Cherry Pie

#596: Arrest Warrant

GETTING MORE TALE #596: Arrest Warrant

In a spring/summer 1989 edition of the Columbia House catalogue, a brand new band appeared.  It was the first I had heard of them.  Inside, my Selection of the Month was the debut album by a glam band called Warrant.  The hype machine was soon in full force.  Warrant were the latest group out of California with the look and the hooks.

I got the debut on cassette, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  The deciding factor in buying the album was a little throw-away bit of information, which was that lead singer Jani Lane played guitar (albeit acoustic).  With a three guitar lineup, I thought Warrant might be new and different so I gave them a try.

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich arrived at the house, but there were only a few good tunes on it.  Maybe about half:  “32 Pennies”, “Down Boys”, “Heaven”, “Sometimes She Cries” and “Big Talk”.  Most of these were crammed onto the first side, leaving the second a fairly barren wasteland.

I liked the singles, but more importantly, the girl I liked also liked Warrant!  This inspired me to prematurely proclaim Warrant as my “favourite new band” of 1989.

I will always own up to my mistakes, especially musical ones.  A few months later I acquired the debut albums by Mr. Big and Badlands.  Both were better than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  Suddenly Warrant had competition in the “favourite new band” stakes.  I continued to spin Warrant, and as I did, a few more songs began to appeal.  “In the Sticks” was decent enough, but my God the title track was awful no matter how many times I played it.

Warrant had a hit album and began work on a followup.  Vertical Smile was the tentative title, a name ripped off from Blackfoot.  Soon they renamed it the equally unimaginative Cherry Pie, and even covered a Blackfoot song called “Train, Train”.

Although 1990’s Cherry Pie was undoubtedly a better album than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, after a few months I began to turn sour on the band.  The new album was very commercial, more so than the debut, with lots of ballads.  There was an uncredited vocal by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister in the very intro of the record.  That rubbed me the wrong way, because it was so obvious to me, and the lack of credits would make people think it was Jani Lane.  The only song that really had legs was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which was unlike Warrant’s other singles.

By the summer, Warrant were feuding with their tourmates Poison.  What really killed it for me was Warrant’s admission in a guitar magazine interview that they had two tutors who taught them how to play their own solos.  That was the last straw.  I was getting into heavier music anyway, but I had enough of Warrant.  Uncredited vocalists, feuds, guys writing solos for them…this wasn’t a band for me.  I let them go.

I never bought any studio album after Cherry Pie, which means I missed 1992’s heavy comeback, Dog Eat Dog.  When singer Jani Lane quit the band and proclaimed he wasn’t into that heavy sound at all, I felt justified.  Lane said his heart was in rootsy acoustic rock music, like John Mellencamp.  Dog Eat Dog was what the rest of the band wanted to do, and Lane went with it until he quit.  He did rejoin the following year for another heavy album called Ultraphobic, but I had long gotten off the “Train Train”.

Warrant were one band who, for this listener, failed to live up to the hype.  Have I missed out?  Is it too late to catch this train, or should I leave the station completely?

 

REVIEW: Warrant – Cherry Pie (1990, remastered)

scan_20161207WARRANT – Cherry Pie (1990, 2004 Sony remaster)

It was bands like Warrant, and albums like Cherry Pie, that made the 1991 grunge onslaught inevitable.

If Motley Crue were the poor man’s Kiss, and Poison were the poorer man’s Motley Crue, then Warrant are the pauper’s Poison.  Heck, Poison’s C.C. Deville even shows up on guest lead guitar on Cherry Pie‘s title track.  Think about that a moment.  How bad do a band have to be to warrant (no pun intended) a C.C. Deville guest guitar solo?  Guitarists Joey Allen and Erik Turner even confessed to having guitar tutors in the studio helping them come up with their own lead work.

Cherry Pie was an improvement in some regards over the prior album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  The second single, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, remains a high point for this band.  Swampy bluesy guitars and a kick ass melody?  Who cares if that’s not Warrant playing on the acoustic intro (it’s singer Jani Lane’s brother Eric Oswald), and so what if that’s not Warrant on the banjo (that’s producer Beau Hill)?  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is one of those rare Warrant songs that you just have to get.  Instead of singing about girls, Jani chose to write a story about a murder and a coverup.  It’s far more entertaining than “She’s my cherry pie, put a smile on your face ten miles wide.”

Speaking of “Cherry Pie”, as embarrassing as it is, did you notice that’s not Jani Lane on the opening scream?  It’s an uncredited Dee Snider, sampled from Twisted Sister’s song “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”.  Guess who produced both albums?  Beau Hill.   Rather, he overproduced the hell out of both albums. Rather misleading.

Warrant’s biggest hit was a ballad, and so Cherry Pie has more.  “I Saw Red” was glossy and enhanced with piano, but the acoustic version that was later released as a B-side was better.  The second ballad, “Blind Faith” had more heft, though it is little more than a rewrite of “Heaven”.  Another acoustic track called “Thin Disguise” was even better than either of these songs, but was relegated to a B-side.  Too bad.  This album could have used it.

Warrant are better when just rocking out.  There are a couple indispensable Warrant rockers on Cherry Pie.  “Mr. Rainmaker” is remarkably powerful with dark clouds.  It’s in the same mold as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, with a chorus that is still memorable today.  “Bed of Roses” and “Song and Dance Man” are strong also-rans.  There are other notable songs (“Sure Feels Good to Me” set speed records for this band) but on the whole they are a harsh blend of sound-alikes.

Buyers should be aware there are two versions out there of Cherry Pie, “clean” and “dirty”.  The “clean” version is missing the track “Ode to Tipper Gore”, and has a naughty word beeped at the start of the Blackfoot cover “Train Train” (1979).  How unexpected it was to hear that beep, and how ripped off did we feel since it was not advertised as a censored version?  A beep in a rock song is a rare thing indeed.  If you get the uncensored version, you’ll hear the “All a-fuckin’ board!” intro correctly, which is important since “Train Train” absolutely smokes.  “All a-BEEPin’ board!” just didn’t cut it.  Covering “Train Train” was one of the best decisions Warrant made on this album.  Warrant transforms it from a hard southern rocker to a plain old hard rocker, but the transformation works and the groove is the only solid one on Cherry Pie.

As for “Ode to Tipper Gore”, it is just a joke track made up of naughty outtakes from Warrant concerts spliced together into one stream of “fuck”.  (Tipper Gore was behind the PMRC, the scourge of 1980s censorship.)  It is included on the 2004 Sony remastered edition, along with two bonus tracks.  Strangely enough the two bonus tracks have nothing to do with this album.  “Game of War” is the long-sought 1988 demo that garnered Warrant attention at the labels.  It’s unpolished but you can hear how an A&R person looking for the next Poison would have signed this band.  Finally there is a track called “The Power” from a 1992 Cuba Gooding Jr. movie called “Gladiator”.  It is the only song on the CD not produced by Beau Hill.  Erwin Musper gave the band a less cluttered sound, and the song has a corny stadium-ready stomp like “Rock and Roll, Part 2”.

Although you don’t need the remastered version if you just want to check out Cherry Pie, you do need to at least seek out the uncensored version with “Ode to Tipper Gore”.  That way you won’t have to listen to the beep in “Train Train”, which is a song worth having.

2.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Warrant – The Best of Warrant (1996)

WARRANT – The Best of Warrant (1996 Sony)

Whooboy.  Look, I’m sure Warrant are a nice bunch of guys, and poor Jani sure suffered his demons.  I’ve always considered Warrant a bit of a jokey band, and that was certainly true for the first two albums.  Even when I did love ’em (that would be August and September of 1989), I always sensed that they weren’t taking anything very seriously.   I had their live video, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich – Live. Lemme tell ya, they were just too jokey and inconsistent live. I outgrew Warrant pretty fast. Which in a way was too bad, because the next album after our “breakup” was the critically acclaimed third record Dog Eat Dog.

All this being said, their first Best Of (1996) was actually a reasonably solid collection of songs, if a bit long at 57 minutes.  You get the three big hits from album #1, including “Down Boys”, “Sometimes She Cries”, and “Heaven”.  Decent also-rans from that album include “32 Pennies” and “Big Talk”.  Nothing but pure stink is “D.R.F.S.R.”, a song I never understood the popularity of among Warrant fans.  I guess the joke is still funny to some?

Album #2, Cherry Pie, was a mixed bag like its predecessor.  The title track of course was the biggest steaming pile of crap released by a rock band in the year 1990.  Having said that, there is video evidence of a young LeBrain rocking out to it, but I didn’t really know what Jani was singing about!  We all have our musical skeletons in our closets, I believe.  Mine is that there is a VHS tape in my house right now with footage of me, age 18, lip synching to “Cherry Pie”.  I cannot lie about that.

Cherry Pie didn’t suck all the way through, however.  It was a step up in sound, and boasted some cool tunes.  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is the one Warrant song that really still stands up today as a great single.  “Mr. Rainmaker” is also a pretty memorable rocker, with chorus built to please.  I like that they included two single B-sides on this set.  The pop rock track “Thin Disguise” was always better than most of the album tracks.  Perhaps it was too middle of the road?  Not quite ballad, not quite rocker, but pretty classy nonetheless.  And please note, “classy” is not a word often used to describe a Warrant song.  The other B-side was the acoustic version of “I Saw Red”, which was actually released as its own music video.

Things seemed to get most interesting with Warrant on their third album.  By 1992, Warrant were absolutely buried by the new wave of grunge rock bands that swept in between their albums.   They were also playing catch-up with the biggest metal albums of the period, Metallica and Slave to the Grind (Skid Row).  These high-charting smash hits were much heavier than Warrant’s general output.  They had to heavy up; they really had no choice.  They started wearing Doc Marten boots and growing facial stubble.  It all seemed so very contrived, and according to Jani Lane, it was.  Even though he was the soul songwriter, he later claimed to strongly dislike the new heavier direction Warrant took.  He quit Warrant briefly after this album to explore mellower Mellencamp-esque songs and ballads.  It was all very shocking and confusing, considering that Warrant’s heavy and choppy single “Machine Gun” was so fucking awesome.  Not that it mattered.  Nobody but die-hards were listening to Warrant in 1992.  I only ever saw the video for “Machine Gun” on TV once.  Once!  Compare that to the mega-exposure that “Heaven” and “I Saw Red” once had.

What Sony should have done with this CD is end it there.  But no, they tacked on one more useless song at the end, the horrendously putrid cover of “We Will Rock You”.  This was done for a really early Cuba Gooding Jr. movie called Gladiator.  Warrant actually had two songs on the soundtrack, but this one was released as a single.  In my opinion, if you choose to cover “We Will Rock You”, then you are doomed.  Warrant were doomed before they even set foot in a recording studio.

Overall, not a bad little Best Of.  You get the requisite non-album tracks, and they are generally good (“We Will Rock You” being the big exception).  All the big songs are included.  You have to wade through a little bit of poo, but otherwise The Best of Warrant is pretty solid.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Love Is For Suckers (1987)

Bought in 1997 at an unknown HMV store in Calgary Alberta, on import, for like $25.  For Aaron’s take on this CD, click here!

TS_0001TWISTED SISTER – Love Is For Suckers (1987 Atlantic, Spitfire reissue)

If the year was 1987, I would have given this CD 5/5 stars easily. When it came out in the summer of ’87 I was really into it. My best friend Bob and I used to play it all the time during that long hot summer, we had all the lyrics memorized. Unfortunately this album has not aged well, certainly not compared to their classic early albums.

One problem with the record is that it’s not actually by the band Twisted Sister! Even as a kid I wondered why people with names like “Reb Beach” or “Kip Winger” were listed in the credits. That’s because Love is For Suckers was written and recorded as the first Dee Snider solo album. Record company pressure forced Dee to release this as the next Twisted Sister album, even though no Twisted members appear on it (aside from new drummer Joey Franco). This only hastened the breakup of Twisted Sister in October of that year.

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The album is produced by Beau Hill, a guy also known for Warrant and Winger albums (that’s why Reb and Kip are on here). Beau Hill is one of my least favourite metal producers of all time. He over-produces, uses too many samples, and glosses everything up. As such I find most of his albums pretty hard to listen to today. On Love is For Suckers, all the drums are samples and you sure can tell by that awkward gated sound, and identical snare hits.

Like when we used to climb the rope in gym class

As an 80’s glam metal album, the songs are not that bad. “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” could have been a Twisted Sister song with its themes of rebellion and youth angst. “Hot Love”, the first single, was the song that got me to buy this album. A catchy pop-rocker with irrestible guitars courtesy of maestro Reb Beach, “Hot Love” was as commercial as it gets. Other standout songs included “Me And the Boys”, which was our theme song that summer. “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)” was a Van Hagar sounding pop-rocker with another great chorus. I think, if anything, Love is For Suckers sounds mostly like 5150-era Van Hagar, but with gang vocals and way more glossed up.

Love is For Suckers was reissued a while ago with 4 bonus tracks, demos from these sessions that fit right into the sound of the album. They’re just not as good. “Statuatory Date” for example suffers from extremely bad lyrics.  One of them, “If That’s What You Want” is an early version of an album song, in this case “Me And the Boys”.  Consider looking into these 4 bonus tracks when you’re choosing to purchase Love is For Suckers.

As an added little “insult to injury” following this album’s failure, producer Beau Hill took Dee Snider’s scream from one song, “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”, and used it as the opening scream on Warrant’s smash hit album Cherry Pie.  Uncredited! I’m sure 99.9% of Warrant fans assume it’s Jani Lane.

If this album description sounds good to you, check it out. You may enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago.  For me, the years have not been kind.

2.5/5 stars

More TWISTED SISTER at mikeladano.com:

TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino limited edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Under The Blade (1985 remix)
TWISTED SISTER – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)