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REVIEW: Ted Nugent – Double Live Gonzo! (1978)

scan_20161129-2TED NUGENT – Double Live Gonzo! (1978 CBS)

Ted Nugent has expressed his displeasure with Double Live Gonzo! I wish I still had the 1990 magazine interview where he trashed the record, because I have to strongly disagree. To these ears, Double Live Gonzo! is another one of those incredible 1970s cornerstone live albums that every self respecting rocker should listen to at least once. It’s the album that spawned the name “Nashville Pussy”, and houses the definitive live take of “Great White Buffalo”.

Double Live Gonzo! was recorded at multiple shows. The shout-outs to Nashville and San Antonio (“suck my bone-i-o!”) make that obvious, but it’s not a detriment to the LP. With Derek St. Holmes on guitar and vocals, Ted and the gang bring the rock and roll noise to the best party in town. All you have to do is hit play and hold on tight.  It’s an intimidating track list at first: three songs run over 10 minutes, with the majority over 5:00. There is Terrible Ted on the front cover, covering his ears as if in pain from the powerful feedback contained inside.

Ted’s hits are present (“Catch Scratch Fever”, “Stranglehold”, “Yank Me Crank Me”) but are overshadowed by more epic rock orgasms. “Great White Buffalo” and its incredibly dexterous riff is the main attraction.  Though this song was originally recorded by Nugent’s Amboy Dukes, the live version is the most important.  Love Ted or hate him, no serious rockers should have to live without “Great White Buffalo” in their collections.   It’s all about that riff, which is hard to duplicate but impossible to forget.

The Indian and the buffalo,
They existed hand in hand,
The Indian needed food,
He needed skins for a roof,
But he only took what they needed, baby,
Millions of buffalo were the proof.

But then came the white man,
With his thick and empty head,
He couldn’t see past the billfold,
He wanted all the buffalo dead,
Everything was so sad.

The Amboy Dukes’ “Hibernation” grandstands with some equally impressive musical chops (as do all the songs).  Almost as good as “Hibernation” itself is its live intro.  Ted introduces his guitar to the crowd:  “This guitar right here is guaranteed to blow the balls off a charging rhino at sixty paces,” he claims.  “You see this guitar definitely refuses to play sweet shit, you know, it just refuses.”  However “Hibernation” is pretty sweet, as far as rock n’ roll goes.

If you are looking for some “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”, then Terrible Ted has your prescription:  it’s “Just What the Doctor Ordered”.  The Nuge has done a few live albums over the years, but none as beloved as Double Live Gonzo!  For its minor faults (it could sound beefier with less crowd noise), Double Live Gonzo! serves the needs of the masses looking for some full bluntal Nugentity. His gut-busting guitar playing can’t be touched and with Derek St. Holmes in the house, you also don’t have to listen to Ted singing lead on every track.

Double Live Gonzo! isn’t just for guitar players, but guitarists will absolutely dig Ted’s incredible licks and control of feedback. Few guitarists can command the instrument like Ted does. Players will find much to examine, while the average listener can just look forward to a double serving of 1970s live rock. No lyrical messages, just brutal sonic massages.

4.5/5 stars

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The back cover has a mis-print.  “Hibernation” is 16:55 long, not 6:55.

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REVIEW: Lionheart – Hot Tonight (1984)

LIONHEART – Hot Tonight (1984 CBS, 2008 Kreshendo reissue)

Are you fan of Iron Maiden?  The early stuff, circa their first LP?  If so, read on — but don’t get your hopes up.

If you’re a long-time reader, you may remember Lionheart from Record Store Tale Part 133: Die For Love.  A used copy, a Japanese import, came into the store in 1996, and I stupidly passed on it.  The story went:

“$20 used, but with my discount more like $15.  Still, I ended up passing on it.  I only really liked the one song, and I had other stuff to buy that week including the new Scorpions and King’s X.  So, I made a judgement call and threw it on the shelves.  I put a sticker on it that said “Dennis Stratton ex-Iron Maiden” and it sold in a couple weeks.

What I forgot to mention in that Record Store Tale was that some customer who claimed to be a “huge Iron Maiden fan”, who had “all the albums” didn’t know who Dennis Stratton was.  He saw the sticker on the disc and claimed we had it wrong.  Little did he know, he was shopping in the store managed by LeBrain.  And LeBrain was not wrong.

Yes, Dennis Stratton was in Iron Maiden for a little while.  He played on the legendary first album, and Lionheart was hyped as a “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” supergroup because the guy that was in Def Leppard before Rick Allen (Frank Noon) was also in Lionheart for a little while.  There were stupid amounts of lineup changes before and after the album, which also featured Rocky Newton who later ended up in M.S.G.  The singer was a hearthrob named Chad Brown who had a voice, though not a particularly unique one.

Their debut album release was a keyboard-inflected 80’s rock record with lots of attempts at concert-ready songwriting.  That means lots of synth.  The drums are hot, echoey samples and the keyboards are ubiquitous.  It’s all very sterile and smacks of ambitions unachieved.  There are attempts at Queen-like harmony vocals, but underwhelming attempts.  They were clearly trying to write songs with epic qualities that would impress the musically inclined.  The opening track “Wait for the Night” has shades of Phenomenon (particularly a song called “Kiss of Fire”), another “metal” supergroup from around the same time.  Phenomenon however had Glenn Hughes singing.  Chad Brown can sing, but his voice doesn’t have enough character.  He sounds exactly like a guy singing in a Foreigner tribute band, or perhaps Coverdale-Lite.

The best song is, by far, the single “Die For Love”.   The music video is legendary cheese.  I love videos where bands have to embark on some kind of adventure.  Remember when Queensryche had to defeat the Queen of the Reich?  Or Grim Reaper vs. a man-beast in “Fear No Evil”?  (For more on this subject, check out Record Store Tales Part 206: Rock Video Night.)  Lionheart had something like this for their “Die For Love” clip.  I know if I ever need somebody to rescue a damsel in distress from a weird creepy doctor, I’m picking the rescue team with no shirts under their jumpsuits!  Look at Dennis fucking Stratton!  He takes a dude out with a kick, while riffing on his guitar.  Talk about multi-tasking; where do you see this kind of skill set today?

Unintentionally funny video aside, “Die For Love” wins as a song.  With an unforgettable chorus, backed with a memorable riff and great performance, the track gets full marks.   Just like a stopped clock must be right twice a day, everything clicked on “Die For Love”.   For most people, it won’t make buying the album worthwhile.  Given my history with the song, and then letting the Japanese import slip through my fingers in ’96, I don’t regret buying this album for one song.

Even the title track, the decent and hard rocking “Hot Tonight” doesn’t save the album.  Ultimately, when you put the album away and try to recall how the songs went, they have completely evaporated.  Only “Die For Love” and parts of “Hot Tonight” and “Nightmare” still linger in my memory banks.  No focus.  Everything on this disc has been done by someone else, only better.  Whether it be Styx, Night Ranger, Whitesnake or any of the other bands that Lionheart sometimes sounds like, it’s all been done.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Bonham – The Disregard of Timekeeping (1989)

Scan_20160804 (2)BONHAM – The Disregard of Timekeeping (1989 CBS)

The rock press went nuts for Bonham in ’89.  Finally, after long wait, the son of legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham finally made his move into the music world.  Fans had seen him in The Song Remains the Same.  Some knew that Jason Bonham jammed with Zeppelin in 1988 at Atlantic’s 40th anniversary bash. It was a much more successful reunion than 1985’s Live Aid.

The music world in 1989 was far removed from the days of Zeppelin.  Pretty boys with big hair and flashy videos were the norm.  Bands who could get up there and jam for 20 minutes or more on a single track were few.  With much naiveté, the magazines drooled over Jason Bonham’s new band, simply and obviously called Bonham. The singer, a young Canadian named Daniel MacMaster, had the youthful curls and range of a young Robert Plant. The bassist, John Smithson, was a talented multi-instrumentalist just like John Paul Jones. The band had to be a quartet; there could be no other way. They tapped Bob Ezrin to produce, a guy who has never done anything that sounded like Led Zeppelin, but someone who was able to take young bands and push them ahead a few levels.

The resultant album The Disregard of Timekeeping attained a lot of attention, making many magazines’ year end lists.  Best new group, best new album, etc. etc.  And while it is an ambitious record for a debut, it does fall very short of those lofty marks.

Going for the bombastic, the CD opens with a two minute instrumental of keyboards, guitars, violins and the odd burst of drums.  It makes little impact besides setting up the first single “Wait For You”.  Conceptually, it sounds as if they collectively said, “Right, so let’s write a song that sounds like something that could have been on the next Zeppelin album after In Through the Out Door.”  So it’s big, echoey and loaded with keyboards and effects.  It does recall Zeppelin, particular the remarkable pipes of MacMaster.  It has the necessary big chorus that you needed to have in 1989, and the two sides of rock that Bonham inhabited were melded together in fine fashion.  “Wait For You” is a success, but Ezrin’s production in the late 80’s seemed hollow.

Is the Bonham DNA present? Yes, of course. It comes out most naturally via the drum parts, but a lot of the material sounds intentionally contrived. Still, there were a number of really good tracks on the album, enough to make it worth buying. Young Jason, sounding exactly like his dad, counts in the quality track “Guilty” with a “One, two, ha ha ha!” It sounds less like Led Zeppelin, and more like late-80’s Deep Purple. Which is fine of course; we’re talking about quality comparisons. Especially great though is John Smithson’s violin solo. I’m especially fond of the violin in rock music. I like out of the box thinking, and it’s this kind of experimentation that made Bonham more like Zeppelin in the long run. Smithson nails it with the perfect tone.

Another pretty decent tune is “Holding on Forever” which has a Zep funk, with a modern 80’s chorus. “Dreams” though is nearly tanked by a long intro, featuring a guy coming home, brushing his teeth, setting his alarm and going to bed. Yes, that is correct.  You have to listen to a guy coming home, brushing his teeth, and going to bed.  You gotta blame Bob Ezrin for that mistake. Who wants to buy a rock album and sit through a guy brushing his teeth…only to get a ballad out of it? At least “Dreams” is a decent, progressive sounding ballad, but in the CD/mp3 age, how many people are gonna hit “skip” before the actual song, while the guy hasn’t finished brushing his teeth?

Having unloaded their best songs on side one, the second side is a bit of a chore to complete. Songwriting was not the band’s strongest suit. The two best songs (“Wait For You” and “Guilty”) were co-written by Bob Ezrin, and I don’t think that’s insignificant. Other songs on the album, such as “Playing To Win”, “Cross Me and See”, and “Just Another Day”, are competent. What they lack is the magical ingredient that makes a song stay with you forever. Bonham embraced the past and present, modern production and old-fashioned playing, but that alone was not enough to forge a truly great album.

Finally the album left one of the most impressive songs for the end, “Room For Us All”, an ambitious track over seven minutes long. Soft and anthemic, “Room For Us All” has subtlety that is missing elsewhere on the album. It’s an impressive end…but too little, too late.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: Judas Priest – Painkiller (1990)

PAINKILLER_0001JUDAS PRIEST – Painkiller (Remastered, 1990 Sony)

In the late 80’s, after the robotic Priest…Live! and the false start that was Ram It Down, a lot of metal fans wrote off Judas Priest as a vital metal band.

They were a tad premature.

Perhaps it was Halford inking a few too many tattoos into his noggin, perhaps it was the long overdue departure of Dave Holland on drums, or maybe they were just pissed off. The band had spent the summer of 1990 defending themselves in the United States against accusations of murder. Not directly, but through “backwards messages” supposedly embedded on the ancient Stained Class album.* It was a show trial designed to blame bad parenting on someone else. But the band triumphed, and came back meaner and angrier than ever before.

Having written songs with a drum machine, Priest now needed a new drummer.  They selected Scott Travis of Racer X, the band that also spawned Paul Gilbert among others.  Travis, an American, was on board and the band bunked down in the studio with veteran producer Chris Tsangarides.  What resulted from this potent mix was the best record they’d done since at least Defenders, if not far earlier. Decks had been cleared, the band meant business. Travis threw down the double bass, a thrash metal sound previously unexplored by Judas Priest.  While looking forward, the album also distilled the sounds of Priest over the last 10 years.  It  put the turntable from 33 1/3 all the way up to 45 rpm.

PAINKILLER_0002This is over-the-top metal, shiny and mean. Halford’s screaming higher and harder than any time before, almost to the point of caricature, but not quite. This chrome plated beast blew away all reasonable expectations. Tipton and Downing still thought they were interesting enough guitar players to do lead break credits on every album, but it’s a touch I like. Tipton is the more experimental one and Downing the fast and reckless one. As a combo it works; the solos are interesting, adrenaline packed and suitable to the songs.

PAINKILLER_0004The production is loud and clear; at the time I felt this was one of the best produced metal albums I’d ever heard. The drums are so loud and clear that it hurts.  Travis is doing some serious steppin’ on the double bass. To steal a phrase from Halford, this is “primo thrash metal”. More accurately, speed metal.

Almost every song is worthy. Only a few fall flat. Painkiller was more about the overall direction than individual songs,  Yes, the lyrics are cartoony, but “Nightcrawler” takes it too far and is too repetitive with a spoken word section that should have been chopped. Also embarassing is “Metal Meltdown”, a speed metal blaster that tries but fails to be as dramatic as “Painkiller” itself.  On the positive side are the incendiary title track (still classic today), the ballad “A Touch of Evil”, and the riff-by-riff metal of “Leather Rebel”, “Hell Patrol” and “All Guns Blazing”.  You wouldn’t expect an album like Painkiller to have a lot of melody, but some of these tracks may surprise you.

Bonus tracks are the out-of-place “Living Bad Dreams” (a ballad which spoils the record) and an inferior live cut of “Leather Rebel”.

Still, quite the album!.  It really gets the blood pumping, even today. I wish it came with a DVD with the insane video of the title track. Check that out if you want to have a sweat.   A mighty if imperfect return.

4.5/5 stars

* The song in question, “Better By You, Better Than Me”, was pointedly re-released as a B-side on Priest’s next single, “Painkiller”.

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – QRIII (1986)

For Aaron’s KMA review of this CD, click here!

QUIET RIOT – QRIII (1986 CBS)

A short while ago, longtime LeBrain reader Deke and Jon from E-tainment Reviews brought up QRIII as a contender for Worst Quiet Riot of All Time.  Digging into the discussion, I mentioned 1995’s Down to the Bone as another possible contender.  Jon also mitigated QRIII by reminding us of the teriffic single “The Wild and the Young”; the only reason to own it.  So the jury is technically still out….

QRIII  certainly sucks.  I knew that I could do one of two things for its review:  Take a shit on the album cover and post a picture of that as the review, or lambaste it verbally and harshly.  Unable to decide between the two approaches, I instead decided on a first for mikeladano.com:  the very first Choose Your Own Review!(™)  Choose A) The Short One, or B) The Long One!

REVIEW A: The Short One

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REVIEW B:  The Verbose One

QRIII (actually Quiet Riot’s fifth album) did nothing to revitalize their career. DuBrow was fired shortly after, leaving no original members. Quiet Riot soldiered on for one more album and tour anyway (with Paul Shortino on the creatively titled album but redeeming QR), before breaking up.  In ’93 they finally reunited with Dubrow intact, on the decently heavy Terrified CD.

QRIII, released in 1986, was a sign of desperation closing in.  Rudy Sarzo was out, and in was Chuck Wright. The band had flatlined commercially, so what did they do? They copied everybody else’s formula for success. That means they incorporated an overabundance of keyboards, buried the guitar way down in the mix, sampled everything, recorded sappy and faceless ballads, glossed it all up, and basically snuffed out any spark that this band once had. I felt that they also copied Kiss somewhat in image, with bouffant hairdos and sequined gowns that looked like hand-me-downs from Paul Stanley’s Asylum wardrobe. DuBrow’s new wig didn’t help things.

There is the one song that rises above the stinky, putrid toxic morass that is QRIII. “The Wild and the Young”, despite its reliance on samples, is actually a really strong hard rock rebellion.  On this track, the studio techno-wizardry did its trick.  The song is irresistible, and remains a personal favourite.  The drums kill it, and the gang vocal chorus is catchy as hell.  The song was accompanied by a creative video, so I was suckered into buying the tape.   If I had only known there was just one good song, I wouldn’t have spent my hard earned allowance on QRIII.  More to the point, if I had known just how bad the rest of the album actually was, I would have steered way clear.  Everything is choked down in a mechanical slop of keys and samples.   These songs are so nauseating, so tepid, so embarrassing, that I really can’t say it with enough vigor.

The lyrics:  mostly pathetic nonsense.  “The Pump”:

Well let’s pump pump pump pump,
Strike it rich what you’re dreamin’ of,
Let’s pump pump pump pump,
We’re gonna hunt for gold, Gonna dig for love.

Then, throw in a Plant-esque moan of “Push, push, push, oh! oh! oh!.”  Serious.

Lastly there are the sadly misguided attempts at a “soulful” direction, which crash and burn gloriously. I’m sure in the studio, producer Spencer Proffer assured Quiet Riot that he was producing a hit album.  This would get them on radio and MTV, he might have guaranteed.  Meanwhile, the real situation was more like, “Let’s throw anything and everything to the wall and see what sticks, because this band’s asses are on the line this time.”  But it was the band who wrote this slop with Proffer, so they bear equal responsibility for the calamity.  I’m sure there were so many drugs in the air that “The Pump” actually seemed clever at the time.

QRIII will be remembered not as the album that knocked Quiet Riot down, (that honor goes to Condition Critical) but as the album that flat-out buried them. They would never be a serious commercial property again.

Do you enjoy the crash and burn of an astonishing train wreck? QRIII is for you.

0.5/5 stars

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