CD singles

REVIEW: Extreme – “There Is No God” (1994 CD single)

EXTREME – “There Is No God” (1994 A&M CD single)

Extreme’s underrated (extremely underrated!) fourth album Waiting For the Punchline was released in January of 1995.  Yet it was preceded by the 1994 single “There Is No God”, a three track disc with two B-sides included.  Waiting For the Punchline was Extreme’s “back to basics” album.  After the sprawling three sided magnum opus, III Sides To Every Story, Nuno desired to strip things back and funk things up.  Waiting For the Punchline was more raw and groovy, but not as the expense of quality.  Criminally underrated!

The A-side is technically still a non-album track!  The album cut of “There Is No God” is over six minutes; this one is a 4:25 edit.  The opening stuttery guitar remains.  What an awesome drum sound!  Paul Geary played on most of the album (you can tell which ones) and he just had a full, impactful drum sound on this album.  Meanwhile Gary Cherone was singing and writing as strong as ever, turning up the anger dial.  Nuno utilises minimum guitar overdubs (if any) and sounds absolutely wicked here.  His solo is exotic, and there’s no rhythm guitar behind him.  Just Pat Badger laying down the bottom end.  What a killer 90s rock tune, and you don’t really notice the edits until the fade-out.

Second up is a tune called “Never Been Funked”.  Nuno’s using a treatment on his guitar here, giving it an electronic moog-like sound.  This is a basic groove, punchy and to the point.  Not a lot in the way of hooks, just that guitar of Nuno’s, zigging and zagging.  As expected, his soloing and fills are just as bonkers.

The third and final B-side, “Better Off Dead”, is a completely different direction.  Waiting For the Punchline wasn’t a ballad album.  “Better Off Dead” would not have fit, although it has the same ambience as the album.  With minimal accompaniment, Gary and Nuno sing together through the opening.  When the band kicks in, it sounds like Mike Mangini on drums rather than Paul Geary.  (There are no credits.)  It’s a lovely song if a bit meandering.  It’s the longest tune at 5:40.  The outro guitar sounds like Jimmy Page!

Great single to pick up if you’re a fan of Extreme.  Especially if you love Waiting For the Punchline.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – “Woman From Tokyo” (Japanese CD single)

DEEP PURPLE – “Woman From Tokyo” (Originally 1973, 1998 Warner Japan CD reissue)

The 2:56 single edit of Deep Purple’s “Woman From Tokyo” is somewhat of a rarity on CD.  It’s not on the Singles A’s and B’s.  You could get it on a Japanese box set called Purple Chronicle.

The original song was almost six minutes, so half of the tune was chopped out for single release.  The intro is mangled.  The middle section is missing, and cut in such an amateurish way.  The guitar solo is missing.  Rule of thumb:  never cut the friggin’ guitar solo from a Deep Purple song, of all bands!  This is a butcher job of a single edit.  Probably why it never made the cut to Singles A’s and B’s.

The B-side “Super Trouper” is also 2:56, but unedited.  That’s just how the song goes, one of Purple’s shortest.  No, it’s not an Abba cover, but both songs were named after Super Trouper stage lights.  Some of Ian Gillan’s lyrics can be interpreted to be about his impending departure from Deep Purple. “I wanna be like I was before, but this time I’m gonna know the score.” A lot of looking in the rear view mirror in this song. A lot of past-tense.

Because of the butcher job on the “Woman From Tokyo” edit, the B-side here outshines the A-side.  The single at least has lyrics.  For collectors and analysts only!

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Tonic – “If You Could Only See” (1997 CD single)

TONIC – “If You Could Only See” (1997 Polygram CD single)

Tonic’s Lemon Parade was not a bad album at all.  Regardless of the strength of its deep cuts, it is now known for one song: “If You Could Only See”.  It put Tonic on the map, and it also put a bullet in their career.  If you’re over a certain age, you remember the powerful and tasteful ballad from when it hit the charts in 1997.  I had the album already.  I bought it when it first came out, after reading a glowing review in the local paper and seeing a used copy pop in at the Record Store.  Finding Jack Joseph Puig’s name in the producer credits got my attention too.

The single for “If You Could Only See” features the well known album version.  Acoustic, but only until the guitars punch in, this is a ballad with crunch and heart.  It’s a true story of an argument that singer Emerson Hart had with his mother, over a woman she did not approve of.  He simply said “If you could only see the way she loves me, maybe you would understand.”  And with that a song was born.  A hit song.

Three live tracks from Amsterdam round out the CD single.  Album opener “Open Up Your Eyes” is not a lightweight live version either, clocking in at over seven minutes.  Guitars drone and cry until they form the song’s main riff.  It’s not an overly heavy live version, just an awesome one where you can hear all the instruments clearly.  It breaks down in the middle, when the band plays at lower volume and gives the guitar space to just jam.  Great tune, and one that deserved more attention.

“Thick” was never one of the album highlights, but the live version is superior.  The vocals aren’t as high pitched, and it’s a more laid back vibe.  Not perfect, but more appealing than the album.  There’s some cool haphazard guitar shenanigans towards the end that are worth checking out.

Shame that “Casual Affair” is the shortest of the live tracks as it kicks the heaviest.  Not as tight or as slamming as the album version, but live versions are what they are.

These are not the greatest live tracks that have ever been put on a single, but certainly a welcome addition to any Tonic collection.  Their use of slide guitars and acoustics instruments separated them slightly from the rest of the competition.  Vintage live by the original lineup, and why not.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Rush – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD single)

RUSH – “Caravan” / “BU2B” (2010 CD Anthem single)

“Parts one and two of Clockwork Angels, a work in progress”.

That’s pretty monumental.  Rush were releasing two key tracks from their forthcoming studio album, a full concept album this time, well in advance.  Two years in advance.  Notably, this was a full concept album start to finish.  In the 70s, Rush were more known for half concept, half non-conceptual records.  The bands that Rush inspired like Queensryche and Dream Theater had done full concepts.  Now the original masters were taking a shot.

On the final album, “Caravan” is track one and “BU2B” is track two.  On this single the order is swapped.  “BU2B” (“Brought Up to Believe”) opens, although its intro changes on the album version.  “BU2B” absolutely slams.  “I was brought up to believe that the universe has a plan…”  Perhaps it opens this single because it sums up the overall album concept.  In a fictional world run precisely by a “Watchmaker”, a rebellious protagonist feels pulled in a direction different from that assigned to his life.  Questioning his reality, he embarks on his own adventures despite his mandated mundane role in society.  Musically, after the metallic riff has done its business, Neil Peart takes the spotlight a moment as the song shifts.  Geddy lays down the heavy bottom end while Alex strikes hither and yon with lightning-like licks.  Clearly a classic in the making.

“Caravan”, the final album opener, sounds pretty much the same as the record.  It establishes the setting, “in a world lit only by fire…”  The riff is a major feature, a deliberate, descending rock monster that feels just right in the guts.  The lyrics paint a picture of a steampunk world, half explored, with alchemy and ancient knowledge.

Clockwork Angels wound up as one of the greatest final albums by any band anywhere any time.  This single is a nice add-on, a reminder of the long careful gestation period that created a masterpiece.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rod Stewart – “Leave Virginia Alone” (1995 CD single)

ROD STEWART – “Leave Virginia Alone” (1995 Warner CD single)

Rod Stewart’s album A Spanner in the Works came out during my first year at the Record Store.  I have a lot of fond memories of hearing certain songs.  “Leave Virginia Alone” was one of them.  Tom Petty penned this acoustic mid-tempo hit.  Petty wrote it during the 1994 Wallflowers sessions, though his version was not released until after his passing.  Though it has a certain unmistakable Petty quality, Stewart makes it his own song simultaneously.  Like an electron caught between two positive charges, “Leave Virginia Alone” is both quintessentially Rod and Tom at once.  My preference is to Rod’s rendition.

The B-side is an exclusive non-album song called “Shock To The System”. To my knowledge it’s never been released anywhere else, making this brief single worth owning for fans.  It’s a guitar based rocker with funky bass and a nice fat horn section backing Rod. Good song.  Sounds like vintage 70s Rod, with 90s production.  A bit like “Hot Legs”.  Probably considered not commercial enough for a 90s Rod album.

4/5 stars. Good, but too brief.

REVIEW: King’s X – “A Box” (1996 CD single)

quiz

Complete studio albums (and more!), part 8.5


KING’S X – “A Box” (1996 Warner Germany CD single)

In 2022, the “King’s” are returning, so today let us look back on some of their fine 90s output.  1996 was the year of Ear Candy, the progressive giants’ most commercially accessible album to date.  It was produced by Canadian Arnold Lanni (ex-Frozen Ghost, Sheriff) and the songs were straightforward and hook-based compared to what came before and after.

Last year, we curated some King’s X lists with Martin Popoff right here, and he rated the single “A Box” in his top five.  The version included on this single is an edit, over a minute shorter than the album cut, with the cut material being mostly outro.  Dug Pinnick is always passionate but you can really feel him on “A Box”.  “There is no room inside a box,” goes the chorus, and one has to wonder if this box is one to break out of, to retreat to, or both.  The song gives voice to loneliness and anger, but also sings of “a place to run and hide, just a place to free your mind.”  It is a ballad with strong lyrics, unforgettable melody, Ty Tabor’s signature guitar glow, and an absolutely wicked Jerry Gaskill drum sound, thanks to the magical knob-twiddling touch of Arnold Lanni.

One album cut is included, which is “Looking For Love” from Ear Candy, another one of its strongest tunes.  This one smokes of anger and frustration.  It also contains the key lyric, “I guess I lost my faith,” which is true.  Dug was once Christian but left the church around Dogman.  Yet it’s also melodically one of the strongest songs, which helps back up that killer Ty Tabor riff.

The non-album B-side is a rarity called “Freedom”.  Unlike the album which was recorded with Lanni in California, “Freedom” came from a self-produced session in Houston.  Sonically it does not fit with the boldly in-your-face Ear Candy, but it does offer another Ty Tabor lead vocal.  It’s a bit more sparse and hard-hitting, but still boasts the patented King’s X harmony vocals on the chorus.  There’s a cool melody buried in the outro too.  Overall, it is not as strong as Ear Candy as a whole, but as a bonus track, it’s more than adequate.  Ty’s singing will be the highlight for many fans as he really goes for it.

Great single, and thank you Martin Popoff for inspiring the purchase.

4.5/5 stars

KING’S X review series:

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 8.5 – “A Box” (1996 CD single)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)
Part 16 – Ogre Tones (2005)
Part 17 – XV (2008)

REVIEW: Live – “Heaven” (2003 CD single)

LIVE – “Heaven” (2003 Universal CD single)

If the goal is to review “everything” in the collection, then we must dig deep.  Sometimes you find things that you forgot you owned.  Things you have not listened to in 19 years.  Things you bought “for the collection” because they were cheap (staff discount).  This single would have cost me about two bucks.  Live were a good band once; Throwing Copper was a 90s staple.  I remember giving the Birds of Pray album some store play, and I think it might have been OK but obviously I didn’t feel it enough to buy it or I’d still have it today.

Let’s check out the two track “Heaven” CD single, without remembering a single thing about it.

The opening vocals on “Heaven” are an immediate turn off.  Nasal-y and annoying.  The chorus is pretty good, lots of crunchy guitars, but it almost sounds like a parody of this kind of 90s rock.  The production is excellent though; the drums really slam and the guitars cut through.  This song gets a passing grade though it’s nothing special and the lyrics are kinda irritating.

I don’t need no one, to tell me about Heaven
I look at my daughter, and I believe
I don’t need no proof
When it comes to God and truth
I can see the sunset and I perceive, yeah

I liked when Live used to sing about living in a “Shit Towne”, but this is little too much limburger.  Indeed, they did call the album Birds of Pray….

The B-side is a track called “Forever Might Not Be Long Enough”, and this is the “Egyptian Dreams Mix” of said song.  Hard pass.  The exotic loops that open are cool but then the dance beats kick in.  No idea what the original sounded like and I have to wonder if I have ever played this CD before or if this is the first time.

Back on the shelf!

2/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Ugly Kid Joe – Menace to Sobriety / “Milkman’s Son” single (1995)

UGLY KID JOE – Menace to Sobriety (1995 Polygram)

Let me tell ya folks, this album ain’t bad. Ugly Kid Joe made it hard to take them seriously sometimes, but on their second full-length Menace to Sobriety, they did what most jokey bands eventually do: Get serious. Get heavy. With former Wrathchild America drummer Shannon Larkin replacing original member Mark Davis, perhaps this was inevitable.  If not, co-producer GGGarth made it inevitable.

The first single “Tomorrow’s World” was dark-edged modern metal. No jokes, no wit, just Whit, givin’ ‘er at top lung. The album would pretty much follow suit. It felt like they got one side of their personalities out of their systems for the moment and wanted to do something a little more true to the heart.

An instrumental intro just called “Intro” gets a couple heavy riffs out of way in short order. The new drummer’s thick presence is felt immediately. This intro jumps right into “God”, a heavy wade through the mosh pit, spilling hooks all over the floor in violent celebration. Whitfield Crane sounds more menacing, but he’s still obviously the charismatic frontman. Cool wah-wah inflected solo too, which was one of the only ways you could make guitar solos work in 1995.

When “Tomorrow’s World” first hits, it’s with a beat and a rolling bass line, perfectly on brand for the 90s. After the quietly tense opening verses, Whit and the band rip it wide open with another ferocious riff and chorus. It’s well within Black Sabbath’s backyard (U.S. campus), while keeping a foot in 90s. A perfect mix of integrities.

Tempos get faster on “Clover”, with Whit taking his throat even further. The riffs are still the foundation, this one a little bit Priest-like. If the lyrics to “God” were a little on the nose at times, they’re more interesting in light of this one from “Clover”. “I was tempted, but the apple made me stronger.” Whitfield then screams that he’s here to free us. There’s more going on here than a guy who just hates “everything about you”.

The funky side returns on the speedy “C.U.S.T.” (“Can’t You See Them”).  Whit speed-raps through the impressive verses while the band jams hard underneath, wah-wah now back center stage.  Great tune and in fact better than some of the competition’s songs in this genre at the same time.  There’s a killer, clever percussion break in the middle that differentiates Ugly Kid Joe from the bands who were leading the pack.

“Milkman’s Son” was the single, an electric ballad and rightfully chosen.  It’s not soft, there’s a tasty jagged riff to keep it cool, but this is clearly the one that fills the part of prior Ugly Kid Joe hits such as “Busy Bee”.  Great tune, if a bit doomed.

The grind of a bass groove returns on “Suckerpath”, which seems about to about avoiding the ego and big head of rock stardom.  “Never goin’ down a suckerpath, baby,” insists Whit.  Unlike a lot of the tunes on Menace to Sobriety, “Suckerpath” never really explodes with power the way they have so far.  It remains in this wallowing groove, which rocks but never quite satisfies.

Another ballad:  “Cloudy Skies” has the kind of twang where you could called it “Western Skies”.  Still electric; no acoustic softness to be found, but quite excellent.  Crane seems to have tapped into something heartfelt here, and his singing is excellent.  Sticking to tunes with broad appeal, “Jesus Rode A Harley” is one of the most straight ahead and upbeat tracks on the album.

There’s an AC/DC vibe to the opening of “10/10” but then it goes pure grunge groove.  Suitably dark, impressively heavy, and utilizing tricks like conga and slide.  There’s a direction on this album and “10/10” is right down the middle.  Not an outstanding track overall but one you can headbang along to quite easily.  At the end, Whit tries to go full metal scream and does pretty good. This actually leads pretty well into the Priestly vibes on “V.I.P.”.  Priest circa Hell Bent, with a touch of Halford’s Fight.  The lead vocals are Jon Oliva from Savatage to a tee, whether intentional or not.

Finally, the jokey side emerges on “Oompa”, which is exactly what you think it is.  A heavy metal version of the Oompa Loopma song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  And why not?  Green Jelly were having hits with this kind of song.  It’s only two minutes long and hey…it’s Ugly Kid Joe. And just misdirection.  That’s not how the album’s supposed to end.

After long last, the acoustic guitars come out on the tender closer “Candle Song”.  There’s more than a hint of western twang, but if you wanted a traditional hard rock ballad closer, here you go.  “Candle Song” is excellent way to take the listener down after such intensely heavy rocking.

The band isn’t entirely done with their sense of humour.  Open up the booklet and you will find a rental house bill for damages including a food fight.  Total cost:  $12,896.81.

4/5 stars


UGLY KID JOE – “Milkman’s Son” / “Tomorrow’s World” (1995 Mercury CD single)

This single seems kind of like a double header between “Milkman’s Son” and “Tomorrow’s World” which was the music video getting all the play on MuchMusic at the time.  Two of the best tracks from the album, they are a terrific one-two punch for this CD single.

The bonus tracks are quite cool.  There’s a 1994 version of “God”, which is structurally the same but rougher sounding.  Amazing how close to the final mark it was.  Then there’s a really rough demo of “C.U.S.T.” but still very close to its final form.  Hearing these somewhat flatter sounding early versions after listening to the album is really interesting, since it is so consistently pounding, especially in the bass.

Great single for bonus material and a good score if you can find one.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Urge Overkill – “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” (CD Single)

URGE OVERKILL “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” (1994 CD Single)

“Sister Havana” may have put Nash Kato and Eddie “King” Roeser on the map, but it was their Neil Diamond cover “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” that put them in the ears of almost 10,000,000 Pulp Fiction soundtrack buyers.  Even the Tarantino novice knows that the auteur director has a way and a vision with soundtracks.  Urge Overkill were the beneficiaries of that vision when their 1992 cover (from the Stull EP) was used in one of the most dramatic, well performed and memorable scenes in Pulp Fiction.  You remember it well, don’t you?  Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), who seems to only own Urge Overkill on a reel to reel tape*, hits “play” and starts singing and dancing around the room.  Meanwhile, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) is having a moment with himself in the bathroom with a monologue about loyalty.  Then Mia finds a baggie of heroin in his coat pocket, mistakes it for coke, and overdoses.  Blood runs down her nose as Nash sings, “Soon, you’ll be a woman”.  Powerful imagery.

It would have made more sense for Neil Diamond to be on the reel to reel tape, but let’s not complain.  Urge Overkill’s cover is brilliant, not deviating far from the original.  As the song sways and cha-chas like Mia Wallace in her mansion, the trio are accompanied by piano, acoustics and percussion.  Kato nails the vibe vocally; his voice is just lower and rougher than Neil Diamond’s.

The single has two B-sides:  One from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and one from Urge Overkill’s Saturation album (on which “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” does not appear).  “Dropout” from Saturation is an unexpected tune, focused on a synth-y beat, a couple acoustic guitars and a single keyboard hook.  Lead vocals are by drummer Blackie Onassis, accompanied by subtle female backing vocals.  It’s actually a really cool song, difficult to describe adequately.  It’s stripped down and laid back with minimal sound effects and a focus on the way the vocals are layered.  You would not think it was the same band who did the first track!  This cut is slightly edited down at the end from the album version, by 10 seconds.

Finally The Tornadoes close the single with their surf-rock instrumental “Bustin’ Surfboards” from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.  Think back to the film and you’ll remember this music.  Jody, Rosanna Arquette’s piercing-obsessed character, is playing the tune when Travolta comes by to score some drugs from Eric Stoltz.  This is a vintage track, featuring the sound of crashing waves over the surfin’ guitars and whammy bars.

When you think about it, the track listing for this single is actually quite cool.  For the average Pulp Fiction fan, they were getting a second Urge Overkill song that they wouldn’t have come across otherwise.  For the UO fan, they were getting the A-side and a Tornadoes tune from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack that they might dig.  Something for both scenarios.

And yes, before you ask, the “damaged” CD artwork seen below is just part of the artwork.  Like an old worn pulp fiction novel.

4/5 stars

* Teac were still making reel to reel machines in the early 90s.

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Slang” (1996 UK single)

Part Nineteen of the Def Leppard Review Series

Alternate review:  “Slang” Souvenir pack single

DEF LEPPARD – “Slang” (1996 UK Mercury single)

Kobayashi Maru:  The no-win scenario.  By 1996 the musical landscape had drastically shifted.  Five years of musical upheaval had left many bands in the dust, but Leppard were one of the few survivors.  They simply could not rest of their laurels, and they knew that.  Had Def Leppard come out with another soundalike album in 1996, they would have been accused of retreading the outdated and obsolete 1980s.

We knew Leppard were interested in a more organic way of recording after being locked in studios for so many years.  Their interest in acoustic music was now expressing itself in songs like “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a truly excellent if obscure Japanese Vault bonus track that was also included as a B-side from the new album Slang.  If a track this solid was considered a B-side, you could imagine what the new album was going to be like.  It was a positive sign.  But the album wasn’t going to be acoustic.  Where were Leppard headed this time?

A clue was revealed by the title track, released as a single in May 1996.  Def Leppard had returned to experimentation.  Just as Hysteria was different from Pyromania, now they finally had something just as different from Hysteria.

With hip-hop beats and a big guitar, “Slang” shocked the faithful.  Rick Allen was starting to incorporate acoustic drums back into his kit and they sounded fresh and hot.  All the old Leppard ingredients were shaken n’ stirred, and the new concoction was an acquired addiction.  It’s an upbeat celebration of the new Leppard.  They had indeed gone outside the box.  They had to.  And they did it with creativity and integrity whether you like it or not.

This UK single came with three acoustic bonus tracks, all recorded for the BBC.  Continuing their acoustic side road, “Animal” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” fare well in acoustic form.  Other acoustic versions were coming, on a limited 2 CD edition of Slang (which we will discuss when we get to that disc of CD Collection Vol 2).

The real treat of this single is the acoustic version of “Ziggy Stardust” (also included on CD Collection Vol 3).  A brilliant take, in fact.  Most bands sound like jackasses trying to cover classic Bowie.  Not Def Leppard.  Their acoustic version has just as much edge as an electric take would.  Joe Elliott’s penchant for Bowie will become relevant a few years down the road, when we take a detour on a Cybernautic misadventure.

“Sugar” and “Animal” acoustic at the BBC remain exclusive to this single.  Worth tracking down.  Though ultimately there are other recordings out there, these are just as good and collectible as ever.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault
  18. Video Archive

Next:

20. Slang