carmine appice

RE-REVIEW: KISS – Paul Stanley (1978 solo album)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 16:  

  Paul Stanley (1978 Casablanca solo album, 1997 Mercury remaster)

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we know that Paul Stanley was capable of pretty much running Kiss by himself.  During much of the 1980s, Gene Simmons’ participation in Kiss had a severe drop.  Paul took the reins and the band more or less sounded like Kiss.  With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Paul’s 1978 solo album was also very Kiss-like.  Of the four, Paul’s album had an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.  His solo songs sound very much like his Kiss songs.  Co-producing with Paul was Kansas producer Jeff Glixman.

Paul had an “ace” in his pocket, so to speak.  On lead guitar was shredder Bob Kulick.  Previously, Bob auditioned for Kiss but was squeezed out at the last minute by Ace Frehley.  He also played ghost guitar on the studio tracks of Alive II.  Now he was out of the shadows on Paul’s album, and his work here absolutely stuns.  It’s a feedback-laden monster of rock.

Paul’s songs are often overblown, and usually loud.  “Tonight You Belong to Me” is one such track:  melodramatic, riffy and loud.  It rocks hard.  It has loads of hooks, killer playing, and lead vocals that slay.  Few singers could touch Paul Stanley in his prime.  If that riff sounds familiar, the Hellacopters ripped it off for the intro to a song appropriately titled “Paul Stanley” (from 1999’s Grande Rock).

“Move On” is upbeat, Kiss-like rock and roll augmented with female backing vocals.  It’s the only song that Kiss played live on their 1979 tour.  It probably fits that standard Kiss mold better than any other tune on the album.  “Ain’t Quite Right” brings things down with a dark acoustic ballad, quite different from past songs Paul has written.  Its sad sound was fairly new territory for an upbeat rocker.

Hold on tight for “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me”.  If this song was covered by a pop-punk band (pick one:  Sum 41, Blink 182, any of that ilk) it could be huge today.  It’s loud, brash and incredibly rocking, but Paul outsings any punk-pop upstart.  When Paul released his solo One Live Kiss album/video in 2008, “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me” was one of its highlights.  Kudos must be given to drummer Richie Fontana for kicking it in the nuts.

One of rock’s most legendary (and hardest hitting) timekeepers plays drums on the massive “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  You don’t associate Carmine Appice with Kiss, but there he is one of Paul’s songs.  It’s a bombastic arrangement of electrics and acoustics, and one of Paul’s most devastating tracks.  Carmine turns it from “stun” to “kill” with his dominating presence.  At 5:26 this is the longest song on the album and as close as Paul gets to epic.

Side two is just as vigorous as side one.  “It’s Alright” has a bright shimmer, plenty of hooks and guitars.  It easily could have been a Kiss classic.  “Girl if you want me to stay satisfied, girl if you want me to stay for the night, it’s alright.”  Sure sounds like Kiss to me.  The guitars have a very “rock and roll” vibe, a classic progression.  Paul has a knack for riffs like this, and “It’s Alright” is one of the best.

Paul’s single was the schlocky piano ballad “Hold Me, Touch Me (Think of Me When We’re Apart)”.  Fans will either love it or hate it.  It’s a song that could have been an AM radio hit on a 70s light rock station.  Lionel Richie could have recorded it.  The guitar solo cooks, and that is all Paul.  He handled all the guitars on this song.  Love it or hate it, it was the second most successful solo Kiss single after Ace’s “New York Groove”.

As the album draws to a close, “Love in Chains” hits hard with punchy drums and choppy guitars.  But it’s just a jab, compared to the closer “Goodbye”, which finishes things off with a flourish and hot riffing.  There is a cool descending guitar part, a superior chorus, and some seriously cool and busy bass by Eric Nelson.  “Goodbye” is a brilliant closer, and it held that slot on Paul’s 2006 solo tour.

Paul’s was the second shortest of the solo albums (only Peter’s being shorter), but it packed more punch than any except Ace Frehley’s.  Everybody has their favourites, and Ace’s album is always held in high esteem.  Ace stepped out of his box and delivered.  Meanwhile, Paul stuck to what he does best, and nailed it.  It’s a “safe” solo album, but lethal when it clicks with you.

5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/07/22

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REVIEW: Jim Crean – Insatiable (2016)

NEW RELEASE

JIM CREAN – Insatiable (2016 Rocker Records)

If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK.  You probably know of his famous friends.  Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows.   Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more.  But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes.  Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.

In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show.  He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother.  Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”.  Very odd.  The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy!  If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal.  Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.

Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James.  With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”.  Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match.  Best of all, Crean can pull it off!  Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy.  Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”.  Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016:  killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice!  Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis.  A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove.  Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).

The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover.  Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums.  (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.)  This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.

Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes.  If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here.  “Magic Touch” is, of course, great.  It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings.  As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.

Added Can-Con bonus:  Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.

Added extra bonus:  My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.

If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you.  If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Blue Murder – Blue Murder (1989)

BLUE MURDER – Blue Murder (1989 Geffen)

For some, expectations were high.

On paper, it was genius.   Teaming up the legendary drummer Carmine Appice with anyone will turn heads, but John Sykes, the ex-Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake guitar genius?  Sign us up.  Add in ex-Black Sabbath singer Ray Gillen, and the Firm’s Tony Franklin on bass, and that right there is an interesting combo.  Two words were buzzing around the camp, and they were “blues” and “jams”.  When the band did start jamming the blues, they realized that Ray Gillen didn’t have much to do during the long instrumental breaks they were producing.  The decision was made to cut Ray and trim the band down to a classic power trio, with Sykes singing lead.  The trio format was fairly unique among rock bands in the late 80’s.  (Ray hooked up with another new blues-rock band, Jake E. Lee’s Badlands.)

Adding to the hype machine behind the new christened Blue Murder was the tapping of up and coming producer Bob Rock.  Coming off of some hit albums by Kingdom Come and The Cult, it was assumed Rock would do the same for Blue Murder.  They hiked up to Little Mountain Sound in Vancouver and recorded the album, dedicating it to Phil Lynott.

Unfortunately it was pretty clear after a few listens that despite the hype and big names, Blue Murder was not the supergroup debut that it should have been.  Indeed, the lineup expired after one record.

Sykes’ singing was not the issue.  His vocals on songs such as “Riot” and “Ptolemy” are more than adequate.  Power and range were not an issue for Sykes.  Perhaps his unique guitar stylings were too associated with the mega-selling Whitesnake 1987, because the sonic connections are obvious.  Too much ‘Snake, not enough Lizzy.  The songs are not all bad either, though many could use some minutes trimmed from them.  At nine songs and 52 minutes, Blue Murder does have the instrumental chills that Sykes wanted to get across, but at the cost of diluting the impact with meandering rock songs.  Other issues must fall at the feet of Bob Rock.  Though Blue Murder earned the producer a nomination at the Juno awards in 1990, the muddy sound is very far indeed from what Rock can do.  “Sex Child” is a perfect example of this. Rock strove to give Carmine a big drum sound, but there are also excessive keyboards and layers of vocals all occupying the same sonic space. This robs it of the groove.  It’s a chore to finish the whole album in a sitting, due to some of these problems.

There are three album highlights that are possibly worth the expense to rock historians.  They are the singles “Valley of the Kings” and “Jelly Roll”, and the epic “Ptolemy”.  At 7:50, “Valley of the Kings” had to be severely edited down for a single/video. It has all the progressive rock qualities that you know these guys are capable of, and who isn’t a sucker for lyrics about pharoahs and pyramids? Must credit must also be given to Tony Franklin, who makes it sound as if the fretless bass is easy to play! You don’t hear enough fretless in hard rock, and Franklin is one of the world’s very best. Period.

Interestingly, “Valley of the Kings” was co-written by then-Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin. You can absolutely hear parallels to Sabbath’s Headless Cross released the same year – an album that also had some fretless bass on it thanks to Lawrence Cottle!

“Jelly Roll” was a music video, fitting the slot for some good time summer acoustic rock.  Instead of going ballad, Blue Murder went to the bayou.  The tricky slide licks recall Whitesnake, but unfortunately towards the end, the song sinks into typical ballad territory.  It sounds like two songs melded together, but I like the first part best.

The final keeper is the progressive epic “Ptolemy”.  Unfortunately the lyrics don’t have much to do with the actual mathematician and astronomer who lived almost 2000 years ago.  Instead the song is about tomb robbing; unrelated to Ptolemy of Alexandria.  This is a shame since they could have written about Ptolemy’s musical studies (Harmonics), or his influence on the concept of the universe of a series of spheres that create music.  Fortunately the musical qualities of the song enable us to overlook the words.

There are also-rans worth checking out:  particularly a track called “Billy” which is the most Thin Lizzy of all the tunes.  You could imagine, if Phil had lived, that he could have recorded “Billy” for a mid-80’s Thin Lizzy album.  Unfortunately most of the material resides in Whitesnake territory, especially the carbon-copy ballad “Out of Love”, and the closer “Black-Hearted Woman” which recycles Whitesnake riffs.

Too bad.  Loads of potential, but blown in the delivery.

2.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: King Kobra – Ready to Strike (1984)


IMG_20150607_142430KING KOBRA – Ready to Strike (1984 Capitol)

What happened to the good ship King Kobra? Hilarious misspelled name, silly coordinated hair colours (all but veteran drummer Carmine Appice, who complimented their red and blonde with his red and black), and production by the guy who brought you Quiet Riot — what could possibly go wrong? They even had their own “kobra” signature hand gesture, and weird complementary stage moves in an expensive music video.

When you have lyrics like, “I’m ready to strike, I’m cocked and loaded tonight,” but you’re not David Lee Roth or Gene Simmons, you’re already fighting an uphill battle.  Carmine saw the sudden success of bands like Quiet Riot, and decided “why the hell not”?  He picked up some great players for this project.  Bassist Johnny Rod ended up in W.A.S.P. later on.  David Michael-Phillips played with Lizzy Borden after Kobra.  Mick Sweda formed BulletBoys.  Mark Free formed Unruly Child, and ultimately became Marcie Free.  She still fronts Unruly Child today. Meanwhile Carmine Appice reformed this lineup of King Kobra, substituting in Paul Shortino for Free, and getting good reviews for it.

IMG_20150607_142053

So talent aside, there’s no worries there.  There are two major issues with this record.  One: the muddy Spencer Proffer production which lays a muffly blanket over the band.  All but Appice of course, who bears a very Frankie Banali-like sound on this album. The guitars are empty transistor radio renditions of what guitars should sound like. Two: filler material kept Ready To Strike from fulfilling its potential.

It’s not all filler of course — much of it is damn good.  The first three tracks in a row (“Ready to Strike”, “Hunger”, and “Shadow Rider”) are all really good, actually.  Famously, “Hunger” became a minor hit, although it was actually written by Canada’s Kick Axe, and recorded by them under the name Spectre General, for Transformers: The Movie in 1986!  I prefer the King Kobra version, because Mark Free really nailed that vocal.

Other decent tunes include “Shake Up”…I mean, it’s OK.  It has a good pre-chorus, “And the beat goes on and on and on…”, but the lines about home work and yard work were pretty goofy even back then. Like that one, “Tough Guys” is also a good tune (mid-tempo mellow rocker) sunk by a bad lyric. “The world’s greatest lie, is that all of us tough guys don’t cry.” No thanks, not cranking that one with the windows down.

Crummy tunes: “Attention”, “Piece of the Rock”, “Breakin’ Out” and “Dancing With Desire”. Stinky. I can’t decide how I feel about the overwrought “Second Thoughts”.

Overall: Middle of the road album that neither astounds nor repulses. It has enough good tunes to warrant a place in my collection. How about you?

3/5 stars

GALLERY: Record Store Excursion 2012 Supplimental

Aaron sent me these photos too late to include in my video report.  These were taken at Sonic Boom Music, and Pauper’s Pub.

Mmm, beer.

I’ve also compiled some of the photos of discs that I scored that day, from some of my review blogs.

And lastly, the video is below, in case you missed it!

REVIEW: Carmine Appice – Carmine Appice (1981)

Next in line of my reviews from Record Store Excursion 2012!  Check out the video below if you missed it.  This one bought at Paradise Bound.  If you recall, this is actually one of two drummer solo albums I bought that day, the other being Over The Top by Cozy Powell.

MIKE AND AARON GO TO TORONTO

CARMINE APPICE – Carmine Appice (1981, CBS/Pasha)

Well hey.  He did co-wrote “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy”, and that ended up being one of Rod’s more massive hits.  Why not do a solo album?

Carmine co-wrote all tracks herein, and sings lead as well.  There are a couple interesting co-writes:  “Drum City Rocker” was co-written by an unknown named Vincent Cusano.  Cusano would later change his name to Vinnie Vincent when he joined Kiss the following year.  Another alumnus from the school of Gene & Paul, Ron Leejack (ex-Wicked Lester) “Am I Losing You”.

The sound is pop rock with pounding drums, a sound I don’t mind too much.  I’ve always been a fan of Carmine’s drumming, and his drum sound here is what I like.  A big snare drum that sounds like a snare drum, lots of toms and a non-stop approach.

The songs are not great, especially dreadful is a tribal keyboard-drenched “Paint It Black”.  Perhaps inspired by Ian Paice, Carmine chose this Stones cover for a drum salvo.  He plays it very tribal but…how many people have done covers of this song and buggered them up?  Most.  The minority do it well.

Better is the ballad “Blue Cafe” with its mournful sounding vocal and keyboard lines.  The rockers fare less well, with “Have You Heard” and “Keep On Rolling” both sounding pretty weak kneed for rock songs.  The drumming’s great of course, the singing less so.  Carmine barely holds it together at times.

“Sweet Senorita” which closes side one is a Bon Jovi-esque rocker that might have been hit worthy in 1981.  Really the weakest aspect of the album is the vocal.  Carmine’s voice lacks character, sounding very much like Joe Pop Singer.  It’s too bad because “Sweet Senorita” boasts a great groove and fine guitar solo, along with memorable hooks.

Side two opens with a drum salvo!…and then this lame vocal part kicks in, “Drum city, drum city…”  Yes, it’s “Drum City Rocker”.  Why couldn’t they have left it instrumental?  It’s otherwise fine, with punchy drum fills and a great boogie!

“Hollywood Heartbeart”, much like the earlier song “Keep On Rolling” sounds like a Journey reject, without any of Steve Perry’s vocal grace.  They sound like pale imitations.  I had higher hopes for Phil Spector’s “Be My Baby”, being a personal favourite.  Thankfully this is more suited to Carmine’s style and he doesn’t butcher it.   The backing vocals are pretty sucky though.

“Am I Losing You” is another strong ballad, a good song, a decent vocal from Carmine.  I hate buying a rock album only to find that the best songs are the ballads, but in this case, that’s the way it is.  Both ballads are good and have some feeling to them.

“Drums Drums Drums” closes the album, and as you can guess, it’s a plethora of drums…with Carmine’s annoying vocals!  “Drums drums drums…” he sings.  This is followed by an awful “Heyyyyy, heyyy, heyyy–o!” section.

Produced by Richard Polodor.  It has this dry, dull sound kind like a Peter Criss solo album.

The record sleeve has an ad (expiring December 31, 1982) to send $12 to buy Carmine’s own book, The Ultimate Realistic Rock Drum Method!  A quick Amazon search reveals that the book is still in print today, available for $18 on Amazon.

2/5 stars

Part 128: VIDEO BLOG – Mike & Aaron Go To Toronto! (now with Store Report Card!)

Join Mike and Aaron as they hunt for rare albums!

REPORT CARD

Sonic Boom, 782 Bathurst St – 5/5 stars

BMV, 471 Bloor Street West – 3.5/5 stars (Mike) 4/5 stars (Aaron)

Rotate This, 801 Queen St. W – 3/5 stars  (no rating from Aaron)

Pauper’s Pub,  539 Bloor Street West – 3.5/5 stars

Paradise Bound, 270 August Ave – 4/5 stars * note I got the name wrong in the video

Moonbean, 30 Saint Andrew Street – 5/5 stars

Sonic Boom Kensington, 201 Augusta Ave – 4.5/5 stars

HMV, 333 Yonge Street – 1.5/5 stars

Sunrise, 220 Yonge Street, 1.5/5 stars (no rating from Aaron)

 

See what Aaron bought by clicking here!

FINAL NOTE:  I procured a the Japanese import from eBay a week later, October 27, for $41, free shipping.