CD singles

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

#946: Novel 30 Year-Old CD Packaging

RECORD STORE TALES #946: 30 Year-Old Novel CD Packaging

It’s not every day that I run into a CD packaging design that is new to me.  From all sorts of digipacks, to variations on the classic jewel case, to the SACD and DVD Audio, I thought I had seen it all.  Today I found one that is new to me.  It belongs to a CD single by the Scottish band Gun, from their first album Taking on the World.  That dates the single to over 30 years ago, so it’s surprising I haven’t seen anything like it before.

This is how it happened.  I was looking for a specific Metallica single (“The Unnamed Feeling”) to begin completing my St. Anger collection.  (I still need the Australian version with unique Australian live tracks, and an annoying version with a remix on it.)  Because I don’t like to buy just one thing, I checked other discs that the seller was offering.  I chose a 1994 Jackyl single for “Push Comes to Shove”, and the Gun single.  It was the title track from Taking on the World, a brilliant song itself, backed by a 12″ mix of their other big single “Better Days” and a non-album cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word”.  The singles arrived in the mail last week and now I’m getting around to listening.

The Gun single comes in a regular thin cardboard sleeve, like many typical CD singles.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  I popped out the disc, and what should I find inside?  Not the usual 5″ single, no.  This is a 3″ single, much less common.

I have seen 3″ singles come in four different kinds of cases before.

1. Simple 3″ cardboard sleeve, like this copy of Queen’s First E.P.

2. 3″ Jewel case, like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” 2021 release.  (Click here to see a version of the same jewel case, but sold with a blank 3″ CDr.)

3. This unusual white plastic stickered case, from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.

4. Finally and least interestingly…just a regular 5″ CD single jewel case.

The Gun CD, released on A&M Records in 1990, is now the fifth storage system I’m found for the 3″ disc.  From inside the regular 5″ cardboard sleeve came a 3″ CD attached to a white plastic tray.  I have never seen one like it before.  It is specifically designed to hold 3″ discs, and has a three-pronged center to grasp the CD securely.

Isn’t it fascinating that after almost four decades of collecting music over different formats, that I just found a packaging design that I’ve never encountered in my travels?  I spent 12 years in a used CD store and this is the first 3″ white plastic tray I’ve ever seen.  Thank you Discogs!

#942: My Brushes With Metallica

RECORD STORE TALES #942: My Brushes With Metallica

I don’t mind admitting that my first Metallica was Load.  Yeah, I was one of them.  Hate on if you gotta.

Like many my age, the first exposure came in 1988 via their first music video:  “One”.  To say the visuals were disturbing would be accurate.  Although I did enjoy the song, I didn’t feel the need to hit “record” on my VCR when it come on.  Other kids at school sure liked it, and copies of Johnny Got His Gun were claimed to have been read by some of them.  I figured I could continue to live without Metallica.

The Black album was released in 1991.  I was watching live when Lars Ulrich called in to the Pepsi Power Hour to debut the new music video for “Enter Sandman”.  The new, streamlined and uber-produced Metallica looked and sounded good to me.  I loved when James said “BOOM!” and thought that hooking up with Bob Rock had worked out brilliantly.  The sonics were outstanding.  While I enjoyed the singles Metallica released through the next couple years, I never took a dive and bought the album.  Why?

Three main reasons.  The key one was that I knew, even before I knew I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that I would feel compelled to collect all the Metallica singles that I had missed over the years.  That was, as yet, a bridge too far.  Second reason was that I satisfied my craving for that style of Metallica in 1992 when Testament came out with The Ritual.  It had a track like “Sandman” called “Electric Crown”.  It had a song like “Sad But True” called “So Many Lies”.  It was perfect for my needs.  Thirdly, for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to enjoy “old” Metallica, which again, I would feel compelled to collect.

When I started working at the Record Store in 1994, I had the night shifts alone.  I could play whatever I wanted and sometimes I gave Metallica a spin.  I can remember “Enter Sandman” coming on while I was cleaning, and saying to a customer, “Man I love this song!”  He nodded awkwardly and wondered why I was telling him.

A bit later I was hanging out with this guy Chris.  He was extolling the virtues of thrash metal, and put on Kill ‘Em All.  I was astonished when “Blitzkrieg” came on.  “I know this song!  I love this song!”  I exclaimed as I jumped up.  Air guitar in hand, I started bangin’ to the riff.  “This is a song by Blitzkrieg,” I explained to Chris.  “It’s on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal CD that Lars Ulrich produced.  I didn’t know he covered it.”

This is the point at which I like to say I became a Metallica fan.  Collecting the older stuff was still daunting, and a lot of it was expensive because it was out of print.  Which is really why it took Load for me to finally buy a Metallica CD.

1996 was a glorious but so stressing summer!  I was managing my own Record Store for the first time.  The weather was gorgeous.  The stock we had was incredible.  The stress came from staff, which turned over faster than a dog begging for belly rubs!  There was “Sally” who was caught paying herself excessive amounts of cash for the used CDs she was selling to the store.  There was The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd who came to work hungover and worse.  And, most trying of all, music sucked for people like me who missed the great rock of the 70s and 80s.

On June 4, Metallica released Load to great anticipation.  Their new short-haired look (a Lars and Kirk innovation) turned heads and it was said that Metallica had abandoned metal and gone alternative.  Of course this was stretching the truth a tad.  Metallica had certainly abandoned thrash metal on Load, and arguably earlier.  Alternative?  Only in appearance (particularly Kirk Hammett with eye makeup and new labret piercing).

Load was the kind of rock I liked.  The kind of rock I missed through the recent alterna-years.  I had been buying Oasis CDs just to get some kind of new rock in my ears.  Finally here comes Metallica, with the exact kind of music that I liked, and at the exact time I needed it.

And yes, I did immediately start collecting the rarities and back catalogue.  Garage Days and Kill ‘Em All (with “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil?”) were both out of print at that time.  I snapped up the first copies I could get my hands on, when they came in used inventory.  We were selling them for $25 each, no discount.  I later found a copy of a “Sad But True” single featuring the coveted “So What” at Encore Records for $20.  The new Load singles were added to my collection upon release.  The truth is, I picked the best possible time to get into Metallica collecting:  when I was managing my own used CD store!  I soon had the “Creeping Death” / “Jump In the Fire” CD.  A Japanese import “One” CD single only cemented what a lucky bastard I was to be working there.

Because Metallica came to me relatively later in life, today they never provoke the kind of golden memories that Kiss or Iron Maiden do.  However the summer of ’96 was defined by Metallica.  Driving the car, buddy T-Rev next to me, playing drums on his lap.  His hands and thighs got sore from playing car-drums so hard.  Load was our album of the summer and it sounded brilliant in the car.  Hate if you hafta, but that’s the way it went down for this guy in the dreary 90s.

 

REVIEW: Metallica – Enter Sandman (Remastered 2021 German CD singles)

METALLICA – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered 2021 German CD singles – 5″ Maxi CD and 3″ Pockit-CD)

The Black Album box set is coming!  Batten down your wallet because it looks absolutely incredible.  Yet on the 14 CDs and 6 DVDs, you won’t find the specific live tracks released only in Germany on the new set of “Enter Sandman” CD singles.  (There is also a glow-in-the-dark vinyl single, but it is missing the live tracks.)  All the discs maintain the style and design of Metallica’s original 1991-1992 singles.  This is an appetiser for what is to come, including two of the newly remastered Metallica tracks.  Proceeds went to German charity.

“Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are the two remastered studio cuts included.  The remastering sounds good and the tracks are not brickwalled.  Fans will be pleased to know that Metallica opted out of the Loudness Wars this time.  Good thumping bass, nice and prominent.  Crisp, clear, and loud enough.  “Sad But True” is really punchy.

The live tracks are all taken from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, shows not included in the box set.  The 5″ Maxi-CD and 3″ Pockit-CD each contain two exclusives.  Just like in the days of old, you have to buy both formats to get all the tracks.

“Through the Never” is one of the thrashiest songs from the Black era, and the very dry recording here is evidence of non-tampering.  Tasty wah-wah from Kirk Hammett.  “Damage, Inc.” brings thrash the old school way, Metallica as frantic as ever, barely holding it all together, but making the heads bang no matter what.  By the end it’s a total steamroller.

The teeny little 3″ CD is no less mighty.  “Of Wolf and Man” is choppy and heavy.  Hunting relentlessly like the titular wolf, Metallica are out for blood.  What’s really wild is the long jammy section at the end which contains a surprise.  Finally the Budgie cover of “Breadfan” ends the whole series of tracks with an explosive go-for-the-throat attitude.  Sloppy but foot on the gas the whole way.

What’s better than a wicked set of Metallica CD singles, including a 3″?  What could beat that?  How about if both discs were pressed in black plastic?  Would that do anything for ya?  These limited singles are sure to be collectible for their exclusive tracks and unique traits.  Try the German Amazon site for international shipping.  Contrary to a report in Bravewords, these singles do ship worldwide.

4/5 stars

#924.5: Rippin’

RECORD STORE TALES #924.5:  Rippin’ 

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and since we’re stuck in Kitchener instead of the lake this time, I spent my Saturday ripping music to hard drive.  And then backing up that hard drive to about five other devices.  I’ve been slowly but surely putting my collection on the ol’ PC for years now, in spurts.  Huge catalogues of bands have gone un-ripped due to negligence.  It’s fun to do when I’m looking for something to listen to that I haven’t heard in a while.

Right now I’m working on my Soundgarden.  Most of my Soundgarden was sitting there on the  shelves unloved until now.  Before that, I updated my Nine Inch Nails folder with all my CDs.  Apparently I was collecting NIN right up to The Slip (2008), although I missed a few albums like The Fragile and Ghosts.

I enjoy doing pretty mechanical tasks, like combining “part 1” and “part 2” of a CD single into one folder.  Adjusting the id3 tags.  For my “March of the Pigs” double CD, I added in an mp3 of the live music video as a bonus track.  All the while, listening to this music I haven’t played in over a decade.

Remixes are not something I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from over the years, but bands like Nine Inch Nails flood their singles with them.   And I found myself enjoying quite a few of them.  The nine minute version of “Wish” from the Fixed EP is awesome.  Might even be my go-to version!  The “Clay” mix of “Head Like a Hole” (which is on both the “black” and “pink” versions of the single) was quite enjoyable.  And I have a lot of Nine Inch Nails it seems.  Three bootlegs too, including Purest Feeling (early versions and unreleased songs), Demos & Remixes (which includes “Supernaut”) and Woodstock ’94.  Diving back in is an adventure, listening to Trent Reznor evolve.

While I was grabbing my Prodigy Fat of the Land and “Firestarter” single, I lingered in the “P” section and pulled Elvis Presley, Praying Mantis, and Gord Prior.  Praying Mantis with Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton, in fact.  A lot of Maiden covers that just remind me that nobody sounds like Iron Maiden.  Nobody.  I’ll probably get more enjoyment from the Elvis 30 #1 Hits.  “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto”, oh yeah!  I know the saying goes “There are only two kinds of people, Beatles people and Elvis people”.  I’m a Beatles guy.  That’s all the Elvis I need, I’m good with it.

Moving up into the “O” section, I realized I hadn’t touched any of my Our Lady Peace.  I don’t have a lot.  A couple singles, Naveed, Spiritual Machines, Gravity and Burn Burn Burn.  Raine Maida is admittedly an acquired taste vocally and I won’t spend any time trying to convince you, or KevinSpiritual Machines is interesting for two reasons.  One, it’s a concept album about artificial intelligence, and two, I have an early copy in the rare black jewel case in perfect condition.

One thing for sure I’m noticing about these pockets of my collection.  I went big or I went home.  I have the DualDisc versions of Nine Inch Nails albums, or the CD/DVD combo sets.  I have the double CD of Badmotorfinger.  I didn’t buy the basic version of anything.  It looks like I also bought just about every single I could get my hands on.  Most of this stuff was acquired back in the Record Store days, so I had access to the rare stuff in the best condition.

Soundgarden seem to be hit or miss as far as B-sides go.  For every “Cold Bitch” there’s a “Jerry’s Garcia’s Finger”.  I see there is a super deluxe of Superunknown out there with four discs of extras.  I think I’d better just listen to what I’ve neglected before I worry about any upgrades.

Tangent:  Speaking of super deluxes, this week we were given previews for new ones from Whitesnake (Restless Heart) and Black Sabbath (Technical Ecstacy).  We have a 42 CD Judas Priest box set coming with oddles of unreleased live albums.  A Metallica “Black” album box with 14 CDs, six LPs and 6 DVDs.  There. Is. A. Lot.  It’s getting harder to pick and choose.  It’s also getting harder to find time to listen to it all.  In particular, all that DVD content.  There are not that many long weekends.

I know what my dad would say.  “Don’t you have enough music?”  Evidently!

A music collection is the kind of thing we justify by saying “It’s there for me to listen to on a rainy day.”  A long weekend home from the lake is kind of like a rainy day, so here I am enjoying the very dusty corners of my music collection.  Let’s see if these Soundgarden B-sides get any better!

 

 

REVIEW: Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (1988 3″ CD single)

POISON – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (1988 Capitol 3″ CD single)

This is a beautiful item that I’m happy to have in my collection.  3″ CD singles were uncommon, but you’ve probably seen one before.  What is less common is the clamshell 3″ case that this Poison single came in.  A lot of 3″ singles came in regular 5″ cases, or a cardboard sleeve.  Clamshells are rare.  This one, called a “Gem Pak” (patent pending) was specifically made to house a “CD3”, another outdated term.  It’s made of white plastic and the artwork is in the form of a sticker which covers the front, back and spine of the case.  The Gem Pak’s flaw (patent pending!) is that it does not hold the disc in securely.  It wants to pop out.  Take care when handling one of these that the disc doesn’t fall out when you open it.

I’m a defender of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.  I loved it as a kid.  I remember some people saying it might be “too country”, which is wasn’t.  It’s just an acoustic ballad but a well written one and deserving of its success, if not its notoriety.  It tended to spawn a generation of soundalikes, a fuzzy swarm of late 80s acousti-balladry that ultimately only served to take bands like Poison down, while ushering in the grunge era.  “Every Rose” broke down walls for Poison, but the backlash was inevitable.  When Bill & Ted quoted it to get into heaven in 1991, it was already all over.  I can hear all that history when I listen to this single.  It’s an excellent song, and even C.C.’s solo, as inarticulate as it is, still fits like an electrically heated glove.

The B-side “Livin’ for the Minute” shows off the heavier side of Poison.  Fans might forget that Poison liked to really spit one out every now and then.  C.C.’s solo is bonkers on this one, but perfectly suited to the frantic tune.  Bret really cuts loose too.  Poison actually have some pretty cool B-sides.

These tracks are both available on the remastered Open Up and Say…Ahh!! CD, but you gotta snap this one up if you find it in the wild.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 CD singles one and two)

Part Two of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo CD singles parts one and two)

In order to get all the songs, you had to buy three separate singles.  You needed the 7″ vinyl (reviewed yesterday) and two CD singles.  The total payoff was seven B-sides:  five live, one demo, one single edit.  The 7″ picture disc included “Ain’t My Bitch” live from Irvine Meadows in ’96, and the rest are on the two CDs each sold separately.

The first single ignites the live feast with “King Nothing”, which finds Metallica in an informal mood before kicking into the track.  Though “King Nothing” was eventually released on its own as the fourth single from Load, it was never really one of the best songs from that album.  It slams heavy enough and would have been fun to mosh to.  They go old school on “Whiplash” which has that energy you want out of live Metallica.  The old fans boo the new fans, but everybody gets what they want.  Lars is sloppy as fuck; what do you expect?  When Metallica play stuff like “Whiplash” live it’s not about precision, it’s about energy and this version delivers.

The first CD ends with just a single edit of “Mama Said”, a good ballad with a country twang that some fans might have found unpalatable.  It’s shorter by 40 seconds, starting immediately with James’ lead vocal.  15 seconds chopped at the start and 20 more at the end.  Do Metallica fans need single edits?  No; Metallica was always resistant to compromises like that.  Paul DeCarli was given the job of the edit, presumably being told to get it safely under five minutes for radio.

“Mama Said” album version (top) and single edit (bottom) waveforms

The second CD in the set wastes no time going for the throat.  It’s “So What”, the infamously vulgar Anti-Nowhere League cover that was a B-side for Metallica once upon a time before.  It was so notorious that it became a live favourite unto itself, often turning up in the encores.  That’s followed by “Creeping Death”, an epic way to cap off the live tracks.  That mountainously heavy rock just never lets up until it gives way to another massive one.

The last and most interesting track among the B-sides is the original “Mama Said” demo recorded solely by James and Lars in Ulrich’s basement.  Electric guitar at first instead of acoustic, but beautiful.  The purity of this version, unadorned as it may be, is the reason to seek it out.  The twangy guitar part is in place, as are the lyrics (not always the case with James’ songs).  Metallica could easily release an album of their demo versions, but they haven’t so you gotta get the singles.

Seek these out.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.