That was a blast (as always!) By popular demands, Aaron returned! True to form, the man known as “Mr Books” presented…books! Leonard Cohen, Charlie Watts, a certain black guitar wielded by David Gilmore, and more! As for Harrison, he too had some books to show, as well as some interesting discs by Concrete Blonde and a smashingly cool lightsaber!
I unboxed the new Queen Miracle box set, a Black Sabbath Sabotage, and a Def Leppard From London to Vegas. We took a look at the contents of each. The Queen box set is suitably majestic, featuring a lovely hardcover book and loads upon loads of music to listen to.
“Ask Harrison” returned tonight, with questions from Lana (via Tee Bone) and California Girl, and a bit of a curveball “Ask Mike” as well. Warning: there could be more “Ask Mike” coming in the future!
GRAB A STACK OF ROCK…with Mike and the Mad Metal Man Episode 7: Special guest Aaron KMA
Aaron‘s back! Due to popular demand, the big guy has agreed to return for another hour of rock. Tonight, I plan on unboxing my Queen The Miracle box set, and others with time permitting. I have two sealed Rush box sets (Hemispheres and Permanent Waves) and a sealed Metallica (Master of Puppets) that could be opened tonight. It’s up to you — whatever you want!
Harrison the Mad Metal Man and Aaron always have something interesting to show and tonight will be no exception. So let’s wait and see!
We also have the popular “Ask Harrison” returning tonight, with Lana (via Tee Bone) and California Girl offering up a pair of questions and a curveball. Hopefully we will learn a little about the elusive Australian madman and his homeland tonight.
Press release from Chipster PR below. If you are aiming to beef up your classic Dokken collection on CD or vinyl, then now is the time. 180 gram black vinyl, remastered and ready to rock. You’re going to get some Christmas money, so you may as well bank on pre-ordering The Elektra Albums 1983-1987.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
BMG TO ISSUE DOKKEN LP & CD BOX SETS, INCLUDING THEIR 4 CLASSIC ALBUMS
The 4 albums that made Dokken one of the ‘80s top rock bands are now being collected together as a box set (available in LP or CD formats) from BMG, ‘The Elektra Albums 1983-1987.’
Released on January 27, 2023, the limited edition set will include Dokken’s million-selling, worldwide charting first 4 studio albums (‘Breaking the Chains,’ ‘Tooth and Nail,’ ‘Under Lock and Key,’ and ‘Back for the Attack’) as a either a 5LP or 4CD set.
All of the albums feature the classic line-up of Don Dokken (vocals), George Lynch (guitar), Jeff Pilson (bass), and “Wild” Mick Brown (drums), and all have been newly remastered by Andy Pearce (Black Sabbath, Motorhead). Additionally, the LP box features 180g black vinyl.
Includes “Breaking The Chains” (#32 US Rock) and “Paris Is Burning (Live)”
Tooth And Nail (1984) – PLATINUM – US #49
Includes “Into The Fire” (#21 US Rock), “Just Got Lucky” (#27 US Rock), and “Alone Again” (#64 US Hot 100, #20 US Rock)
Under Lock And Key (1985) – PLATINUM – US #32
Includes “The Hunter” (#25 US Rock), “In My Dreams” (#77 US Hot 100, #24 US Rock)
Back For The Attack (1987) – PLATINUM – US #13
Includes The Theme From Nightmare On Elm Street 3, “Dream Warriors” (#22 US Rock), “Burning Like A Flame” (#72 US Hot 100, #20 US Rock), and “Prisoner” (#37 US Rock)
5LP boxset includes:
Breaking The Chains 1LP
Tooth And Nail 1LP
Under Lock And Key 1LP
Back For The Attack 2LP
4CD boxset includes:
Breaking The Chains 1CD
Tooth And Nail 1CD
Under Lock And Key 1CD
Back For The Attack 1CD
Hailing from Los Angeles, Dokken released a string of platinum albums throughout the 1980’s, and toured the globe with the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal, including Van Halen, Aerosmith, Metallica, Scorpions, and Kiss.
The band had several hit singles on the Mainstream Rock and Billboard Hot 100 charts, and were all over MTV with their videos for “Breaking The Chains”, “Alone Again”, “Into The Fire”, “In My Dreams”, “It’s Not Love”, “Burning Like A Flame” and especially the Theme from Nightmare on Elm Street 3, “Dream Warriors’, where they starred alongside Freddy Krueger.
Dokken have sold more than 10 million albums worldwide, and their live album, Beast from the East was nominated for the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1989.
And now, fans will get to experience – and hear – all four classic albums in a way they had never been able to before.
No matter how I do this, I’m doing something out of order. So here goes. Hi! Welcome to the DEF LEPPARD REVIEW SERIES where we will attempt to cover in some way everything Def Leppard here at LeBrain HQ. Some of these articles will be re-reviews. Some will be beefed up, some will be streamlined.
What about order? Deciding to start with The Early Years box set, we could go in two ways. We could run through Discs One through Five, starting with On Through the Night. Or, we could go chronologically and begin on Disc Four, Too Many Jitterbugs, which has the first EP and early demos pre-dating the album. Obviously, we’ve decided to to go in disc order, and worry about chronology later. So let’s get, let’s get, let’s get, let’s get rocked.
DEF LEPPARD – On Through the Night (The Early Years Disc 1) (Originally 1980, 2019 remaster)
The obscenely young quintet from Sheffield were starstruck. Drummer Rick Allen was just 16 years of age. There Def Leppard were in Tittenhurst Park, Ringo Starr’s home formerly owned by John Lennon, with Judas Priest producer Tom Allom, laying down tracks for their debut LP. Signed to Vertigo, the band was filled with awe to be on the same label as their heroes Thin Lizzy. Recording nine songs from their live set and two newly written tracks, the band took just three weeks to get the job done. Unfortunately, so much time was spent on Steve Clark and Pete Willis’ guitar overdubs, that Joe Elliott only had two days left to record all his vocals. This can be heard on the final product. At least Joe got to sleep in Lennon’s bedroom for the duration of the recording!
On Through the Night is a beefy 11 tracks, written mostly by Clark and Elliott with seven Rick Savage co-writes and seven by Pete Willis. It showcases ambition, promise, and raw talent. In a word: potential. One of its major strengths is the dual guitar team of Clark and Willis. Clark tends to be thoughtful and compositional in his solos, while Willis effectively jumps on the wah-wah.
“Rock Brigade” wastes no time getting cranked, 16 year old drummer Rick Allen going wild on the big tom rolls. An adrenalized band gets to work on a serious riff, while Clark and Willis dart in and out with curt fills. The handclaps sound lifted from a Judas Priest anthem, but this song burns it up. Joe’s vocals are set back in the mix a bit more than we’re used to, but there are hints of the kind of backing vocals that Def Leppard would endevour for in the future. In short, “Rock Brigade” kicks ass.
A strange layered vocal mix fails to hit the mark that Leppard would do with regularity later on, but it does serve to introduce “Hello America” uniquely. This naive rocker even has a little bit of synth to accent the sugary chorus, but otherwise sticks to the driving riff. Clark comes in with a wicked solo, showing off some of the creative technique he’d be famous for. A strange video clip for “Hello America” was filmed, with the drum kit featured at the front of the stage and everybody else behind. Rick Savage got stuck at the very back.
The acoustic guitars are out for “Sorrow is a Woman”, too heavy to be called a power ballad. The choruses rock heavy as anything else, though the verses remain quiet. This is one of the tunes that Joe could have used some more time refining. For fans of the early solo work of Clark and Willis, get ready for some pretty epic guitar constructions. They tell their own stories within the song.
One of the two songs written in the studio was “It Could Be You”: Fast choppy metal, with a Priest-like riff and unusually high Elliott vocals. Cool riff but more refinement time needed. Its energy is remarkable and as with all the tracks on On Through the Night, Rick Allen burns it up on the drums as a supernovic ball of nuclear combustion.
Taking it back to a metallic city groove, “Satellite” is the first use of one of Joe’s favourite astronomical objects in a Def Leppard song. This is a great car tune. Cool and classy staccato guitar picking on the second verse. Takes an unexpected acoustic detour midway, showing the ambition and ability that these five kids had in their blood. Then it breaks into another unique guitar section after the Willis guitar solo. Clearly, not the commercial techniques later employed by the band, but more an effort to emulate some of their heroes like Page and Lynott, as best they could.
Talking of ambition, “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” closes side one with nothing but. A pretentious Joe Elliott monologue introduces the track cheesily enough.
In the first day of the first month, in some distant year, The whole sky froze gold. Some said it was the aftermath of the Radium bomb, And others told of a final retribution. A terrible revenge, from the gods.
The post-apocalyptic settings is a metal niche unto itself, launched by Black Sabbath and maintained by Aerosmith, Queensryche and Judas Priest. This is not one of Def Leppard’s more successful attempts at getting serious, but you have to marvel at their cohones for trying.
The “Wasted” riff, a Steve Clark creation, is one of Leppard’s most legendary. This simple steamer is pure power set to music. That riff, what a riff! Just a few chugs and then a unified resolution. But what a riff! No wonder the band had to resurrect it in recent years. The fans wouldn’t let it stay buried. “Wasted” is a centerpiece gem, and itself contains a certerpiece of a guitar solo by Clark, skillfully constructed by the young protege.
“Rocks Off” contains the annoying crowd noise overdubs, clearly artificial, but you can’t stop this little one from launching. Once again it’s all about the riff, and the Clark era of Def Leppard do not get enough recognition for their riffs. The song is disrupted by a solo section that harshly pans the guitars from right to left in distracting fashion.
The other song that was written in the studio is the surprisingly strong “It Don’t Matter”. Some very rich guitars, properly spaced in the mix, make for some cool riffs and licks. There’s a laid back chorus and good backing vocals. The cowbell is also effective except it’s not a cowbell. The band didn’t have one so they used the house tea kettle for which they were properly scolded by the housekeeper Ruth. Thing is — it sounds OK!
Moving on to the penultimate track, “Answer To the Master” has a verse that is stronger than its chorus, which is really more about the riff. Rick Allen gets the spotlight for a brief moment before the band break into an AeroZeppelin-like funk. “Whole Lotta Walk”? Then there’s a startling guitar solo section more influenced by the likes of Lizzy.
Finally Leppard decided to go with a big epic as their album closer, “Overture”, which also closed their debut EP (which is on Disc Four of The Early Years). It’s another post-apocalyptic soundtrack, a multi-parted manufacture. Some truly great guitar parts are buried within, but this track is an example of overreach. The kind of truly epic recording they were striving for could not be achieved in the time they had, but you can hear frequent shots of brilliance. Each riff and lick has its own unique hook.
On Through the Night went to #15 in the UK but failed to crack the top 50 in the US, charting at #51. It did not go Platinum until 1989, well after Hysteria made Def Leppard into demigods. If anything it planted the seed and made the band more focused on what they wanted to achieve when they had a second chance. And it wouldn’t be long before fate hooked them up with Robert John “Mutt” Lange, which would alter their course forever. On Through the Night stands today as a Polaroid of an innocent past, when Def Leppard caked on riff after riff in an effort to reach the heights of the bands they adored. It lacks focus, both within the songs and on Leppard’s collective strengths. Focus that they would soon gain in spades, and later in excess!
I’m sorry for “vaguebooking”. I can tell by the number of concerned messages that it wasn’t a good idea.
We have a couple problems to deal with, some health related, and one plumbing disaster. It is taking maddenly long to resolve. Until it’s fixed I can’t do this site. It’s taking up all my energy, and also the time that I normally would spend doing creative stuff. The third plumber cancelled today because somebody else had a more dire emergency, which is fine. But it has been over a week since we first reported this issue to the condo management. We have to replace the carpet, the drywall and redo some tiles. But the plumbing has to be fixed first and that’s condo responsibility.
Deke will be taking over the Storm Force interview, with me riding shotgun. He’s just getting everything set up to stream, so keep an eye on Superdekes for updates. I’ve cancelled the Jack Frost interview, but hope to reschedule when this is all resolved.
As Deke would say though, it’s not all bad. Yesterday Mark from Encore Records stopped by to deliver a whole bunch of music that I ordered. Yes, that’s what you think it is. It’s the massive Metallica 2021 box set. 24 hours of music. Also Permanent Waves box set by Rush, and a Kiss radio broadcast of the same Tokyo show that was recently released officially. I ordered this a long time ago, before that official bootleg was even announced. I just forgot about it and never picked it up. Fortunately Mark kept it and brought it with him! I have a weekend of music, at least.
Aerosmith were out of the gates fairly early into their career when their first anthology style box set was released in 1991. They were still going strong, at the peak of their popularity. Their career had two distinct eras marked by the record labels they were signed to: first Columbia, and then a resurgence with Geffen.
There was also a long gap between Aerosmith studio albums. Pump was released in ’89 but it took them four years to come up with Get A Grip. While Geffen waited for Aerosmith to complete Get A Grip, their old label Columbia was allowed to release compilations. In late 1991 they put out a brand new video for a remixed “Sweet Emotion”, although ironically the remixed version wasn’t included in the forthcoming Pandora’s Box set. Regardless, there was a stop-gap. November saw the release of Pandora’s Box just in time for Christmas, with three CDs of music, including a whopping 25 rare, unreleased, or remixed tracks.
They hit you right from the start with a rarity: Steven Tyler’s “When I Needed You” from 1966 and his band Chain Reaction. You can barely tell it’s the same singer, but this quaint number is a great opener for a box set with this kind of scope. Basic 60s rock with a hint of psychedelia. Onto the first album, it’s “Make It” with an unlisted false start — another cool touch. “Movin’ Out” is a completely different take than the one from the debut. It’s superior because it’s harder and more raw. (Did Pearl Jam rip off part of the guitar lick for “Alive”?) “One Way Street” is the album version, but an unreleased “On the Road Again” is a fun laid back jam. Clearly B-side material, but it’s Aerosmith and light and loose.
A sax-laden “Mama Kin” from the first album is the first bonafide hit presented, and like most of the hits in the set, it’s the original version. It is immediately obvious from the upbeat groove just why it was a hit. Up next, it’s the slick “Same Old Song and Dance”, the heavy “Train Kept A Rollin'” and haunting “Seasons of Wither”, all from Get Your Wings. Major props for including the underappreciated “Seasons of Wither” in this box as the song has never had the exposure it deserves. According to the liner notes, it was written by Steven Tyler on a guitar found by Joey Kramer in a dumpster. The fretting on the guitar was “fucked” but it had a special tone. The tuning of that guitar “forced” the song right out of Tyler.
An unreleased live version of “Write Me a Letter” from 1976 is overshadowed by the song that follows it. It’s the “big one”, the ballad “Dream On”, and usually the centerpiece of any side that it’s on. The random placement on the second half of CD 1 is a little puzzling. The title track “Pandora’s Box” follows, a dirty slow funk.
The first disc closes on a trio of rarities. A 1971 radio jam on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake” goes on for 10 awesome minutes and dominates the disc. They swiftly follow that with “Walkin’ the Dog” from the same radio broadcast. Finally, a slinky “Lord of the Thighs” from the Texxas Jam closes CD 1. Two more Texxas Jam tracks can be found midway through CD 2, which is mildly annoying.
The second disc represents the musical growth of Aerosmith. A massive “Toys in the Attic” builds on the past: more energy, better production, more speed. “Round and Round” is Sabbath-heavy, a sound the band rarely explored. Only “Nobody’s Fault” (which comes later on this disc) stands as a heavier Aerosmith monolith.
Behind the scenes Aerosmith were suffering from drug-induced absences in the studio. One day when Joe Perry and Steven Tyler were late, the core trio of Joey Kramer, Brad Whitford, and Tom Hamilton just jammed. The result is “Krawhitham”, a menacing unheard jam. It’s a testament to the “other three” guys in the band and features some stunning playing even if the riff is a bit lacking. This rough and ready track is followed by four slick Toys in the Attic hits in a row: “You See Me Crying”, “Sweet Emotion” (the original mix), “No More No More” and “Walk This Way”. Each song different, each song perfect. “You See Me Crying” may be the most underrated Aerosmith ballad ever released.
Two more Texxas Jam tracks occupy the middle of disc two: “I Wanna Know Why” and “Big Ten Inch Record”. These jams are a blast, but why not bunch all the Texxas tracks together? Next, “Rats in the Cellar” from Rocks has the same energy as “Toys in the Attic” but with a nastier bite. “Last Child” is a remix, a slight one at that. The bass sounds deeper. An unreleased Otis Rush cover follows called “All Your Love”. This electric blues is fully formed with a satisfying mix and could easily have made an album. Why didn’t it make Draw the Line? That album already had a cover, “Milk Cow Blues” (included here on disc 3) so it is unlikely they wanted two. Did they choose the right song?
The aforementioned “Nobody’s Fault” is preceded with a snippet of the demo, called “Soul Saver”. It truly is a monster of a track and one of the band’s few true heavy metal songs. Nuclear holocaust is a perfect theme for metal, but Tyler’s lyrics are more thoughtful than many of his competitors. His tormented vocal is one of his career best. “Sorry, you’re so sorry, don’t be sorry. Man has known, and now he’s blown it upside down, and hell’s the only sound. We did an awful job, and now they say it’s nobody’s fault.”
“Lick and a Promise” is a necessary speedy shot in the arm. Though “Adam’s Apple” is replaced by a live version from 1977, it is the sonic blueprint for a million bands that tried to copy Tyler’s sleazy antics. Two Draw the Line tracks close the CD: the title track itself (remixed), and “Critical Mass” . Again the remix is slight.
The final CD is the decline, but not without plenty of high points. (“High” points, get it?) The first high point is a 1978 live version of “Kings and Queens”. “Good evenin’ boss. Been a long time coming,” greets Tyler to the hometown Boston crowd. Live versions don’t usually surpass their studio counterparts, but this one might for its seasoned, raw vibe.” Joe Perry’s backing vocals make it.
The previously mentioned “Milk Cow Blues” from Draw the Line is an upbeat shuffle, getting the blood pumping once more. A snippet of a demo called “I Live in Connecticut” leads directly into “Three Mile Smile” from Night in the Ruts. It allows you to hear how a tune evolves from an idea into a complete song. You get to hear that again on “Let it Slide” and “Cheese Cake”. If you love when Joe Perry pulls out his slide guitar, then you will love this pairing. We’re well into the Aerosmith stuff that doesn’t get enough credit when it’s good. “Bone To Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)” is another unsung gem…and the liner notes will tell you exactly what a “Coney Island white fish” is. The autobiographical “No Surprize” is pretty fine too.
The Beatles cover “Come Together” was one of the very few worthwhile tracks on the awful movie soundtrack Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fortunately for Aerosmith fans, it has long been available on their 1980 Greatest Hits. And it’s not the last Beatles cover on this box set. But it’s the last real hit before the disc takes a serious detour.
“Downtown Charlie” is really ragged; punk rock energy with nobody at home in quality control. It sounds like one of their “drunken jams” according to Joe Perry in the liner notes. Wicked playing but no cohesion. And then they split — Brad Whitford with Whitford/St. Holmes, and Joe Perry with the Joe Perry Project. Even this is documented. “Sharpshooter” by Whitford/St. Holmes is a box set highlight, even though it sticks out like a sore thumb by sounding nothing like Aerosmith at all. This is straight hard rock, with Derek St. Holmes on lead vocals. Though an astounding vocalist, he is the Antityler and the song does not fit in any way on the tracklist. Too bad since it’s such a great track. More at home is Joe Perry’s “South Station Blues” from I’ve Got the Rock N’ Rolls Again. It’s preceded by an Aerosmith demo called “Shit House Shuffle”. Aerosmith didn’t use the riff, so Joe did on his solo album. It totally works with his lead vocal, though it’s a shame Aerosmith never used the idea themselves. Another wasted jam, “Riff and Roll”, had potential as the kernal of a song, but Tyler’s voice is completely shot. You can hear what they were going for. It could have worked on Done With Mirrors had they finished it.
Aerosmith carried on in 1982 with Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay replacing Perry and Whitford. The resulting album Rock In a Hard Place was inconsistent but not without some gems. “Jailbait” doesn’t indicate anything was out of place, a worthy followup to frantic manic blasts like “Rats in the Cellar”. But they only lasted one album before cooler heads prevailed and the classic lineup reunited.
With Perry and Whitford back again, Aerosmith began recording new albums for Geffen. Columbia still released Aerosmith albums regularly, like Classics Live and Classics Live II. A previously unreleased oldie from the Get Your Wings days called “Major Barbra” was included as a bonus on Classics Live. Pandora’s Box includes a second version of “Major Barbra”, a rougher alternate take. It’s a full minute longer than the version of Classics Live, including harmonica solo. Another track Columbia released was the classic “Chip Away the Stone” (written by Richie Supa), on 1988’s Gems. This obscure single never had a proper album release until then, despite its awesome nature. The Pandora’s Box version is an alternate version, with noticeably less piano in the mix.
The penultimate track is the unreleased Beatles cover “Helter Skelter”, dating back to 1975. This one got a bit of airplay in 1991 when the box set was released. It is undoubtedly rough but with suitably aggressive and heavy hitting groove. The box set is then closed by “Back in the Saddle”, an apt way to describe Aerosmith’s career since.
But wait, what’s this? “There now, ain’t you glad you stayed?” asks Steven Tyler after a few seconds of silence. Why, it’s the hidden bonus track! The unlisted instrumental was written by Brad Whitford and actually titled “Circle Jerk”. It is very similar to the previous “Krawhitham” instrumental on disc two, but heavier.
Now, what about that remixed “Sweet Emotion” that was released to promote the box set, but wasn’t actually on the box set? The remix was done by David Thoener and featured some structural changes. The music video was a smash hit. You could buy it as a standalone single, with “Circle Jerk” and another unreleased instrumental bonus track called “Subway”. All three were re-released again as bonus tracks in 1994 on the massive Box of Fire. The Thoener remix has been issued many times over the years on compilations and movie soundtracks.
There’s little doubt that Pandora’s Box was good value for the money. For the fans who didn’t have the albums, most of the hits are included in studio versions. The remixes are minor enough for them not to notice. For the rest, the wealth of unreleased bonus material justified buying three CDs. Unlike other box sets like Led Zeppelin’s four disc airship, Pandora’s Box is not designed to be an ecstatic listening experience from start to finish. It is a study in early Aerosmith from the roots to just before the reunion. It is the rise and fall, and still fighting to get back up. It is uneven with mountainous peaks of spontaneous rock and roll chemistry, and also the tired struggle to keep producing music. Much like its subject, Aerosmith, Pandora’s Box is a flawed portrait.
In most timelines and biographies, they’ll have you believe that the original lineup of Loudness had already peaked by 1987 and were creatively and commercially going downhill. While the commercial side of things was out of their control, creatively Loudness were still writing great songs. Though they did have one more EP in them, Hurricane Eyes is the final album of the original Minoru Niihara era of Loudness. It was recorded by Kiss and Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer with one track by Andy Johns. Though not as heavy or complex as Disillusion or noteworthy as Thunder in the East, it is thoroughly enjoyable from side A to side B. The commercial bent is obvious on some songs, but it doesn’t really blunt the impact.
Like most Loudness albums from the classic era, the band recorded lyrics in both English and Japanese and both versions of the album are included in this luxurious 5 CD box set. In Japan, the Loudness catalogue has been treated reverently but this is the beefiest of all their deluxe sets. Along with both versions of Hurricane Eyes (including minor musical differences), the set includes a disc of album demos, and another disc of alternate mixes and rhythm tracks. The fifth CD is a live set from the Hammersmith Odeon from 1986. Like any set of this nature, you’ll be listening to the same songs in four or five versions, but fortunately they stand up to such immersion.
Though Hurricane Eyes represents a peak effort to break into the American market, and some songs verge on Dokken homages, it’s a strong album loaded with hooks and enviable guitar theatrics & riffs. And regardless of some of the more radio-friendly material, it also boasts the thrash-like “S.D.I.”, a speed metal riff-fest that remained in the Loudness set list long after after Minoru was let go. The technical playing on “S.D.I.” is outstanding, and that’s laid bare for you to hear in the instrumental mix on Disc 4. The guitar solo is pure Eddie meets Yngwie. “S.D.I.” opens the English version of the album, but closes the Japanese. It works excellently in either configuration.
The English album continues with “This Lonely Heart”, a hook-laden hard rocker anchored by a solid riff and soaring chorus. Lynch and Dokken must have been jealous they didn’t write it because it’s right up their alley. The album title Hurricane Eyes comes from a lyric in “This Lonely Heart” but what you’ll remember mostly is that indelible chorus. Keyboards are poured into “Rock ‘N Roll Gypsy”, an obvious choice for a radio single. Though it didn’t hit the charts you can certainly hear the effort in it. On the Japanese version of the track, the keyboards are present but not mixed in as prominently. It’s the better of the two mixes, with more of that Akira Takasaki guitar up front.
“In My Dreams” is the first power ballad, with focus on the power part. Akari has some sweet anthemic guitar melodies in his pocket for this very Scorpions-sounding track. This gives way to another blitz of a song, though not as over the top as “S.D.I.” was. “Take Me Home” has similar urgency but more deliberate pace. “Strike of the Sword” is in similar metal territory with a fab Akari riff. The vocal melodies sound a little disconnected from the song though.
Don Dokken’s turf is revisited on “Rock This Way”, a mid-tempo ditty within hit territory. You could imagine this being written for the concert stage, so you can have a singalong chorus — “Rock this way!” Picking up the pace, “In This World Beyond” is a bit more complex though retaining an insanely cool chorus. The Loudness guys really developed an absurdly good chorus-writing ability by this point! But stick around to be strafed out of the sky by Akira’s machine-gun solo. “Hungry Hunter” returns us to mid-tempo rock ground, though it’s not their most remarkable song.
The American album ends with “So Lonely”, a re-recording of “Ares’ Lament” from 1984’s Disillusion, also in the closing position. Disillusion didn’t get a lot of attention outside Japan, and “Ares’ Lament” was a clear highlight. Though the structure is essentially the same, “So Lonely” is a tamed version” of the more traditional metal original. Keyboards are added, replacing the Akira-shred of the original. The chorus is beefed up and placed front-and-center. It suits Hurricane Eyes and though it’s merely a blunted version, it’s still quite excellent. It’s a demonstration of how you can take a song and tweak it into a different direction.
“So Lonely” isn’t present on the demo CD, presumably because they didn’t need to demo their own classic tune. Instead there are two tracks that didn’t make the album, but would be finished in the future: “Jealousy” and “Love Toys”. The 1988 Jealousy EP would see the first track released (but only in Japan). This is the most Dokken of all the songs, with one of those concrete riffs that George Lynch was prone to writing with ease. Maybe when Dokken broke up, Don should have given Akira Takasaki a phone call. The more frantic and metal “Love Toys” was revisited in 1991 with new lead singer Mike Vescera, for the On The Prowl album of re-recordings. Both tracks had potential in the unfinished demo stage. In fact all the Loudness demos on this disc are nearly album-ready. They’re rougher but also appealing for that same reason.
Disc 4, Behind the Hurricane Eyes is a hodgepodge of alternate mixes and rhythm tracks. The eight rhythm tracks (essentially mixes without vocals and solos) include another version of “Love Toys”. The mercilessly tight rhythm section of Munetaka Huguchi and Masayoshi Yamashita come to the fore on these tracks, as does Akira Takasaki as the riffmaster. “S.D.I.” is present on this CD twice, in rhythm track form and as a straight instrumental. You will be getting plenty of “S.D.I.” in this box set! You’ll also enjoy the brighter “Top 40 Mix” of “Rock This Way”, a really good remix that sounds perfect for the hits of the era. A mix of “So Lonely” with an earlier fade-out isn’t that interesting, but still desired by the collector. “Hungry Hunter” and “This Lonely Heart” are present in “old mix” and “rough mix” respectively. Differences are minor.
You could find yourself with a bit of ear fatigue after hearing so many versions of the same songs. Fortunately Disc 5 is a live set from the previous tour with none of the same songs. Buckle up. Opening for Saxon at the Hammersmith Odeon, Loudness went straight into “Crazy Doctor” from Disillusion after a glowing intro from Biff Byford. It’s right to the throat from the start and this CD has their full set. “1000 Eyes” from Lightning Strikes follows, the album for which they were touring. Loudness could have used some backing vocals live to beef up the chorus, but Minoru does a remarkable job on his own, givin’ ‘er all over the place. It’s also cool to hear Akira go from rhythm to lead so effortlessly live.
There is honestly something charming about someone who isn’t a native English speaker really giving their all to talk to an audience in English. Minoru is clearly happy to be in “London rock and roll city!” and the audience lets him know he’s welcome. The awesome “Dark Desire”, also from Lightning Strikes, follows and Akira lays down a mesmerising solo. Then a long dramatic intro opens “Ashes in the Sky / Shadows of War”, a highpoint of an already great set.
The big Loudness single in 1986 was “Let It Go“, a truly special pop metal song. This version opening for Saxon at the Hammersmith might be the best live recording if not the most energetic. Afterwards the late Munetaka Higuchi takes a drum solo (presumably to give Minoru’s voice a rest after this workout!). There’s a brief segue into Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and Minoru introduces the band. That pumps up the crowd for Loudness’ biggest hit “Crazy Nights” complete with crowd singalong. “MZA!” After smoking through this one, Akira takes a blistering solo break. The set closes with “Speed” from their third album The Law of Devil’s Land. They saved the most aggressive song for last. Couldn’t let Saxon have it too easy, right?
Though hard to get, these Loudness deluxe editions from Japan are really beautiful to hold in hand. The thick booklet is printed on glossy paper, and though the liner notes are in Japanese, lyrics are provided in both languages. The rest of the booklet is stuffed full of tour photographs whose only language is rock and roll. Loudness certainly looked the part. The set also includes a little reproduction backstage pass, but the main feature is the music. Diehards are going to love it.
Wanna see stuff from my collection? All you have to do is ask. This week the request was “Let’s see your favourite box sets”. I’ve rounded up a few for show & tell. I will go live on Facebook April 25 at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. (If you missed last week’s live stream, Rare Box Sets, you can watch it here.)
The subject matter this week is My Favourite Box Sets. Most of these you have seen on my site already but we are about to take a closer look. I’ll be live for roughly an hour with these awesome box sets. Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound will be going live after I’m done so I’ll be jumping over to catch his show!
Join me tonight at 7 PM E.S.T. for some rock and roll shenanigans! Facebook: Michael Ladano