “Fade Away” on the Blue Album with Noel singing was from a Warchild charity CD.  A demo of “Some Might Say”, and the Beatles cover “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (lead vocals by Noel) were only on Japanese CD singles.  These songs have since been reissued on official Oasis releases, but at the time, the value they added to these bootlegs was immense.

Still, a bootleg is never as good as an original.  Sound is a problem on a couple tracks.  “Up in the Sky”, “Sad Song” and “Whatever” have volume issues.  There are also cute track-listing errors.  “Round Are Way” is amusingly “corrected” to “Round Our Way”.

Oasis have done a commendable job of deluxe edition album reissues.  Their first three albums have all been given triple disc deluxe CD upgrades.  That renders the Red and the Blue bootlegs largely obsolete.  There is only one song on the Blue Album that can’t be found on one of the deluxe Oasis reissues, and that is “Fade Away”, the Warchild version.  It can, however, be found on the B-side to Oasis’ 1998 single “Don’t Go Away”.

There is some truly remarkable music on these CDs that make their occasional listening a recurring pleasure.  Even some of the primitive early material like “Alive” and “I Will Believe” have true spark.  By the time you get to the more polished side of Oasis, like “Whatever”, you’ve already been treated to a number of early Oasis classics.  Live and alternate versions of “Columbia”, “Bring it On Down”, “Up in the Sky”, and “Supersonic” represent the best of Oasis’ early material.  There is also the love-it-or-hate-it extended live workout of “I Am the Walrus”, all 8:20 of it.

The Blue Album is a consistently brilliant listen.  So many incredible single-quality originals:  “Acquiesce”, “Round Are Way”, “Step Out”, and “The Masterplan”.  Any of these could have stormed the charts as an A-side.  “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday” is decent too, though it sounds a bit of drunken fun.  There are also the terrific covers of “Cum on Feel the Noize” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”.

At the time, circa 1997, it was easy to justify paying a combined $60 for these two albums.  T-Rev’s friend Paul “Geeza” thought they were pretty neat.  Geeza was from England, and he visited Canada in the summers.  T-Rev befriended him via the store.  When he was back in Canada, he came over to the apartment and looked over our awesome CD collections.  He was all over my Red and Blue albums.  I made sure Geeza knew how I liked to take care of my stuff.  He was respectful but teasing.

I had to go out.  When I got back, Geeza and T-Rev were gone, but a note was left behind.

It was from Geeza.  He teased that he took my Oasis CDs!

We lived in such a small place, they weren’t hard to find.  I think the Red Album was under my pillow.  The other CD took longer.  It was just in good fun.  I was probably pissed off for a minute or five, but who cares now?  I get the joke now.  Living with me must have been a little like living with Sheldon Cooper.

If a guy like Geeza, who was an absolutely madman for Oasis, was interested in the Red and Blue albums, maybe you should keep an eye open for them too.  Don’t pay $30 each, but consider adding these eye-catchers to your collection.

OASIS – The Red Album 93-94
OASIS – The Blue Album 94-96

They’d have been 5/5 stars in 1997.  In 2017…

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: KISS – In the Land of the Rising Sun (live 1988 bootleg)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 33

 – In the Land of the Rising Sun (Big Boy Records bootleg from 1988 tour)

If you are in the mood for some live Kiss from the late 80s, then your journey might just come to an end here: Kiss at the Budokan, Tokyo Japan, April 22 1988. It’s not the last live Kiss from 1988 that we’ll examine, but it’s decent.  This 2 CD set boasts a more extensive track selection than Monsters of Rock, recorded in Germany in August.  It’s an audience recording, but above average quality.  It sounds like it is sourced from a previous vinyl generation.

In Germany, Kiss opened with “Deuce”, but in Japan, they didn’t even play it.  Instead they opened with “Love Gun”, chased immediately with some “Cold Gin”.  Therefore, it’s cool to have a couple bootlegs from this tour, to get a broader range of songs.  Japan also heard “Bang Bang You” from Crazy Nights.  Not a highlight to be sure, but a rarity that Kiss fans will want in their bootleg collection.  In a strange twist, “Fits Like a Glove” is split into two tracks, just like it was on the Germany CD, made by a completely different company.

Bruce Kulick’s solo before “No No No” is much longer, leading us to think that the solo on the Germany CD was edited for length.  This is the one to check out, to hear what kind of solo Bruce was playing in 1988.  Kulick is continuously impressive.  He always does justice to the original Ace Frehley (or Vinnie Vincent) ideas, but by playing his own solos with the right feel.  His technique is all but flawless.  This disc also has the Eric Carr drum solo and Gene’s bass solo intro to “I Love it Loud”.

There are plenty of tunes here that either weren’t played in Germany or just weren’t on that CD:  “Bang Bang You” (see above), “Calling Dr. Love”, “Reason to Live”, “War Machine”, “Lick It Up”, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”, “Shout it Out Loud”, and “Strutter”.  “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” hadn’t been played live since 1980.

Almost every bootleg CD I own has some amusing mistake or quirk that I enjoy picking out.  This has a couple.  The label can’t decide if it’s named “Big Boy” (inner sleeve) or “Big Apple” (disc itself).  There are three “producers” and two “engineers” credited, for a bootleg CD.  I guess Eddie Kramer wasn’t available.  Kiss is credited on the disc as — not Kiss! — as the “Metal Boys of New York”!  Finally, in order to appear that nobody was making money off Kiss’ back, it is claimed on the CD that this “promotional copy” is “not for sale”.

Don’t let that deter you.  Buy it if you find it.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: KISS – Monsters of Rock (live 1988 bootleg)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 32

 – Monsters of Rock (Mistral Music bootleg from 1988 tour)

Oh, live bootlegs!  A fascinating and labyrinthine assortment of live Kiss bootlegs are out there, but don’t always expect the covers and song titles to match the actual contents!  Kiss didn’t release a live album from the Crazy Nights tour, as was expected by many fans.  An old Faces magazine from 1986 proclaimed, “Already there is talk of the next studio album, and Alive III.”  Instead we have numerous bootlegs from this period to sift through.

This CD is without any notes, but fans pieced together that it’s Schweinfurt, Germany, August 27 1988.  Kiss opened with “Deuce” rather than “Detroit”, and the energy is electric.  Bruce Kulick did a fine job of adapting his style to the old Kiss songs, and “Deuce” demonstrates that Bruce really was the right guy for the band.  He’s awesome but he plays for the song and not himself.  “Love Gun” is next, truly an awesome song, and with Paul at the peak of his vocal prowess, it rarely sounds better.  Meanwhile, Eric Carr sings the backing vocals impeccably, but there’s an annoying electronic drum that he hits at the end of it, a very 80s touch that wasn’t necessary.

The Kiss classics you’ve heard a million times are great as always, but what about the newer material from Crazy Nights?  It takes a while to get there.  “No No No” and “Crazy Crazy Nights” are crammed back to back in the middle of the set.  “No No No” acts as Bruce’s big solo too, which is fantastic, but the song isn’t.  It’s a shambles, as if they don’t know exactly how to play it.  “Crazy Crazy Nights” is much better, almost a classic.  They follow that up with the also-recent “Tears are Falling”.

One cool surprise is a bit of “Heartbreaker” right before “Fits Like a Glove” which is strangely split up between two tracks.  Another surprise is obtrusive keyboards.  Since Kiss had an offstage keyboardist now, maybe they felt like they had to use him on songs like “Cold Gin” that totally do not need keyboards.  In fact it’s like oil and water.  The keyboards roll off the rock and roll like an annoying rain storm.

The CD has some audio issues, odd noises here and there.  Ignore the track list on the back which is nonsense.  You’ll find the real track information below for your convenience.  At least the back cover credited keyboardist Gary Corbett, surely a rarity.  For a real howler though, check out the front cover.  That’s not Bruce, and that’s not 1988!

With all respect to Ace Frehley, the originator and influencer, I think Bruce Kulick is the finest guitar player that Kiss ever had.  His solo career is certainly worth investigating, and so is live Kiss from his time in the band.  Monsters of Rock is difficult to recommend over others, but if you find it within your price range, go for it.

3/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Another Live (1981 bootleg)

IRON MAIDEN – Another Live (1981 recording, 1990 CD release by Metal Memory)

Maiden Japan is legendary.  It is a crucial EP for all Iron Maiden fans, but also a good solid find for any metal fan in general.  It was recorded May 23 1981 in Nagoya Japan.   The live bootleg that we are looking at today also claims to be from that same show.  That claim appears to be bogus.  An A/B test on the track “Remember Tomorrow” reveals they are definitely not the same vocal performance.  Maybe this CD is taken from a show on the same tour, such as Osaka or Tokyo.

Regardless of the whens and wherefores, Another Live presents a rare treat indeed, a live CD featuring Paul DiAnno on lead vocals.  It is the Killers lineup:  Paul, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Clive Burr.  A young Iron Maiden just before hitting the crest of their wave…there isn’t much out there officially released besides Maiden Japan.  There are a number of tracks on the rare and expensive box set Eddie’s Archive, and a handful B-sides.  For that reason, if you stumble upon Another Live, you may as well go for it!

The audio is surprisingly great for a boot, almost official quality, except scratchy in some places.  It might be a rip from a previous vinyl edition.  Unfortunately the set (wherever it was) has a few songs chopped out for time, and therefore you’re missing some of the best.  “Running Free”, “Prowler” and “Phantom of the Opera” would have been nice to have.  On the other hand there is the track “Another Life”.  You will not find any official live versions of it with Paul singing.  The only officially released ones have Bruce:  one from Beast Over Hammersmith and one from “The Trooper” 2005 7″ single.  Then we have “Twilight Zone” which you won’t find in live audio form anywhere officially.  There is definite value here in the way of rarer songs.

The performance is stellar.  A serious highlight is Dave Murray’s guitar solo on “Strange World”.  Each member has the energy of a teenager and they just blast through.  The only speedbumps really are the awkward edits between songs.  They are not done well and it’s too bad because the CD is only 51 minutes.  However if Another Live did come from an earlier vinyl bootleg, that would explain the shorter running time.

Get it if you find it.  You may not play it often, but your Maiden collection will be that much cooler.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: KISS – Demos 1981-1983

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 24 New bonus review!

Demos 1981-1983  (Bootleg)

For the first time in my life, I bought a CD that sounded so shitty, I couldn’t even stand to listen to it. I knew that the bootleg CD, Kiss Demos 1981-1983 wasn’t going to sound terrific, because my neighbor George had a version of this on LP way back in the day. I didn’t know it was going to sound this horrid.

Demos 1981-1983 collects some Kiss and assorted tracks, from some very dubious sources.  It sounds like 12th generation cassettes, complete with music bleeding through.  You can actually hear “Tokyo Road” by Bon Jovi bleeding through on track 7.  Enjoy the tape drop-out and inaudible drums too.  There are some interesting bits here, and some useless ones.

You can divide this CD into three sections.  The first six tracks seem to be Vinnie Vincent demos.  They include “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”, which evolved into two separate songs.  The verses became “And on the 8th Day” by Kiss, from the 1983 album Lick It Up.  The choruses became “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” from Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s debut LP.  These demos reportedly feature Vinnie himself on lead vocals, and he does a fine job of it in fact.  Why did he even need a lead singer?  Another curious track is “Back on the Streets” which Ace Frehley was known to play live before his first Frehley’s Comet album.  In fact the Comet band covered it on the tribute album Return of the Comet, and Vinnie put it on the first Invasion album. Finally there is the track listed on the back as “Your Baby”.  This is actually “Baby O” also from Invasion’s debut.

Moving on from the Vincent tracks, there are a few Kiss demos supposedly from The Elder sessions.  These include titles that are probably made up:  “Heaven”, “The Unknown Force” and “Council of the Elder”.  They are accompanied by an instrumental demo of “A World Without Heroes” and the original Frehley version of “Dark Light”, called “Don’t Run”.  These are actually really cool skeletons of tracks.  The one titled “Unknown Force” is a bass-led instrumental, and it has a funky little guitar part that is insanely nifty, but it’s just one idea that needs to be fleshed out.  Then there is “Heaven” which fans today know better as “Carr Jam” (on Kiss’s Revenge) or “Breakout” (on Frehley’s Comet).  Eric Carr wrote this riff for The Elder sessions and though Kiss didn’t use it, Ace did.  “A World Without Heroes” is an instrumental on which you can barely hear guitars.  Finally there is the track called “Council of the Elder” which could be the best of the lot.  It has a Zeppelin-y beginning reminiscent of things like “Thank You”, before it blasts into a cool riff that I don’t recognize from anywhere else.  Only a small part of the song seems to have been used, in “Only You”.

The third chunk of songs focuses on Lick It Up demos, a boring bunch of inaudible crap, all but one snippet called “You”.  It’s just a few chords and a vocal melody idea that Paul and Vinnie came up with, but it’s cool to hear them harmonize.  It’s possible this track evolved into “A Million to One” as the chords are similar.

The most inexcusable inclusion on this CD is “Young & Wreckless” which claims to be a Lick It Up demo with vocals by Vinnie Vincent.  This inclusion is an error that goes all the way back to the vinyl versions of this bootleg that circulated in the 80s.  The immediately obvious issue is that it’s not Vinnie Vincent singing, it’s Brian Vollmer.  That’s because “Young & Wreckless” is a Helix song, and this track is lifted right from their 1984 album Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge!  Like the rest of the CD, it sounds like an 18th generation cassette copy.

This disc is for die-hards only.  What I’d like to see is an official release of the demo tracks from The Elder period, which are great.  Next box set, boys?

1/5 stars

To be continued…

 

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Wicked Lester & Eddie Kramer demos (1972 & 1973)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 1:  

For once, it did not all start with a kiss-logo.

scan_20170220-4Wicked Lester (1972 unreleased album) & the Eddie Kramer demos (1973) (CD bootleg “promo” with “Epic” logo)

Stanley Eisen and Chaim Witz were two young New York musicians who didn’t particularly care for one another.  They met via guitarist Stephen Coronel, a mutual friend and bandmate of Witz.  Chaim, who came to the United States from Israel at the age of eight, changed his name to Gene Klein.  Stephen Coronel told Gene that young Stanley wrote songs too.  Unimpressed, Gene commanded, “Oh yeah?  Play one.”  Stanley played a prototype called “Sunday Driver”, but the encounter left a foul taste in his mouth.

Coronel eventually succeeded in bringing his two friends together, when Stanley Eisen joined their band Rainbow.  In was 1971, and Ritchie Blackmore had yet to form the most famous Rainbow of them all, but even so they needed a more unique name.  They already knew of one other band using the name Rainbow.  Both Paul and Gene had their sights set on bigger things than just New York City.  They wanted something original, and settled upon Wicked Lester.  They’d also drop their “ethnic sounding” real names in favour of the handles “Paul Stanley” and “Gene Simmons”.  They collected together some material they’d written and focused on their originals.  The lineup consisted of Stanley and Coronel on guitars, Simmons on bass, Brooke Ostrander (RIP, FYC) on piano and horns, and Tony Zarella on drums.

Wicked Lester performed only two gigs before an opportunity was offered by Ron Johnsen, a resident sound engineer at Electric Lady studios.  He saw something in the band, and put up the funds for some demo recordings.  Eventually, Epic had their curiosity piqued enough to buy the demos and agree to do make an album.  They had only one condition:  Get rid of Stephen Coronel.  Thus, the man that brought Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley together was fired from the band he shared with them.

Coronel was replaced by a player named Ron Leejack, and recording of the album commenced.  The majority of tracks were Simmons/Stanley (and sometimes Coronel) originals, with a handful of covers.  To cut a long story short, upon completion, Epic shelved the album and deemed it not good enough to release.

They were right to do so.

Only three tracks have ever been released officially, on the 2001 Kiss Box Set:  “Keep Me Waiting”, “She”, and “Love Her All I Can”.  The rest are only available on very poor sounding bootleg discs.  Even without the full fidelity of a proper release, one can tell from the available bootlegs that the album Wicked Lester was best left in the shadows.  When Kiss seemed to emerge fully-formed in 1974, nobody had witnessed their growing pains.

The running order of various bootlegs differ.  The red-packaged “Epic promo CD” (surely not) begins with the familiar “Love Her All I Can”, best known as one of Kiss’ early classics from 1975’s Dressed To Kill.  The unfocused Wicked Lester original sounds like a hippie commune on speed. Simmons today describes their sound as “like a cross between Three Dog Night and the Doobie Brothers.”  Throw in a healthy dose of acid.  Who knows where that came from, Simmons being so proudly anti-drug.

scan_20170220-3

An obscure cover “Sweet Ophelia” (Barry Mann/Gerry Goffin) really demonstrates how far out in left field everybody was.  It’s mildly disconcerting how well Paul Stanley fits the hippie vibe, far removed from his future Starchild persona.  A Stanley original “Keep Me Waiting” bears little resemblance to the style his is known for.  Though one could imagine the guitar solo section as part of a Kiss song, “Keep Me Waiting” is a delirious concoction of congas and horns.  Simmons’ “Simple Type” is more straightforward.  No annoying extra accoutrements.  No hooks either, or any balls, but it’s one of the earliest examples of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley sharing lead vocals on a song.  Even at this early stage, it was clear that Paul Stanley possessed a mighty throat.

“Simple Type” merges with the flutes and tambourines of “She”.  Flutes and tambourines, on “She”?!  Yes, this future Kiss grinder is set to the sultry sounds of more hippie instrumentation, to go with the organ and shakers.  As the song fades out, you can just hear the potential it had.  This potential is nowhere to be found on “Too Many Mondays” (Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil), light and flaky.  “What Happens in the Darkness” (Tamy Lester Smith) is all but indescribable.  Deep Purple Mk I gone terribly wrong,  but with Paul Stanley leading the choir instead of Rod Evans going it alone.  Tougher and better is “When the Bell Rings” (Austin Roberts/Christopher Welch) which again features Paul and Gene singing together.  This time, Gene utilizes his early high rasp, also heard on Kiss tracks like “Goin’ Blind” and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll”.  Sounding a bit more like our beloved demon, “When the Bell Rings” is actually listenable.  Paul Stanley’s dainty “Molly” brings the flutes back into the picture, and the sooner it’s over the better.  A cover of The Hollies’ “(We Want To) Shout it Out Loud” is not bad.  And it lent its title to something much better later on.

The “Epic promo” CD has terrible tape bleed-through.  It’s clearly a copy of a copy, generations down.  The cheap paper cover belies its actual bootleg manufacture.  It’s also missing a song called “Long, Long Road”, a soft country track that was recorded but perhaps cut from the intended album. That’s right — soft country.

Epic passed on the Wicked Lester album, which was mixed and even had cover art selected.  The boy was their mascot, “Wicked Lester”.  The cover art was originally intended for another band called Laughing Dogs.  Now that the album was shelved (and since Simmons and Stanley were the clear leaders of the group) the fates of the others were pre-determined.  Paul and Gene began looking for new members, and experimenting with makeup.  They wanted a strong, singular image, not five guys who looked like the line at the local soup kitchen.  They also wanted a focused direction, and that was to be hard rock a-la The Who, Cream and Led Zeppelin.

An experienced drummer (his band Lips had an album) named Peter Criscoula was first to heed the call.  The new Wicked Lester was a power trio consisting of Peter, Gene and Paul, who rehearsed in a loft located at 10 East 23rd Street in Manhattan.  The sound was incomplete:  a lead guitarist was needed.  Auditions were held at the same loft.  Legend has it that Bob Kulick (who features into the story much later) was about to get the gig, when they were rudely interrupted.  A spaced out guy with one red and one orange sneaker had plugged in and started wailing away.  Paul Frehley snatched the gig at the last minute, and Kiss was born.

The loft where Kiss was born.   10 East 23rd Street, photos by Mike Lukas.

The new focus became apparent when the re-named band entered Electric Lady one more time, in March of 1973, with legendary producer Eddie Kramer.  The band cut five new originals:  “Deuce” (Simmons), “Strutter” (Stanley/Simmons), “Cold Gin” (Frehley), “Watching You” (Simmons), “Black Diamond” (Stanley).  Each of these songs later made it onto Kiss albums in 1974.  They had the goods.

The Kramer demos sound better on this CD than the Wicked Lester tracks.  A different, younger tape generation would be the probable source.  Only two of these demos (“Strutter” and “Deuce”) have been released officially, on the Kiss Box Set.  These ferocious tracks are almost completely faithful to the final album arrangements.  A few extended solos here, and some longer bits there.  Tracks such as “Deuce” are faster than they were later recorded, and more akin to what Kiss sounded like live.  Playing to their strengths, keeping things simple, and with Eddie goddamn Kramer at the boards, the band laid down one hell of a demo.  This is something that bands today would release officially as their first EP, to build buzz for an album.  That wasn’t the strategy in 1973, so the band instead stuck to a regular regimen of songwriting, rehearsals and unforgettable club gigs.

Nine months after their debut gig as Kiss at the Coventry, they signed with Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records.  They had built up a repertoire of roughly 18 originals, including some holdovers from the shelved Wicked Lester: “She”, “Simple Type”, “Keep Me Waiting”, and “Love Her All I Can”.  These four songs were whittled out again in the process of coming up with the tracks to record for their first LP.

The Eddie Kramer demos and Wicked Lester album alike are important historical documents.  They are pieces of the puzzle coming together, and by the time they got with Kramer, the outline was in place.  The only way to go was up.

Today’s rating:

Wicked Lester 1/5 stars
Eddie Kramer demos – 3.25/5 stars

 

Original mikeladano.com Wicked Lester review:  2012/08/14

 

REVIEW: Savatage – U.S.A. 1990 (bootleg CD)

scan_20170120SAVATAGE – U.S.A. 1990 (1994 Live Storm bootleg CD)

When a bootleg live CD just has a picture of the bass player on the front, you know you’re not in for a perfect listening experience (Motorhead, Kiss and Iron Maiden bootlegs excepted).  Nothing against Johnny Lee Middleton of course, but it would make more sense to put Jon or Criss Oliva on the cover.  U.S.A. 1990 (released 1994) comes from Live Storm in Italy, where many bootlegs originated.  It seems to consist of songs from multiple shows, due to the repeating “Of Rage and War” and “Hounds”.

Repeat aside, U.S.A. 1990 focuses on early heavy tracks with not a single ballad.  Fans of early ‘Tage are going to love getting live versions of “The Dungeons are Calling” and “City Beneath the Surface” from the Dungeons are Calling EP (1984).  There is also the amazing riff-tastic title track from Sirens (1983), to this day still one of their best tracks.  Interestly enough, this very same version of “Sirens” was released officially (and in official sound quality) as a bonus track on the long deleted Music For Nations pressing of Sirens.  You can tell when Jon screams “Danke schön! Hello Deutschland!  You are metal!”  It’s the same version…but wait a sec!  Last I checked, Deutschland is not in the U.S.A.!  Such is the charm of a bootleg release.

“Hounds” from Gutter Ballet (1990) is ominous and evil-sounding, made more so by Jon’s blood curdling screams and howls.  He calls it “doom music”.  Also from 1990, “She’s in Love” is just speed on top of riffs on top of screams.   Gutter Ballet was an ambitious album, and part of that was a three-song suite about insanity.  From that suite “Thorazine Shuffle” is lifted, a classic example of Criss Oliva’s style of snaky guitars. “Of Rage and War” brings another menacing riff, and a topical lyrical message:

Better listen to me you son of a bitch,
Better disarm those missiles sleeping in the ditch,
You have no goddamn right to do the things you do,
The world would be a better place if we were rid of you!

“Sirens” is the centerpiece, a stormy metal drama loaded with waves of guitar crashing against the rocks, wrecking everything in their way.  Jon’s shrieks warn away the meek and timid.  Only the strong will survive the “Sirens”.  You will find no refuge in the “Hall of the Mountain King” either.  This castle of stone shall offer no protection from the riffage pouring down.  Madness reigns, so just go with the groove and get your stomping boots on.  The final track is the upbeat rager “Power of the Night”, the title track from their 1985 album.  It’s a string of lyrical cliches backed by some serious heavy rock.  Raise the fist of the metal child!  Unfortunately the track is cut short.

U.S.A. 1990 is a fairly common bootleg, so if you find one in the $7-8 range, take a shot.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – Deadly Demos (1995 bootleg)

First of a Kiss two-fer.
Scan_20160808KISS – Deadly Demos (1995 Firehouse Records bootleg)

Some Kiss fans are willing to pay money for every burp and fart that Gene or Paul have committed to tape.  Deadly Demos (or Deadly Kisses according to the CD itself) definitely has some material that is difficult to listen to quality-wise.  It also has some decent versions of rare tracks that Kiss fans are seeking.  When it comes to collecting Kiss, the band occasionally cough up official versions of heavily bootlegged rarities.  The Kiss Box Set gave us a number of these tracks, as did Kiss 40 and the Love Gun deluxe edition.  That may sound generous, but there are so many more Kiss demos out there that the band could easily compile onto a few CDs worth of decent tracks.  Gene has always said “don’t worry, they’re coming”.  Impatient fans have had to settle for shoddy unofficial discs like Deadly Demos to get their fix.

“Nowhere to Run”, originally from Kiss Killers, is an early version of the song, but the demo is unfortunately hampered by the too-fast tape speed.  This can easily be fixed digitally, but the track suffers from high static and low clarity.  It’s too bad because the demo version sounds fiery.  “Secretly Cruel” (Asylum) is better and rocks harder than the album version.  Because these are demos, you have to expect a certain lack of clarity, but it’s cool hearing slightly different arrangements and lyrics.  “Nobody’s Perfect” is a great little song that didn’t appear officially until 2009’s Sonic Boom, heavily re-written, but the chorus was intact a long time ago.  Another Gene demo “It’s Gonna Be Alright” just has a drum machine and simple guitar part, but it would be one of Kiss’s pop rock classics if they ever decide to commit it to album.

A Paul demo (“Get All You Can Take” from Animalize) breaks up the Gene party, but it is an instrumental version.  It has a heavy Zeppelin sound without the vocals, but the sound quality is pretty poor.  When these guys were recording demos like this, it was mostly just to get the idea down onto tape so you could show the others what your idea was.  Fidelity was not considered essential, and a lot of these tapes had been copied many many times before they were finally digitized onto CD.  “Thrills in the Night” is probably from the same source.  You can hear other music leaking through too.  The sound is atrocious, but what is cool here is that it gives you an idea how Paul Stanley writes.  The music and melody are all but complete, but the lyrics are not, so Paul sings it in “doo doo doo” vocals.  It’s incredible how intact the song already was at this stage, including a guitar solo that is clearly by Mark St. John.  An earlier song, Paul’s “Deadly Weapons” from the Kiss Killers period would have been a fun hard rocking addition to that LP.  Some of the lyrics were used on Gene’s “Love’s A Deadly Weapon” from Asylum, which is the reason it has a Stanley/Simmons/Swenson/Beech writing credit.  Paul and Gene weren’t writing together for pretty much all of the 80’s, but Gene lifted some words from “Deadly Weapons”.

Populating the demos from the late 80’s, “Hide Your Heart” is outstanding, very close to the album cut, and has decent audio.  However the real holy grail is “Sword and Stone”, the track Paul wrote but was recorded by Bonfire for the Shocker soundtrack.  Having it on bootleg is not as good as having an official quality release, but this will have to do for now.  Kiss really should have put out this version on something back when it was recorded.  They shouldn’t have given it away.  As such it’s become a fan favourite over the years.  (Maybe Kiss should considering re-recording some of these old songs and releasing an album like Van Halen did.)

Other interesting tracks include “Let’s Put the X in Sex”, which isn’t even a demo.  This sounds flat out like a bad remix of the album version.  There are three “Let’s Put the X in Sex” remixes on this disc.  These are supposed to be promotional dance-y remixes done to get the song some club play.  While it’s nice to get tracks like this, the disc is called Deadly Demos, not Deadly Misc. Rarities.  Come on people.  The sound quality isn’t even a vinyl rip, so the origin of these remixes is questionable.  A much better (though still not a demo) inclusion is “Hard Luck Woman” performed on Leno by Kiss and Garth Brooks in 1994, to promote the Kiss My Ass tribute album.  From the same period, it’s Gin Blossoms and Kiss doing “Christine Sixteen”, on Letterman.  There are a few other live tracks, from unknown (broadcast) origins, but you can tell it’s Eric Singer on drums, so it must have been the 90’s.

The most infamous Kiss outtake of all time is the song “Feels Like Heaven”, which Peter Criss actually recorded himself on his second solo album, Let Me Rock You.  It’s an urban funk/soul combo but what exists on tape is just a snip of the song.  The reason it is so infamous is that Gene ends the song with a pretty crude statement that I won’t even reproduce here!  (And I’m a guy who’s written multiple articles about poop and pee!)   Oh Gene, you smooth talker you.

In order to rate a disc like this, you have to remember that it doesn’t simply boil down to numbers.  There are some valued tracks here, such as “Sword and Stone” and “Deadly Weapons”.  There is also a lot of material that will strain you just to listen to it.  As always, spend your money appropriately.

2/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Space Vol 1 & 2 (Aachen 1970)

DEEP PURPLE – Space Vol 1 & 2 (Live in Aachen 1970) (2001 Sonic Zoom)

Over the course of the decades, Deep Purple and their official Appreciation Society have found numerous interesting live recordings to release for the fans.  From significant moments to obscure gigs, each disc has had their own points of interest.  It doesn’t hurt that Deep Purple never did the exact same thing twice.

This German gig from 1970 wasn’t well documented or reported on.  Purple were on a large bill including Pink Floyd, Free, Traffic and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  It’s possible but not known for certain that Kraftwerk may have also played that day.  Bootleggers made sure that at least some of it was recorded.  The released bootleg H-Bomb was one of the earliest Deep Purple live recordings available, and has been available in bootleg form since it taped.  According to organist Jon Lord, he heard that the bootleggers sneaked in an eight track mixer inside a Volkswagon, hidden under the stage.  When they had the chance to hear the recordings on LP, the band were actually impressed with the overall quality.

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In 2001, Sonic Zoom released the show on CD and called it Space Vol 1 & 2.  Since the original tapes were long lost, Sonic Zoom went back to the earliest vinyl pressings, and cleaned them up, using the best sounding versions of each track.

What you get here is only four longs, but quite a long set, being well over an hour long.  Purple opened with their instrumental “Wring That Neck”, stretched out to include lots of solos and jams.  They tease out recognizable melodies such as “Hall of the Mountain King”, “Jingle Bells”, and a jazzy “Three Blind Mice”, disguised on rock instruments.  Vocals were scarce that evening, perhaps because Ian Gillan was suffering from a sore throat.  As such his vocals don’t come through as well, but they also often sound as if he’s singing into a tin can.  Though most everything else is well recorded enough, when the vocals do happen such as on “Black Night”, they are very rough and tumble.  Jon Lord was also known to be very hard on his Hammond, and like electric whip cracks you often hear the instrument yelping away in the background.

AACHEN

The Stones cover “Paint It, Black” is mostly another excuse to jam on something.  11 minutes of equipment-destroying guitar, drums, bass and organ madness is a lot for anyone to digest.  If you dig drum solos, Ian Paice will keep you mesmerized for many minutes of straight high-velocity rhythmic instructional.  You’ll know it’s over when the other guys finally come back!  That’s nothing, though.  Half an hour of “Mandrake Root” awaits, one of the longest versions known.  Ian spends a lot of it screaming, but when it’s jam time you can hear him on the congas.  The first half of the jam is loose but at least structured.  Lord considered this his best keyboard work that had been captured so far.  Interestingly, part of this jam resembles a future song called “Highway Star”.  Then, the second half descends into pure madness.   Atonal noise, feedback and electric pain dominate these 10 minutes.  It is an endurance challenge to be sure.

It is not known for certain if any other songs were played that day, but because it was a festival it seems likely that Purple played for this hour and nothing more.  According to the only written account of the day, Purple won over the festival crowd by powering over them.  That much is clear from this recording.

3.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: King’s X – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)

quiz

Complete studio albums (and more!), part 3


KING’S X – Kings of the Absurd (split 1990 Metal Crash live bootleg with Faith No More)

Live bootlegs vary in quality, but usually have one thing in common: they are almost always interesting.  Kings of the Absurd, a split live bootleg from Italy, raises a curious question.

Why put Faith No More and King’s X together on one CD?

No reason.

The King’s X set is from London at the Astoria; Faith No More’s from a festival set in Italy many months later.   It’s an odd pairing, with no common musical denominator.  If anything, both bands share critical acclaim, but that’s about it.  Why are they together on one CD?

No reason!


Absolutely no reason.

The Faith No More portion of this CD will be reviewed at a later time, probably as part of a Faith No More review series.  For now we’ll just examine the four songs presented by King’s X, which, believe me, are enough to melt your face off without the help of Mike Patton and co.  I found this CD in the racks of the used CD store in which I started working, in early 1995.  Loving both bands, and stickered at just $11.99, this was an easy winner once you figured in my staff discount.  I was just lucky to have snagged it before Thomas, also a massive Faith No More and King’s X fan.

“What is This?” is the only song lifted from their debut album Out of the Silent Planet.  The original set was 10 songs, and this was the second, but it works as an opener as well.  The heavy groove and the slick backing vocals of Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are intact.  Doug is more impassioned live than on album, which is the way it is with any good soul singer.  Doug’s take on “What is This?” is very different from the album; he just lets the vocal come out as it does.  Even on this crappy sounding CD, you can hear that the bass is hella-heavy, and that Jerry Gaskill is one of the most underrated drummers you will ever lay ears on.

Doug addresses the crowd between songs.  “We’re going to try to do almost everything that we know tonight for you,” he teases, with no idea that these words would end up on a live bootleg with only four songs!  Next (and the next song played that night) is “Out of the Silent Planet” from their then-current Gretchen Goes to Nebraska album.  The complexity of the backing vocals doesn’t seem to present them a problem.  It’s clear that this is one hell of a trio, as if you were in any doubt.  The CD doesn’t have “Sometimes”, the next song played, but instead goes to “Summerland”, also from Gretchen.  The poor sound hampers the song slightly, since it’s lighter and doesn’t slam as hard as the others.  Doug is again outstanding, not only one of the greatest singers in rock but also a top notch bassist.  “Fall On Me” (Gretchen) ends this short set.  It was a great song on album, but live it’s just as amazing.  Doug’s lungs sound as if diesel-powered.

The fact that King’s X only got tacked onto the end of a Faith No More bootleg CD is sadly not unexpected.  They got boned by the music business, so why not by bootleggers too?  The whole set is out there, and it sounds like an amazing show.  Just check out this article and the comments section, over at our friends Every Record Tells a Story.  A few readers were there that night.

You gotta give King’s X a 5/5 stars for a set this hot, but Metal Crash get 0/5 stars for the CD

KING’S X review series:

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet

Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska